River Cruise Review

If You’ve Never Taken A River Cruise… Isn’t It About Time You Did?

River Cruise
… don’t those 2 words bring about some exciting thoughts & images like this picture below!! 🙂

A River Cruise in Europe

“River Cruises offer advantages impossible to resist!”

Since Shawn started offering his services as a Cruise Consultant a little over 12 years ago, one thing we’ve noticed over the years is a dramatic increase in the amount of people inquiring about taking a River Cruise… in fact, that segment of travel makes up for about 1/3 of the millions of dollars worth of bookings we do each year!

How about YOU? Have you ever considered taking a River Cruise?

If not (or maybe you have and are still on the fence) today we’ll cover why the River Cruise industry is booming and so popular these days and who knows, maybe next thing you know you’ll be sailing down one of the World’s famous Rivers yourself! 🙂

Why Taking a River Cruise is so Popular…

So, what’s the draw to taking a River Cruise?

Well, it depends on who you’re talking to.

If you’re talking to “Ocean Cruise” lovers like us, (we’ve been on 49 Ocean Cruises and on 17 River Cruises… you can see pictures & videos of all of our Cruises, including our River Cruises here) it has to do with wanting a little more variety, seeing some new unique places that big ships can’t get to and overall taking the pace down a notch & traveling with a smaller group.

Don’t get us wrong, there’s nothing more exciting then being at Sea with hundreds or even thousands of others and having non-stop action in a floating city. But now and then it’s nice to sit back, relax and enjoy some great food & wine while you watch some amazing cities & towns float by!

river cruise experience


Now the other type of person who loves River Cruises are “non-cruisers”.

They have no interest in sailing anywhere with thousands of people (or even 300-1,000 people onboard as many of the Upper Premium & Luxury lines have on their ships) and the idea of flashy entertainment, casinos, etc. doesn’t interest them at all.

But the idea of unpacking once and having the convenience of their “Hotel” traveling with them while seeing multiple places in a week or two or three and immersing themselves into a destination/culture definitely appeals to them…

…and a River Cruise is the perfect way to do just that!

Now, let’s go ahead and talk about…

What’s unique about a River Cruise that you don’t experience on a “big ship” Ocean Cruise?

1. You sail with a lot less people  In Europe, the average River Cruise Ship holds just 150 people. Usually the most you’ll have onboard is around 200 people or so in markets like China & Russia… and sometimes it’s much smaller… in Southeast Asia & India for example many ships only have 50-80 guests onboard & in Africa, on a Chobe River Cruise, the ship accommodates just 28 people
What do those numbers above mean for you?

No lineups and smaller groups on your excursions which equals more time to learn from your guides & about the destination and overall it provides a more intimate/personal experience where you’re welcomed back to the ship by the Captain and crew like a family.

Plus, you’ll meet like-minded people who appreciate the exclusivity as well.

Conversations onboard with new found friends are effortless and lead to lifelong friendships like in this picture below of us with our new found friends while on an unforgettable Nile River Cruise in Egypt! 🙂

river cruise experience

At many ports You dock right in town. On a River Cruise for the most part you dock right in town or very close to it which means less time spent commuting on buses and more time exploring the places you’ve traveled so far to see! (Many people don’t realize on an Ocean Cruise in Europe they have to spend over 3 hrs on a bus to get to Rome from the port and back, 3hrs to Florence & back, 6hrs to Berlin and back, etc.)

3. You have NO motion sickness worries. There are lots of people out there who simply won’t take an Ocean Cruise as they’re afraid of getting motion sickness. Now we can tell you with 100% confidence, that worry should never stop you from taking any Cruise as almost everyone with those worries comes back saying it was a non-issue… remember, those big Ocean Cruises are floating cities with state-of-the-art stabilizers, they’re not sailboats!

