Last Updated on March 16, 2022 by Jim Ferri
Whether you’re a veteran cruiser or not, river cruises might be right for you…
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
By Marcia Levin
Whether you’re a veteran cruiser or have never stepped foot on a ship, river cruises might be right for you.
Veteran cruisers have been to the Caribbean many times. They‘ve sailed Eastern, Western and Southern Caribbean itineraries. Often these same travelers know the Mediterranean or Northern Europe itineraries well, and maybe they have sailed in Asian waters or to Australia and New Zealand. And, as the old joke goes, once they’ve been all over the globe, there’s no place else to go.
More and more water-loving travelers are discovering the joys of river cruising – and more and more river-cruising vessels are joining the many fleets of vessels sailing traditional itineraries in Europe as well as now-quite-popular destinations in Asia. Another popular destination is along Africa’s Zambezi River.
About a dozen years ago my husband and I sailed on a barge cruise on the Thames from Windsor to Oxford and loved that eight-passenger week-long trip, but our cabin was so small that when I got out of my berth, my husband had to stay in his.
Two people couldn’t walk in the room at the same time. Still, it was enjoyable.
On to River Cruises
I sailed my first river cruise a couple of years ago aboard AMA Waterways’ AMA Dolce from glorious Budapest to Vilshofen in Germany where we continued by coach to the magnificent city of Prague.
River cruising is a great opportunity to see beautiful cities and towns along the Danube – or other wonderful European rivers – to enjoy musical performances by local artists and excellent cuisine representative of the region, while experiencing a professional staff of officers and crew eager to make their passengers comfortable.
Passengers number approximately 150 on these vessels. These ships are smaller and more intimate than a cruise ship, but cabins are well-designed and feature an elegance seen often only on upscale cruise lines. Thy are also very good for travelers with reduced mobility.
And, as on the bigger ships, expect twice daily cabin service including nightly turn-down service, top drawer bath amenities and full bathroom.
Service on River Cruises is State-of-the-Art
Everybody works on a river cruise. Occasionally at more than one job.
Consider the young man introduced as the staff captain, second in command, who came to our cabin to repair our television and Internet service. The hairdresser helps clean rooms, etc. and the house musician in the lounge helps clean it afterwards. A staff of 40 take care of almost four times that many guests and they do it well.
Passenger comfort and passenger satisfaction are important to these lines.
Michael Schnur, Scenic Waterways and Emerald Waterway’s brand manager (www.emeraldwaterways.com) for North America says, “river cruising is more about the destinations. To be able to take an 8-15 day river cruise that visits some of the most fantastic villages, towns and cities lining Europe’s rivers gives passengers an experience they will never forget.
“Of course it doesn’t hurt to have the newest, most beautiful state-of-the-art river cruise ships sailing on these rivers, as well. Our revolutionary Emerald Waterways ships offer an array of spectacular innovations including an onboard heated swimming pool with retractable roof, which in the evening transforms into a cinema, al fresco dining on The Terrace, and cabins with floor-to-ceiling windows.”
River Cruises Are Up-Close and Personal
Schnur is absolutely right that river cruises are up-close and the vistas along the river are straight out of marvelous art books. Charming little towns, glorious old villages playing catch up to the 21st century and major cities – some of the most beautiful and historic in the world – often merely steps away from the ship. At times, as your ship journeys along the river, it’s not unusual to feel that you can reach out and touch these beautiful spots.
River sailings offer a variety of shore excursions on comfortable motor coaches. Guests can also opt to ride a bike into town, take an accompanied walk, or explore independently. If the latter is what you want, ship’s staff will help you plan your day.
Viking is another popular name in the business with multiple itineraries. There is also French CountryWaterways, Ltd., a 25-year-old company which features luxury hotel barges on exciting routes throughout Europe. Another is Grand Circle Cruises, which caters to the 50+ market, and whose ships sail across a large swath of Europe.
For the traveler who has been there and done that (and yes, bought the T-shirt) on cruise ships for many years and want to explore a new mode of travel, river cruising may be exactly what you are looking for. And your timing is perfect. Never before have there been so many options of vessels, itineraries, and prices.
If you go:
26010 Mureau Road, 200
Calabasas, CA 91302
Tel: (800) 626-0126
Tel: (855) 222-3214
French Country Waterways, Ltd
Tel: (800) 222-1236
Grand Circle Cruise Line
347 Congress Street
Boston, MA 02210
Tel: (800) 221-2610
5700 Canoga Avenue
Woodland Hills, CA 91367
Tel: (855) 338-4546
donna manz says
Love AMA Waterways and Uniworld for their impeccable onboard customer service, top-notch epicurean cuisines, and knowledgeable well-informed local guides. Not all lines use local guides and it is important for consumers to ask their agents about that. AMA, Uniworld and Avalon also offer more than one “level” of walking pace on their land excursions. For slower guests, that is the difference between seeing many sights or seeing few.
Yes, I AM passionate about river cruising. It is the most value-driven vacation product in the travel industry. Pretty much everything – food, wine/beer, shore excursions – are included in the cabin price.
donna manz says
By the way, the cabins on ships marketed to English-speaking passengers are usually luxurious – fine linens, top-of-the-line toiletries – and of a good size …. hotel-room size. Most cabins have either French balconies or patio balconies. Some of the newer ships have “twin balconies.”
donna manz says
Please, note the photo of the cabin is not that of a river cruise line, such as AMA, Uniworld, Avalon, Tauck, Scenic or A-Rosa. River cruise cabins are larger, usually with French balconies or large river-view windows, and boast luxury decor and ambiance.
Donna Manz says
Europe’s great waterways each has its own personality and destinations – itineraries – their own character and attributes. Even the river cruise lines themselves have distinctive profiles and attributes. Know what rivers offer what YOU want; if you want beer, you probably would prefer the Main over the Rhine where white wines are more dominant than beer … fairy tale towns: Once again, the Main-Danube. For a combination of half-timbered houses along with imperial culture, Vienna and the Danube. Food — Bordeaux, Burgundy/Rhone, Paris and the Seine with its tours of Normandy. The locally-sourced ingredients of Normandy are without peer in France.