Will there be Stacking (Rafting) on my River Cruise?

You will find when river cruising along most rivers that Riverships need to share the limited docking spaces.  When they do, they will “raft” (also known as “stack”).  This simply means that the ship closest to land ties up to the dock, and then each subsequent ship ties up to the next ship.

Photo of Stacked Riverships
Michael Graham, pictured in 2016 in Vienna in front of 3 stacked or rafted Viking Longships

Most of the ships are designed to stack, and in fact the main reception area has sliding double doors on either side of the lobby for passengers to embark, debark, or access outside decks.  This further allows the ships to align these “lobby” doors.

If your ship is not closest to land, you will walk across the lobbies until you get to the dock.  It reminds me of the old TV series Get Smart!

That is with modern riverships, if you happen to be stacked along with an older model, you may have to go up to the sundeck and cross over from there to the adjacent [older] rivership and go across  their sundeck and then down.  Please note that the elevators on most riverships do not go to the sundeck and therefore mobility becomes an issue simply to disembark.  I will go over traveling with disabilities in another section, but note that USA and Russia Riverships do have elevators to ALL decks, including the sundeck and/or top deck.

Did I mention earlier that some of these are nearly identical?  Be careful when sister ships are stacked next to each other!  And while you are gone, the ships tend to rotate position, so pay close attention.  It is almost without fail that someone comes to the front desk complaining that their room key stopped working only to find out they are on the wrong ship!

Some passengers like to purposefully do a “ship inspection” of another brand as they cross.  I recommend that you ask first!  

Fun Fact:  As of this writing the only brand that has a dedicated security guard is Tauck.  These guards will not allow guests from other ships to peek around, but only continue across the lobby.  Stacking aside, many guests enjoy the peace of mind that this private security provides at all times.

A word of warning about rafting and your new neighbors: each night of the cruise, close your curtains when you retire for the evening.   Before reopening them, take a peek out first!  Perhaps your ship was sailing when you went to sleep, and docked early in the morning.  You may be rafted, and looking directly at your neighbor’s cabin on the [very] adjacent ship.  There have been many stories of  sights that the guest wished that they could have unseen!

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