BUT on a River Cruise, even the motion sickness worriers aren’t concerned as you’re on extremely calm rivers that are nowhere near open water where wind, storms, etc. take place. Of our 17 Rivers Cruises that we’ve personally taken we’ve literally felt zero motionthere are more bumps on city streets when you’re driving your car at home! 🙂

See how calm and smooth it is on a River Cruise…

no worries about motion sickness on a river cruise

4. You get to see some really unique “off the beaten path” places. When sailing on a big Ocean Cruise, they’re more limited to where they can take you. When there’s 6,000 people onboard a ship for instance, even if a town of 500 people had the facilities to dock you, they could never handle having 6,000 people exploring town… but on a River Cruise you can visit almost any size town.
Here's a picture of Nancy & Shawn visiting a school in China during their Yangtze River CruiseAnd those small towns are some of the best experiences… mixing & mingling with the locals.

On our 17 River Cruises we’ve visited places like Aswan in Egypt, Vidin in Bulgaria, Regua in Portugal, countless small towns in Germany & France & Italy, some of the most off-the-beaten-path places in Myanmar, we saw how the locals lived off the land in tiny places in Vietnam & Cambodia and in Africa, etc., etc.

And some of our most memorable stops were along the Yangtze River in China visiting small towns… in one place we even got to visit a school that the Cruise Line built (see above) and we visited with the kids for a couple of hours and saw how they lived… amazing!!

5. Another nice part about a River Cruise is the site-seeing continues while You sail… unlike on an Ocean Cruise in the middle of nowhere when at sea, on a River Cruise you’re always within distance of towns, valleys, vineyards, etc. so the beautiful scenery never ends!

Seriously! How do you beat this scene below that we experienced in Cochem, Germany while sailing the “Moselle” River…

river cruise experience

6. A River Cruise is a great value for You as it’s extremely inclusive!  When you book & pay for your River Cruise ***you really are paying for the majority of your trip up front which means few money worries while on your trip.***

A big complaint we get about Ocean Cruises these days is they’re nickel & diming guests more & more which means more stress when onboard over money… no fun! 🙁

Yes, there are “all-inclusive” Ocean Cruise lines out there but if you know the industry at all you’ll know they’re the “Luxury” lines and are very, very expensive.

With a River Cruise though it’s the standard to have lots of items included in your fare. (***Keep in mind, there are also many different levels of River Cruises when it comes to quality and some do include more then others)

And no-one is running around onboard trying to sell you art, spa packages, photos, drink packages, specialty dining, entry to Bingo, etc., etc,. No Casinos onboard, no night clubs onboard.

It truly is a super inclusive trip where your job is to relax, get immersed into the destination and enjoy the great included food & beverages! 🙂.

Uniworld river tosca ship

Excursions are a big thing! When you go to the different towns and cities on your River Cruise there’s always something included like a walking tour or hike or bike tour or bus tour or Museum visit or winery tour for example… on our last Ocean Cruise in Europe the majority of tours cost guests between $200-$350 per tour!!

FYI, some river cruise lines offer optional excursions during your free time that you pay extra for, others include them all in their price.

At lunch and dinner most River Cruise lines include wine, beer & soft drinks. Some include those items, as well as all other drinks, throughout the entire day & evening, not just at meals.

On a River Cruise, almost always these days they provide Free Internet & lots of Free movies on your room’s TV… ***many people spend hundreds of dollars on Internet on an Ocean Cruise (the average cost is $30 per day if you buy a package for the whole time you’re onboard) & movies are pretty much always $15-$20 per movie on an Ocean Cruise like at a hotel.

Complimentary bikes are available on many River Cruise lines these days and are a great way to check out a new town… especially in Europe where there are bike lanes everywhere and it’s totally safe to ride there!  On some Ocean Cruises you can take a biking tour with your loved one(s) but it’ll cost you hundreds of dollar… on our last Mediterranean Ocean Cruise their bike rides were $149-$199 USD per person!

Here we are just after an included bike ride in Speyer, Germany during our “Rhine” River Cruise. We were docked right in the heart of the town and notice how small our group was… it was so much fun as it was when we biked in Bordeaux, Burgundy, Portugal, Austria, Ha Long Bay, etc.!

bike ride included excursions on a river cruise

What’s included varies from River Cruise line to River Cruise line but the point is, you get GREAT value for your dollar when taking a River Cruise!!

