European River Cruising
Unless you have had your head buried in the sand for the past couple of years, you are probably aware that Ocean Cruising, with its belly flop contests and buckets of beer, is slowly giving way to a more “civil” mode of travel –River Cruising. Most commonly thought of in Europe, on the Rhine, Danube, Seine, Douro and even Po rivers, River Cruising is also extending itself to Russia, China, Vietnam & Cambodia and – yes…even the United States (although US River Cruising is a whole different animal). Many of the voyages are “themed”, for special interests such as “wine immersion”, “Tulip Time”, “Jewish Heritage”, a popular “beer tasting cruise” along the Rhine, and the ever-popular “Christmas Markets” cruises during the months of November and December. Here are several reasons why so many travelers are switching to River cruising…and very few of them will ever go back to the oceans!
The boats are smaller and more intimate (120-170 passengers) so you can actually get to know your fellow guests and not feel like you are being herded along like cattle…You may eat with whom you choose each evening and have a choice of a few onboard dining venues for variety.
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.
The trip can be totally all inclusive, depending on the cruise line and the ship you have chose. I had the great pleasure to experience a 7day cruise on the Danube River with Avalon River Cruises and my bill at check-out was $50, to cover a massage I splurged on. And those of you who know me, know that I had at least a couple glasses of wine and a few cocktails during the week (Ahem!)…Avalon event includes guided walk excursions in every port, airport transfers, Wi-Fi and all gratuities. We were not even allowed to tip our Butler, Milos, at the end of the cruise…and he certainly deserved. He was amazing!
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, 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 an Oompah band in Passau 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.
The price tag of a River Cruise can cause a little bit of “sticker shock”, but when you figure out everything you are getting for the cost, 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 boatloads (literally) 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 higher customer satisfaction rates and more complimentary inclusions just waiting to show you the time of your lives as well. (Avalon. Hint, hint)
A travel agent who specializes in European River cruising (like me!) and who has actually experienced a cruise and has relationships with the sales reps from all the different lines 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….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, if you think you are finished with the hairy chest contests and waiting in line with 3998 of your new best friends on the Ocean cruise megaships, why not give River Cruising a try?
96% of first time River Cruisers say they would recommend the experience to a friend!