Arnie and I love to cruise. Standing at the back of a ship on the ocean and watching the wake is just heaven to us. Over the years we’ve taken 50+ ocean cruises. We used to get so excited when a newer larger ship debuted.
More exciting things to do and places to eat. But that was back in the 90’s when 80,000 tons was considered large. Now the ships are getting bigger and bigger, glitzier and glitzier. We still sell a lot of them – people still love them.
But to us, the megaships are just “too much” all around. Too many crowds, too much noise, too many extra charges. So if you love the casinos, fancy production shows, ice shows, zip lining through the ship and a choice of 22 restaurants- river cruising is NOT for you.
However if you value quality over quantity and prefer to immerse yourself in the culture of a foreign land instead of one more Caribbean port, river cruising may be just what you’re looking for.
WHAT IS RIVER CRUISING
Like ocean cruising, river cruise companies run the gamut from good to luxury and a good travel agent can inform you of the different lines, ships and itineraries available to find the right fit for you.
The average river ship carries 150 passengers or less. The result is much better and more personalized service. There are never lines for the dining room or to get off the ship. Entertainment is much more low-key than on an ocean cruise. A lecture, a singer or string quartet from the area you are sailing- that is generally what you’ll find. Also there is music for dancing in the evenings. After witnessing countless production shows I find this much more enjoyable.
IS RIVER CRUISING THE RIGHT VACATION FOR YOU?
I find that all the “bells and whistles” on ocean ships are not necessary when you’re visiting beautiful ports every day. Most river cruises include all your excursions. In many ports you can just walk off the ship and into a lovely town to explore. In other areas, there may be buses to take you to a particularly interesting site. Some carry bicycles on board so you can explore locally on your own, or take a tour with a group by bike. And- it’s all included.
Just sailing along the river is an adventure. As you float by you enjoy the beautiful scenery, local houses, castles on a hill, every turn of the river brings new sights. Another advantage- no seasickness. I’ve never had a client complain, in fact you must look outside to even figure out if you’re moving. Besides the lounge or your cabin for viewing, you can go to the top deck to see the scenery on both sides of the river.
Dining is open seating. Instead of dining at the same table every night, you choose when and with whom you want to dine (many ocean cruises now do this as an alternative). Wine and beer is served with every dinner at no charge; some cruise lines also include wine and beer with lunch. Emphasis is generally on food local to the area and presentation is paramount. Some lines are now offering alternative dining venues and most feature at least one cooking demonstration.
RIVER CRUISE ITINERARIES
River cruising offers itineraries that you can’t find on the larger ships. The small size allows these ships to navigate the small towns along the rivers. The most popular itineraries are generally in Europe. There are ships operating in France, Italy, Portugal, Germany, and the Netherlands. Moving further west, you can explore Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania. If you like more foreign, exotic destinations, check out the sailings in Russia, Egypt, South America and throughout Asia.
Some people worry about the age of river cruise travelers. If you’re in your 20’s or 30’s this might not be for you. Ages seem to be more in the 50’s and up. But don’t kid yourself. These seniors are generally active, well-travelled and interesting. Recently, with the expansion of the river cruise companies, some are trying to capture a younger audience. There are even some sailings devoted to families.
River cruises will almost always look more expensive than an ocean cruise. But once you realize what is includes the price becomes a little more palatable. Some river cruise lines are even moving to an all-inclusive model includes gratuities and drinks all day.
KINGSBRIDGE TRAVEL WILL PLAN YOUR DREAM CRUISE RIVER VACATION
If you prefer casinos, production shows, a spa and lots of options on a ship- stick with ocean cruising. But if the destination is more important and you prefer a vacation without the crowds, seeing a number of interesting areas, and fine service, you should consider a river cruise.