River cruises are experiencing a surge in popularity with more new state-of-the-art vessels, more destinations and more exciting activities and itineraries than ever before. Before you embark on a river cruise, know this:
River boats may not have the size of the floating cities that travel the oceans and the accompanying dining and entertainment options, but what they lack in stature they make up for in myriad other ways. A river cruise allows you to travel to remote areas and to the heart of cities and picturesque regions with ease, whereas larger ships usually need to dock offshore or at a port that can accommodate their size. While the smaller size of a river boat is a necessity to navigate tight turns, low bridges and narrow canals, this also means the number of cruising passengers is capped at 100 to 200 people resulting in a more intimate travel journey and a shared small-ship experience with your fellow cruise-goers.
Smaller numbers also mean more individual attention, be that butler services as part of your all-inclusive cruise package or lectures delivered by experts on trending themes and local guides with local knowledge of your surrounds. River cruises are also a more casual affair with no need to dress up for dinner, which is usually open seating, and aimed at a 40-plus demographic. With shore excursions a rarity for families, river cruising is pretty much an adult affair.
Of course, river cruising has many of the perks of its seafaring sisters with all-inclusive packages that typically include all meals, shore excursions, free wi-fi and connectivity, comfortable beds, flat-screen TVs, drinks service and all onboard gratuities. Some of the newer ships also contain swimming pools, luxury suites, butler service, fitness centres, open sun decks and alfresco dining areas and large balconies.
One thing river cruising does have on ocean liners is the stunning scenery every step of your journey. River cruising offers a gentle way to travel where your luxury floating hotel drifts languidly along the waterways to cities, towns and villages. While you may spend several days at sea on an ocean cruise, a river journey averages one port per day with shore excursions to enjoy along the way. There’s more time to explore ports, cycle or wander at your destinations and partake in the local culture and customs at your leisure. Gourmet-themed river cruises are popular options – marrying regional produce with the stunning local scenery, as are the seasonal Christmas markets in Europe
Exciting cruise itineraries
As mentioned, river cruising offers access to remote locations and previously unavailable regions. Popular choices include Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia and India as well as perennial favourites such as European river cruising along the Moselle, Danube, Rhone and Rhine rivers, particularly along the Danube and Rhine to Budapest and Vienna. Other river cruising hotspots include the Volga in Russia, Yangtze in China, the Mekong Delta and also along the mighty Mississippi.