The interest in river cruising is growing exponentially as more travellers embrace traversing the waterways as a carefree way to explore the world.
As a result, more ships are launching to address the growing demand.
Those who are yet to experience this great way to travel through Europe may be hesitating because they have reservations about whether it is the right kind of travel for them.
In his book The Cruise Traveller’s Handbook: how to find and enjoy unforgettable cruise vacations, author Gary Bembridge dispels the misconception that river cruising is for older travellers, saying that this form of travel is perfect for those who want everything organised for them, who don’t want to have to worry about finding the right hotel, places to eat, tours and having to navigate foreign transportation or managing unfamiliar currencies.
On a river cruise you’re looked after down to the last detail and everything you do has been carefully screened. The itineraries are painstakingly formulated and organised and shore excursions will undoubtedly include the highlights you need to see in each destination. Along the way you will be trying traditional and local dishes while staying in what is essentially a floating hotel with high levels of service, safety and on-board activities for adults and children.
When it comes to organising a holiday, cruising is a no-brainer as there’s little more to do on your part other than deciding a destination and the cruise company … oh, and pack.
With some cruise companies, you don’t even have to arrange getting to and from the airport! Some will arrange transport to take you to and from your destination airport. They also have a representative from the company to meet you at the airport who escorts you to check-in for the flight. Transportation to and from the arrival and departure airport and the ship is also included when river cruising.
If you have an interest in the culture, art and history of Europe then a river cruise may just be the ticket. You’ll visit grand buildings, museums and churches while getting to sample the traditional food and drink through each region. It’s more of an exploration of the allure and fascination of the history and heritage of towns and cities than the contemporary.
River cruising also really suits highly social people. The ships are intimate with about 150 passengers and as well as getting to know your fellow guests on tours, it is open-seating dining around large tables so you’re always mingling with new people. Dinnertime is a relaxed and leisurely paced activity with lots of time to talk to others. Evening entertainment is centred on the lounge with musicians playing regional music and the crew get to know everyone and greet passengers by name. You are very unlikely to remain invisible and anonymous on a river cruise.
Nor is it as sedate as some would think. Even though gliding along the river watching the ever-changing scenery is a quiet and restful experience, the pace during the cruise is surprisingly fast.
Cruises are more likely to be taken by active people who enjoy being on the hop. From dawn to dusk there’s something to do every hour of every day on a river cruise (if you choose to sit in a quiet corner and engross yourself in a book, you’re free to do that, too): an event, a talk, a meal, a reception, a guest artist, an escorted walk or bike ride along the river or an excursion.
With these things in mind, a river cruise is not a particularly good choice for those with mobility issues. While river cruise lines will work with passengers to see if they can make it work, those with mobility or other issues may be better off considering an ocean cruise on a large ship, which will be better able to cater more for these passengers with specialist facilities, staterooms and land-based support.