Is river cruising right for you?
There’s been a big boom in river cruising recently and it’s undoubtedly the fastest growing sector of the industry. With this in mind, we look at whether this type of slow travel is right for you. Although river cruising is very different from its equivalent ocean going holiday, there are a wealth of benefits associated with it.
River cruises are an ideal introduction to cruising. For people wanting to sample this style of holiday before committing to a longer spell at sea, the often shorter journeys provide a perfect sense of what to expect. The smaller, shallower shape of typical river cruise craft mean that the boats are very stable; coupled to the fact that rivers are calmer than the sea, you’re far more likely to enjoy a smooth sailing, which is ideal for people who suffer from motion sickness.
Alternatively, for experienced cruisers who are feeling a little jaded by the ’floating cities’ that operate on the world’s oceans, river cruises, with their far smaller capacities, offer the chance to get back to a more intimate way of travelling, on a vastly smaller scale; no destination will suddenly feel swamped when the passengers disembark and begin to explore for instance. Another benefit is that on board, queues are inevitably shorter and service can be much more personable.
Given the boom in river cruising and the rapid expansion of river cruise fleets, the genre is also becoming more inclusive, with a broader demographic drawn to the shorter itineraries and more active shore excursions on offer with a river cruise.
In many respects, a luxury ocean cruise sees the boat being as important as the destination- the boat is the destination for some people. A river cruise though is much more about the places you visit and the ports of call you drop anchor in. They’re a great way to see more of the world’s iconic cities without any additional hassle; lots of these cities grew up along rivers so it makes sense to see them from this perspective.
On a river cruise, in between ports of call, you’re also afforded constantly changing scenery. There are no days at sea with only an endless horizon for company. Instead, there’s breathtaking and ever-evolving scenery just outside your cabin window. The most scenic stretches are saved for daylight cruising, whilst ground is made up overnight so that you wake up in a new destination every day, fresh and ready to explore.
What’s more, having docked, you tend to be in the heart of the city rather on the periphery as is often the case with much larger cruise ships that can’t get close to the heart of the action. Consequently you can disembark in the city centre and so spend more time exploring rather than travelling to the heart of the city. There’s no need to work out how to get somewhere, no need for a transfer from the dock to the city and shore excursions are often included in the cost of the cruise, given that this is part of the primary purpose for travelling in this style. Effectively, you get the best of both an ocean cruise and a land tour.
There’s no compromise on destinations, with brand new river routes opening up all the time; in Europe, the Douro in Portugal and the Russian waterways are excellent alternatives to the classic rivers such as the Rhine, Rhone and Danube and the canals of France or the Low Countries, whilst the Irrawaddy in Burma perfectly complements the traditional Asian routes of the Mekong and Yangtze. Nor do you need to settle for shorter trips, with river cruises ranging in duration from seven days right up to three weeks for a grand voyage from the North Sea to the Black Sea, a spectacular trip that takes in 12 countries.
In the course of your cruise you needn’t compromise on style either, as river cruise operators are every bit as contemporary and comfortable as their luxury sea-faring counterparts. Ships have upscale accommodation, unique amenities and services, modern conveniences and comprehensive enrichment programmes. The kitchens on board often offer introductions to the food and drink of the region you’re sailing through too, providing a different flavour of the destination.
Ultimately, a river cruise brings you up close to a host of historic sites and natural wonders in the course of a delightfully scenic journey, ensuring that it’ll be an incredibly relaxing and enriching experience.
Now you’re convinced that river cruising is for you, see our top 10 river cruise recommendations around athe world and get ready to set sail on your perfect river cruise.