Why Take A River Cruise?

Unless you have had your head buried in the sand for the past couple of years, you are probably aware that River Cruising has become increasingly popular. Most commonly thought of in Europe, on the Rhine, Danube, Seine, Douro and even Po rivers; River Cruising has also become a beloved way to travel through Russia, China, Vietnam & Cambodia and in the United States as well.  

View from the author’s french balcony on board the Amawaterways AmaLyra river cruise from Paris to Normandy late 2018

Some of the voyages are also “theme cruises” for deeper immersion in special interests such as “wine cruises”, “Tulip Time”, “Jewish Heritage”, a popular “beer tasting cruise” along the Rhine, and the ever-popular “Christmas Markets” cruises during the months of November and December -one of our favorites. In the USA, we have themes such as “Civil War,” “Lobster Bake,” and “Lewis & Clark”!  The themed cruises are a great way to enhance your experience and go in depth on certain areas of interest.  It is a really great way to make history come alive!

Here are a few reasons why so many travelers are choosing to enjoy River cruising:

1. The ships are smaller and more intimate so you can actually get to know your fellow guests.   You may eat with whom you choose each evening and depending on the ship and line, you may have a choice of a few onboard dining venues.

2. Europe grew up along its rivers, so there are some very charming and interesting small towns and big cities to explore.  There are no lines to get on or off the ship and, when you arrive at your next stop, you can usually walk right off and be immersed in your destination. Few ports require bus transfers, which makes it easy to come and go at your leisure.  In the US, it is very interesting to see our cities from the rivers along with many charming towns you would not otherwise likely visit.

3. The trip can be completely all-inclusive, depending on the cruise line and ship you have chosen.  For example, Uniworld, Tauck, and Scenic have all shore excursions, all beverages*, all meals, and all gratuities included.    Others present an excellent value and are partially inclusive typically including, 1 shore excursion per port, beer & wine with lunch & dinner, and onboard meals.  Two of my favorites in this category are Avalon Waterways & Amawaterways.  For evaluating this among cruise lines, see inclusions and reasons for price differences.

*some exotic destinations may not allow an open bar – for example, on the Nile, Uniworld offers beer & wine with lunch & dinner, not an open bar as they do everywhere else

4. On the river there are no waves, so seasickness is not an issue. Also, most cruises include transferring through a series of “locks” to accommodate the changes in elevation, which most people find quite interesting to watch.  

Time lapse videos passing through lock systems:

Evening entertainment can be a little different than ocean liners, but there is almost always live music in the lounge, lots of movies and entertainment on your in-cabin TVs and most cruise lines bring on local entertainers in some ports, such as an OomPah band in Passau Germany or Gypsy dancers in Budapest.  Plus, there are informative talks on the ports-of-call and cocktails with your newly-made friends from around the world.  On USA cruises, there is regional entertainment on board plus the enrichment guides have great knowledge of the area and history.  Many have huge followings and guests will choose journeys based on the on board guides.  Some even  take on characters such as Mark Twain which really enriches the Mississippi experience. 

The price tag of a River Cruise can cause a little bit of sticker shock” but when you calculate everything included in the cost you realize it is actually quite a good value.

River cruises from a  post pandemic perspective have additional advantages over ocean cruising.  Besides being one of the most immersive ways to cruise, it’s also one of the safest! On smaller ships that cruise through countries, not around them, you have the safety of constant proximity to land and are just one of just a few dozen passengers instead of a few thousand.

River cruising is also a great option for small groups of friends, family or even work colleagues who would like to travel together. Who would you like to sip Gruner Veltliner with as you cruise through the incredible Wachau Valley in Austria’s wine country?  

Fun Fact:   Here is an astounding statistic: After returning home, 96% of first time River Cruisers say they would recommend the experience to a friend!

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