River Cruise 101

Douro River, Portugal

For the past couple of years, the river cruise industry has been booming. What once was only for the retired and wealthy, has become a bucket list trip for many and a trendy way to travel for 21 – 45-year-olds. It is not just for 60 plus anymore! Be careful though, it’s addictive! You may think it’s a once-in-a-lifetime trip, but river cruise companies boast incredibly high repeat business stats which means you may find yourself floating down a different river each year!

Don’t be surprised if your friends are talking about their amazing vacations on the rivers of Europe or the excitement of an upcoming trip! You’ll probably hear them swoon about the mouthwatering food, the free-flowing local wines, along with the castles and quaint towns to get lost in. It’s a picture-perfect get-away.

Why choose river cruising over ocean cruising?

River and Ocean cruises have a few things in common, but yet a few big distinctions too. If you are looking to only unpack once and visit various ports, both options have you covered. You can even choose from standard ships to ultra-luxury and various room categories from small porthole windows to balconies or the Captain’s suite, depending on your budget.

Although millions of people take ocean cruises each year, more and more people are looking to River Cruising for a more intimate, cultural experience, making it one of the fastest-growing segments of the travel industry. Companies are adding new ships each year to keep up with the demand.

Here is what you can look forward to on your first River Cruise:

What destinations do River Cruises go to?

One of the biggest draws of River Cruising is the opportunity to visit smaller, lesser-known ports along the waterways. While many River Cruises start and finish in big cities such as Amsterdam, Porto, Paris or Budapest, you’ll also be treated to smaller cities and unique excursions along the way. In France, you might take a steam train ride in Tournon or visit an olive farm in Arles. You might do a Medieval City tour in Nuremberg, Germany or taste port wines in Pinhao, Portugal. And, did you know that you can do River Cruising in Asia, Russia and Africa too?

Check out our River Cruises page for more destination inspiration!

What do you eat onboard the ship?

Be prepared for a culinary treat. You’ll be dazzled with a fresh variety of delectable creations, often made with local produce and meats that the chefs shop for along the way. Each meal will be unique and paired with local wines. Every night will be a fine dining experience for your taste buds, but rest assured, you can dress comfortably and casually. No need for a suit and tie!

How big are River Cruise ships?

You’ll find only 100 – 200 passengers per ship on a river cruise in comparison to 3000 – 5000 on an average cruise ship. Think of an ocean cruise as a floating city filled with lots of activities and people. Think of River cruise as a quaint community. There will still be great experiences and activities, but they’ll be more cultural and intimate – less Vegas-style. You won’t find a disco or a casino on your river cruise, but you will be treated to top-notch local entertainment from nearby communities. And, you’ll also have the opportunity to stay in port some evenings to enjoy the nightlife, a rare find on an ocean cruise itinerary.

What will I see while I’m on the ship?

Instead of whiling your time away staring at miles and miles of ocean, sit back and relax with the ever-changing views of rolling hills, Medieval Towns and grand castles slowly drifting by your floor-to-ceiling windows while you sip a glass of regional wine.

Ah! Doesn’t that sound perfectly relaxing?

With the appeal of visiting several ports, but only unpacking once and the option to explore smaller cities on foot, bicycle or by tour … no wonder river cruising is one of the hottest trends in travel!

What are you waiting for?

Budapest, Hungary Photo: Ama Waterways

Pro Tips:

  • Local wines, beers and spirits are often included with your meals, but make sure you know if they are for purchase outside of mealtimes or included. Each company does it differently.
  • Did you know that some ships will pack a gourmet picnic lunch for you to take ashore? Although we suggest trying out the local cafes, pubs and restaurants to support the local communities, both are great options. Your packed lunch will likely be made from locally sourced ingredients as well, supporting the local farmers.
  • River cruises often sell out nine months to a year in advance, so you’ll find better offers for an early booking bonus, rather than a late space special.

Ready to start planning your next great adventure? Set up a no-obligation consultation, today.

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