River cruising has become the fastest-growing sector of the cruise industry and offers a unique sailing experience without the seemingly endless days at sea! As its popularity has grown so has the choice of destinations – from the rivers of Europe such as the Danube, Douro, Seine and Moselle to the more exotic rivers of the Mekong and Yangtze in Asia. Here’s what you can expect from a typical river cruise.
Everything is smaller
Some people feel that the larger cruise liners make them feel just a little lost in the mix. With thousands of fellow passengers and crew constantly on the move, anonymity is inevitable. If you enjoy a slower-pace of life with fewer crowds then a river cruise might be for you. Ships are far smaller than ocean liners, carrying around 200 passengers, and provide a relaxing, sociable environment for you to mingle with fellow passengers and the crew should you wish. With panoramic windows and plenty of deck space, you can enjoy spectacular scenery as you sail on calm waters in your floating hotel.
However, a smaller ship also means smaller cabins; fewer restaurants and lounges; low-key entertainment; and small gyms and spas – if there is one at all. The ports of call, rather than the ships themselves, are the main attraction of river cruising.
You’ll dock right in town
The beauty of a river cruise is being able to step off the boat straight into the heart of your destination. This allows you the freedom to indulge in the local cuisine, customs and sightseeing without spending hours commuting inland to and from the port.
Whilst you’ll find the excursions are more limited than ocean liners, you’ll usually find the guides will offer you a more personalised and localised experience. Best of all, most river cruises include guided walking tours as standard within their fares so you can pick and choose what you’d like to do without obligation.
Where river cruises lack in the number of restaurants onboard, they make up for it in carefully curated menus. Reflecting the tastes of the region, most meals will feature locally sourced ingredients and regional wines put together by experienced, often highly acclaimed chefs. Some river ships also let you to take wine onboard that you’ve bought locally in shops and vineyards.
Time “at sea”
Days on the open seas can make ocean cruises quite arduous if you aren’t used to spending extended periods without sight of land. The majority of river sailing is done during the late night or very early hours, which allows itineraries to offer a new destination every day – sometimes two.
So, whether you’re travelling alone, with a partner, or as part of a group, the warm and friendly atmosphere of river cruising brings people together and is a great way to make new friends.
Heading on a cruise? Consider your holiday insurance options whilst on the boat.