River cruising is one of the fastest growing segments of travel – and for good reason! River cruising combines some of the best characteristics of other forms of travel. The convenience and comfort of an ocean cruise. The in-depth experience and knowledge of a guided tour. The freedom of independent travel. Unpack once; experience a region.
A typical river cruise offers an all-inclusive vacation! Most river cruise companies include a comfortable cabin to stay in the duration of your journey; tasty meals accompanied by wine and beer; coffee and tea throughout the day; wi-fi internet service; a daily guided tour; bicycles for your use; gratuities, port fees, and airport transfers.
Unlike ocean cruise ships which typically hold 2000-5000 passengers, a typical river cruise ship holds 130 – 180 passengers. With the small ship size, expect to take meals at the same time and in the same venue as all the ship’s passengers. Evening entertainment will be very low key: talks about the next port or a musical concert are common offerings. Staff get to know you, resulting in a more intimate and personal experience than many other vacations. During the day, the smaller boats can dock directly in the towns or cities they visit, offering quick, easy, direct access to your day’s activities.
With growth in the industry, there’s so many new and exciting (as well as classic) itineraries and destinations to choose from. In 2016, 10 River Cruise Lines launched over 22 new ships; in 2017 there are at least another 13 new ship launches planned by 6 lines. And there are more in the works for 2018. For us travelers, that means new itineraries and a wider selection to choose from!
Europe boasts more navigable rivers, and diverse cultures, than any other region in the world. Here’s a few examples of the itineraries available in this popular region.
- Wind down the Rhine from Holland to Switzerland, through vineyards and villages, castles greeting you at the river bends.
- Cruise from Germany to Budapest on the Danube, and savor the beautiful Wachau Valley in Austria. Longer itineraries include both rivers, connected via the Main-Danube Canal.
- Wine lovers, cruise one of the great wine regions of Europe! For example, visit a port winery on your cruise down the Douro, or savor Bordeaux on the rivers Garonne and Dordogne.
- A Seine itinerary offers the fishing village of Honfleur, the cathedral in Rouen, Monet’s garden in Giverny, and of course… Paris.
Like ocean cruises and resorts, there are not only many itineraries to choose from, but also a variety of companies and ships. While any one would be a wonderful trip, the best trip is when you find the perfect ship and itinerary to meet your personal wants and needs. And river cruise lines offer itineraries with focus on special interest, like culinary, wine or beer, holidays, active and interactive excursions, or immersion into local culture. Here’s a little about a few of my favorite river cruise lines:
Uniworld Boutique River Cruises offers the most exclusive luxury ships on the rivers in 20 countries with service and amenities exceeding the average river cruise. Each ship is a one of a kind gallery featuring works of art from famous painters, master craftsmen and furniture designers. It’s service and cuisine are all-inclusive and unsurpassed. Uniworld offers many voyages through western Europe, as well as Russia, China, Vietnam, India, and Egypt, with a choice of gentle sightseeing, local experiences, or active experiences. And in 2018, they’ll launch U by Uniworld with more immersive, adventurous and experiential itineraries.
AmaWaterways’ hallmark is it’s personable service, offering contemporary luxury voyages to western Europe, Africa, and Southeast Asia with a focus on cultural immersion and authentic experiences onboard and ashore. Guests can explore by foot or by bicycle. New offerings from AmaWaterways include cruises with a focus on Wine or Art, and their newest destination, Myanmar (Burma). Their partnership with Backroads offer active adventures. And Adventures by Disney has partnered with AmaWaterways to bring a true family-friendly option to river cruising.
Avalon Waterways was born of the well regarded Globus tour company, highly experienced in bringing the world to travelers. But their ships’ claim to fame is their Suite Class – Bed with a View – stateroom design facing the river and bringing the incredible sights around you into the stateroom through wall to wall, floor to ceiling windows. Avalon offers voyages through Europe, Asia, South America, and Egypt. And they offer cruises with a focus on Wine, Beer, Food, Opera, Jazz, Jewish Heritage, World War history, and Christmas Markets.