River Cruising – Is it right for you?

September 13, 2018 11:57 pm

River cruising on the Rhine with picturesque scenery

River Cruising is a wonderful way to experience the heart of Europe

River cruising offers a unique way to travel, especially in Europe. The river boat is your hotel as it meanders through several countries. It stops in small villages and towns along the way. This enables you to tour Europe without having to pack and unpack every day or two.

Ocean cruises take you around the periphery of various countries where you visit the large crowded cities. With river cruises you sail through the heartland of each country. You see how people live. You visit villages and walled cities and go to outdoor markets. It is a wonderful way to experience travel that is authentic and different.

Types of river cruises

River cruising is great, no matter what type of cruise you select. The premium river cruise lines like Viking River Cruises, AMA Waterways, and Avalon Cruises include all your accommodations, meals, and a sightseeing tour at each stop. Many cruises offer special experiences like concerts or a special tour, however you must pay extra for them. As gratuities are not included, you are expected to tip the staff – you will want to as they are friendly and attentive. You can enjoy complimentary beer and wine with lunch and dinner.

Several lines are now operating all-inclusive river cruises. These include Tauck, Scenic Cruises, Uniworld Boutique Cruises, and Crystal River Cruises. The inclusions vary a bit by line, but generally give you a greater choice of sightseeing tours, all included with no extras. Some even include dinner ashore at one of the stops, instead of on the boat. They include the gratuities to the staff and tour directors, and all beverages, not just wine and beer. Some include butler service in all categories, and have multiple dining venues. Most all-inclusive river boats carry fewer people and have well-appointed cabins and offer more onboard amenities.

River boats

Let’s talk about river boats. They transit locks on the rivers and cruise under bridges. These locks and bridges establish the size limits for the river boats. All river cruise lines are constrained by these two limitations. They can carry as many as 190 or as few as 130 people. Of course, the fewer the passengers, the more space you have on the ship, and the better the experience.

Two river ships tied next to each other at a dock.

River ships tied together at the dock.

As the popularity of river cruising has grown, the number of boats cruising on the rivers has increased. So, don’t be surprised if your boat ties up right next to one that’s already docked. Sometimes they are three or four deep. This can be an inconvenience, as you walk through the other boats in order to get to the land. However – it is also a plus, as you get to see what the others look like inside. But keep in mind that because of the size of the boats, you won’t find many thousands of people disembarking like you could on an ocean cruise.

River cruising experience

Let’s talk about the different experiences you can have while you are on a river cruise. There is a cruise for everyone. In the past they have been geared to adults and seniors. Today there are ships that not only accommodate families, but have special programs for them during the typical school vacation periods. Uniworld recently launched their “U by Uniworld” river cruises for millennials. Viking River Cruises and U by Uniworld, have a minimum age of 18. Most include active excursions at the various stops, and even carry bicycles.

Vegetable stand at a market with beautiful looking veggies.

The beautiful fruits and vegetables at the markets make you want to fill a bag to take with you!

There are cruises for people who like to cook and foodies. In many cases you can get out and go shopping in the local market with the chef. Then he will work with you so you can learn to prepare a meal. Because many of the itineraries are through the great wine regions of the world, there are many special wine oriented sailings.

There are cruises for people who love music. There are cruises for people who love museums. And there are cruises for those who want to live like a local. You can walk, hike, bike, shop, and totally get into the experience of living like a local.

Water Levels

One of the biggest concerns folks have about river cruising the water level of the rivers. In recent years, we have all heard about water levels being too high, or water levels being too low. The levels vary, depending upon the season. Cruise lines build the river boats to accommodate changing levels, however, they sometimes do encounter difficulties.  The last time we saw extreme levels was in 2015. At that time cruise lines changed itineraries and a few cancelled sailings. As this is a weather related issue, it is difficult to predict. And each cruise line handles it differently.

Expert advice

Your Coastline travel advisor will help you sort through the various river cruise lines, ships and itineraries, and answer any questions you have about water levels. And remember, whenever you travel, protect your investment with travel insurance.

For more information contact your Coastline Travel Advisor, or email travel@coastlinetravel.com.