If you’ve ever watched PBS, then you’ve definitely seen commercials promoting river cruising, but did you know that there are several high-quality cruise lines to choose from, each with their own fleet of ships that sail to numerous destinations around the globe? In fact, you may never have heard of some of the world's best river cruise lines.
It’s true. And with river cruising's ever-increasing popularity, new ships and new itineraries are being added all the time.
Here are just some of the rivers you can explore:
Amazon in South America
Chobe in Africa
Danube in Central and Eastern Europe
Douro in Spain and Portugal
Ganges in India
Mekong in Vietnam and Cambodia
Nile in EgyptPo in Italy
Rhine in Central and Western Europe
Volga in Russia
Yangtze in China
And if you don’t want to travel abroad, there are options right here in the U.S., too, including the Mississippi, Columbia and Snake rivers.
The possibilities are practically endless.
So what makes river cruising so great? Imagine yourself meandering along narrow waterways -- in what equates to a floating luxury hotel -- and stopping at multiple amazing locations. Along the way, you can take in picturesque scenery at a leisurely pace. You get to experience any combination of culture, history, delicious food and wine, hiking and biking, and spa and wellness options.
Plus, small ships mean fewer guests and a more intimate experience, so you can get to know other passengers and make new friends (if that’s appealing to you).
Compared to ocean cruising, the vibe is more relaxed, the sailing is smoother, and typically, there are more inclusions. For example, most river cruise lines include, at the very least, one excursion per port, alcohol with onboard lunches and dinners, and complimentary WiFi.
Best of all, you only have to unpack once.
Now that you know WHY river cruising is great, it’s time to find out HOW to choose the right cruise.
Start by asking yourself these five questions:
1. Where do you want to go? If you’re new to river cruising, the most popular choices are the Danube and the Rhine. Why? Because they stop in some of the most magnificent cities in Europe, as well as charming little towns steeped in history. Not to mention the picturesque scenery along the banks of the rivers. And, even if you’ve traveled extensively through Europe, you’ll get a new perspective when you approach familiar destinations from the water.
River cruising is also a fantastic way to experience more exotic locations in safety and comfort, while still having authentic experiences in each destination.
2. How pampered do you want to be? Do you want supreme luxury or a more minimalist environment? Each cruise line has its own personality. Uniworld, for example, is known for its uniquely decorated ships that immerse guests in the feel of each destination. Viking is known for offering a more entry-level experience, while Crystal is known for taking luxury to the next level. (Think in-suite butler service and Michelin-inspired dining.)
3. What type of cabin do you want? Is a balcony important to you? How much square footage is most appealing? Do you want your bed facing the river with a view through floor-to-ceiling windows? Or, do you really just want a place to sleep? If so, then the ship’s public spaces would be more important to consider.
4. What type of excursions and activities interest you? Do you want an immersive experience that focuses on specific historical eras, such as World War II or the Middle Ages? Are you interested in architecture? Do you prefer to stay active with daily biking and hiking? Are you a foodie or wine lover? Would you like to focus on wellness? You can have all of this, and more … it’s just a matter of choosing the right itinerary on the right cruise line.
5. How much can you spend? As you may have guessed, river cruising is not geared toward the budget traveler. However, if money is a concern, there are ways to bring down the cost. If you choose an entry-level cruise line, a sailing date that isn’t quite as popular, and the least expensive cabin category, you might be surprised at how affordable it can be.
Also, take note of what is included and what is not included in the cruise price. Are port charges, shore excursions, gratuities, etc., included?
No matter what your budget is, considering all of these things allows you to gauge the overall value of the cruise and make a decision that best meets your needs.
If you’d like some help wading through all of your options, please reach out to us. We’d love to help you discover the cruise that’s best for you.