I'm sure you've heard by now that ocean cruising is slowly giving way to a more unique type of travel – river cruising. Most commonly thought of in Europe, on the Rhine, Danube, Seine, and Douro Rivers, river cruising is also extending itself to Russia, China, Vietnam and Cambodia and even the United States. Many of the voyages are “themed”, for special interests such as Wine Immersion, Tulip Time, Jewish Heritage, Beer Tasting, and the very popular Christmas Market cruises during the months of November and December. Besides the obvious benefit of unpacking once while seeing so many European cities, there are several reasons why so many travelers are switching to river cruising...and many of them will never go back to the oceans!
1. The boats are smaller and more intimate (120-170 passengers) so you can actually get to know your fellow guests. You may eat with whom you choose each evening and have a choice of a few on-board dining venues for variety.
2. It is as close to hassle-free as you can get. There are no lines to get on or off the boat and when you arrive at your next stop, you can usually walk right off and be immersed in your destination. Europe grew up along its rivers, so there are some very charming and interesting small towns and big cities to explore. Very few ports require bus transfers, which makes it easy to come and go at your leisure.
3. The trip can be totally all-inclusive, depending on the cruise line and ship you have chosen. Some cruise lines even include shore excursions in every port, airport transfers, wi-fi and all gratuities.
4. Being 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 super interesting to watch. You can literally touch the walls of the locks from your balcony as you pass through! Evening entertainment can be a little sparse compared to an ocean cruise ship, but there is 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 glass-blowers in 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.
When you include everything you are getting for the cost of your river cruise, it becomes much more manageable, and quite a good value. Viking River Cruises is the most well-known of the river cruise lines because they spend lots of money on television and print advertising, and they have done a lot to introduce travelers to the river cruise concept. However, there are many other river cruise lines with amazing customer satisfaction rates and more complimentary inclusions just waiting to show you the time of your lives as well. Did you know that there are even river cruises designed for families?
A travel agent who has experienced European River cruising (like me!) can be incredibly valuable in helping you sort through all of the options and find the perfect fit. River cruising is also a great option for small groups of friends, family or even work colleagues who would like to travel together. Whenever I book a river cruise, I always ask if there is anyone who might want to join you on the trip and most times at least 1 or 2 additional couples come forward. Who would you like to sip champagne with as you cruise through the incredible Wachau Valley in Austria’s wine country?
So why not give river cruising a try? 96% of first time river cruisers say they would recommend the experience to a friend. Trip Quest Travel is authorized to sell all the lines and we would love to help match you (and your friends) to the perfect experience. Get on board the river cruise movement!
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Ann Jones, CTC, MCC