By Gloria Hanson, Senior Cruise Consultant, The Cruise Web.
From the time you board a river cruise, you begin a journey like no other. The ships are small and intimate, your scenery changes constantly and the easy access to the inner areas of towns and villages make river cruising an ideal way to enjoy a multi-destination adventure.
In the last five years, river cruise travel has grown up to 60% annually according to the Travel Trade reports. As a matter of fact, some river cruise companies are growing at double digit rates. Considering the rapid growth of river cruising, maybe it’s time to ask if river cruising is right for you…
Why Choose a River Cruise Adventure?
River cruises are ideal for first time and experienced travelers alike – it’s simply the best way to see many of the world’s most fascinating destinations. It’s a trip of a lifetime at a relaxed pace where you never miss a moment. You get to see places that you could not possibly get to on an ocean cruise. As a river cruise passenger, you also get in depth exposure to the rich culture and history of each town you visit. You enter into the heart of the city and get off your floating hotel just steps from historic sites and sought after landmarks. Since you dock so close to the city center (in most cases), you see the true culture and get a real epicurean delight with authentic foods and wine from the region you are in.
River cruising provides a carefree way to travel. Once aboard your vessel, you will check into your nicely appointed cabin and then unpack just one time. After that, it’s complete comfort for the duration of your cruise. No traffic jams or other hassles that come with a land-based trip.
On board your river cruise vessel, you will find exceptional personalized service (where the staff knows you by name). The delightful meals are always freshly prepared and often include local options. Some lines even provide complimentary regional wines and beverages at lunch and dinner. Staterooms are all ocean view (well, “river view” to be more exact), many with floor to ceiling sliding glass doors and French balconies to enjoy the crisp, fresh river air.
Rather than your typical cruise ship entertainment of nightly shows, shops and casinos, you will enjoy an intimate piano bar or a small combo to dance the night away. In addition, there are intriguing workshops, cooking classes (we learned how to make Black Forest cake) and wine tasting (featuring wines from the region where you are sailing). There are also lectures and locals will often come aboard to entertain you with the customs of the region.
Many of the newer ships now have spas, swimming pools, Jacuzzis and fitness centers as well as free self-service launderettes (so pack a little lighter since most only allow one large suitcase).
A More Intimate Experience
River cruise ships generally sail with 150 to 300 passengers which makes for a much more intimate and cozy cruise experience. It’s very easy to make new friends and dine with different people every night (with open seating). There is no waiting in line to embark or disembark and no tenders. As I mentioned before, the staff all get to know you and by the time it’s over, everyone feels like family.
Travel Your Way
It’s YOUR river cruise vacation. You have so many ways to enjoy it. You can join one of the included guided walking tours with a fantastic local guide or go out on your own. Some ships even have complimentary bicycles on board for you to explore on your own. River cruise vacations are all about providing you with the best of both worlds. Remember it’s YOUR vacation.
Inland waterways are much calmer and shallower than oceans, meaning passengers that are prone to seasickness don’t suffer. The specially designed flat-bottomed shape of the ships means there is little risk of a bumpy ride on a river cruise.
New Vistas (All Day, Every Day)
River cruising and breathtaking scenery go hand in hand. It does not matter where you are on the ship, there are amazing views. Going through the locks is a mind boggling experience for anyone. How the water rises or lowers to make you level to the river is an ingenious feat of engineering. And river cruises often sail at night, so each morning you awaken to a wonderful, new place. Compared to bus / land touring, it’s so much easier and much more relaxed.
Where Can You Go on a River Cruise?
A river cruise can take you almost anywhere in the world since they aren’t restricted to large ports and open water travel.
River cruises through this region include some of Europe’s greatest rivers like the Danube, Douro, Elbe, Main, Moselle, Rhine, Rhone, Saone and Seine. From these rivers you find yourself in large cities like Paris, Amsterdam, Budapest and Vienna. However, you also find yourself in small villages like Koblenz, Cologne, and Speyer in Germany and Dϋrnstein in Austria.
Eastern Europe – Russia and the Ukraine
Along the Volga River, the 4th largest river in Europe, you will see a different side of Russia – the lakes and secluded islands of the enormous superpower. For a different experience, see the Ukraine via the Dnieper River where you’ll see historic cathedrals and monuments.
River cruises along the Yangtze offer exotic itineraries with stops in Beijing and Shanghai. Increasing in popularity is the Mekong River in Cambodia and Vietnam. There seems to be a renewed interest in the history of these cultures and this region of Asia.
Africa / Egypt
The great Nile River, lifeline of Egypt, offers a bucket list of experiences, including the Great Pyramids. Plus, cruising the Nile provides a convenient way to see more of Egypt since most of the country’s great cities developed along the Nile, including Alexandria, Aswan, Cairo and Luxor. An exciting Nile River cruise is a journey through the ancient history of this mysterious land.
Only a river cruise can get you up close and personal to the less explored regions of the Amazon River. In contrast to many other river cruises, Amazon itineraries spend less time ashore as the focus of the cruise is usually directed upon the Amazon River itself. However, when docked, popular shore excursions include rainforest expeditions and hikes through local villages.
If you are interested in cruising to new destinations and want a more “personalized” and intimate travel experience, then you ought to consider river cruising.
Don’t forget, river cruises fill up much faster than ocean cruises, so book early. Most river cruise customers tend to book at least a year in advance. However, there are still a few 2012 sailings left and 2013 itineraries are now available to reserve. Let us help you find your dream river cruise destination, and we will handle every detail before, during, and after your trip.