Over the last couple of years, river cruising has become one of the fastest growing travel trends around. It a vacation option I recommend to many of my well-traveled clients looking for a different type of experience for their next vacation.
If you’ve been curious about river cruising, here are a few things you ought to know…
Where do they go?
While Europe may be the most popular river cruise destination, it is definitely not the only choice. Some of the other places you’ll find river cruises are along the Volga river in Russia, Amazon river in Peru and Brazil, the Nile river in Egypt, the Yangtze River in China, and the Mekong River in Vietnam and Cambodia.
In Europe, some of the most popular itineraries include the Danube, Rhine, Rhone, Saone, and Seine. I typically recommend European itinerary for most first-time river cruisers unless there is another location that you have been dreaming of for quite some time.
Who’s on board?
I’m often asked about the average age of river cruise guests. The stereotype seems to be that most river cruise guests are senior citizens well into their twilight years. While the average age is higher than that of ocean cruises, you’ll find many guests are nowhere near retirement age. In fact, more and more “gen Xers” are choosing river cruises… and loving them. Most of the time the majority of guests will be between 45 and 65, but that will vary based on itinerary and what cruise line you choose.
What’s the atmosphere like?
Another rumor is that river cruising is a very slow paced, low-key vacation. While I would agree that the pace is typically slower than your average ocean cruise, your river cruise vacation will definitely be busy!
River cruises tend to be very port-intensive. You won’t find sea days on the itinerary – on a river cruise, the ports rather than the ship are the star of the show.
There are guided walking tours included at most ports (they are not required… you are welcome to do your own thing if you wish!). Many cruise lines will offer a “gentle walkers” group if there are several guests with mobility challenges and/or an “active walkers” group for sailings with a younger, more active crowd.
For stops in smaller cities, you will have the better part of a day to explore your port of call while in larger cities such as Budapest or Vienna the ship will often remain in port for a little while longer giving you more time to enjoy the sights and experiences of the city.
You’ll find that most of the shore excursions have a cultural focus. Museums, city highlights, cooking classes, art classes, wine tastings, and musical performances are all popular options. In an effort to appeal to a more active audience, many cruise lines are also beginning to offer things like biking tours, hikes, golf, and other similar adventures.
While it varies from one cruise line to another, the average river cruise is more “all inclusive” than most ocean cruises. Typically you will find your cruise fare includes wine, beer and soft drinks with meals, dinner in specialty restaurants, 24-hour tea and coffee, onboard Wi-Fi, and the regular tours in each port. Some cruise lines offer truly all-inclusive fares that cover all onboard drinks, transfers, tips, and even a hotel room the night before your cruise.
Since the ships are smaller and have fewer onboard attractions, there are fewer expenses on the ship than with an ocean cruise.
What’s the entertainment like?
Unlike with ocean cruising, there are no big Broadway-style productions or an unlimited number of performers on board. Most river cruises will have small ensembles for music performances in the evenings and may bring local performers on board for an evening show. Evenings are relatively quiet on board, and most guests turn in before it gets too late so that they can be rested and up early for the next day’s adventures.
During the day the ship will often host seminars, demos, cooking classes, wine tastings or other similar activities. The focus is almost always on culture for these daytime activities.
The majority of guests will be early risers. The included shore excursions often begin by 8 am so unless you plan to tour on your own, you’ll want to be up early for breakfast before you depart.
What amenities are available onboard?
Of course, it will vary based on the cruise line and ship, but most will feature a restaurant, bar, lounge, library, sky deck, a spa, and a small fitness center. You’ll often find a whirlpool, and occasionally a “dipping pool” on the sky deck, but don’t expect a large pool and lots of water activities.
How is the food?
In general, the food on a river cruise is quite good!
Breakfast and lunch are typically served buffet style. For breakfast, you can expect egg dishes, meats, cereals, yogurt, fruit, pastries, juices, tea, and coffee. At lunch, you’ll find soups, salad, and a choice of several hot and cold dishes… and of course, dessert!
Dinner is usually a more formal affair with multi-course meals served in the restaurant. The featured cuisine is generally inspired by local dishes from the region you are visiting. Wine and beer are often included with dinner as part of cruise fare.
Sound intriguing? Then let’s talk! My job is to help you plan a dream-come-true vacation experience, whether it is a river cruise or something entirely different. Let me take care of the details for your vacation so you can relax and enjoy the experience! Click here and schedule a time for your personalized vacation consultation so we can get started planning today!