7. You get extremely immersed into a region’s history & culture when on a River Cruise!
 This is due to the fact that, as mentioned above, excursions are included in your price.

***Many people on Ocean Cruises “get cheap” after they pay for their Cruise up front and instead of checking out the places they visit in depth, they simply walk around town and shop a little and learn zero about where they’re visiting. “Why pay for the Cruiseline’s overpriced excursions?” they think to themselves, when they can check it out on their own?
Now if it seems we’re being critical above, we’re simply describing what OUR early Ocean Cruises personally looked like! 🙂

We used to do nothing but explore on our own when in Port and thought we weren’t missing a thing. After doing some excursions for the first time after taking a bunch of Cruises though, we realized there’s so much more to see, do & learn besides what’s around the port and in the main town in each place..

And that’s the great part about a River Cruise…

Once you’ve booked your River Cruise you’ve already paid for the tours so you take them all, LOVE them, and get totally immersed into the region you’re visiting.

river cruise experience

Between our visits to the:

“Great Wall” & “Terra Cotta Warriors” in China

“St. Mark’s Cathedral” in Venice

“Angkor Wat” in Cambodia

“Bagan” in Myanmar (Burma)

“Beaches of Normandy” & “Bordeaux’s & Burgundy’s Vineyards” in France

“Heidelberg Castle” & “Cologne Cathedral” in Germany

“Douro Valley” in Portugal

“Dracula’s Castle” in Romania

“Great Pyramids of Egypt”

“Private Castles & Private Clubs” in Budapest, Vienna & Prague

“Table Mountain” & an “African Safari” in South Africa

“Victoria Falls” in Zimbabwe

and much, much more…

(which was all INCLUDED during our first 17 River Cruises)…

…our River Cruises have turned out to be some of the very BEST Vacations of our lives and is the reason why we’ll be doing more River Cruise Vacations in the Future!!

shawn power your trusted cruise expert

 You have the choice to skip tours if you want!

Hold on, doesn’t that defeat the purpose of what we just talked about above… a little bit, but hear us out first! 🙂

If you choose to do a land based tour in Europe where you go from city to city by Bus and stay in a different hotel every night or two, if you’re not in the mood to get up & participate in the day’s activities for the most part you don’t have that choice.


Because you have to check out of your hotel as your tour group is moving on to the next city.

On a River Cruise though, whether you’re onboard 1, 2, 3 weeks or more, your room is your’s the whole time so if you want to skip a tour on a given day and the group leaves a port in the morning and gets dropped to a different town/port later that day (we’ve done that many times on tours during our 17 River Cruises) you still have the choice to stay onboard as again, there’s nothing more convenient then having your “Hotel” travel with you! 🙂 

As we’ve been in Europe for as much as 3-5 weeks doing back to back to back Cruises there’s been a day or two we wanted to chill out & skip a tour and one of the luxuries of being on a River Cruise is having that choice… why would you want to leave these gorgeous views!

on a river cruise you can unpack once

 River Cruises are healthier for You then Ocean Cruises!

Now you may find that statement weird but trust us, after booking over 35 million dollars worth of Cruises for our Clients we know more & more people these days are concerned about staying healthy when they travel and after 66 Cruises of personal experience we can tell you it’s for sure simpler to do that when on a River Cruise!!


For one, there isn’t food everywhere you look.

Don’t get us wrong, the food is great onboard…

river cruise food

the grill on Paul Gauguin

…but you pretty much eat breakfast, lunch & dinner when on a River Cruise and maybe a snack or two but no 24hr room service, endless buffets, chocolate buffets, burger grills, 24hr pizza bars, ice cream bars, etc., etc.

Plus, you’re off the ship every day (no lazy sea days here) at a minimal walking and if you like to be active there’s Biking & Hiking tours on many of the lines too… we’ve even Kayaked as an included excursion during some of our River cruises!

On all of our Ocean Cruises we’ve literally gained 5-10 lbs each time… if you’ve been on big ships we know you’re heard the weight gain jokes! 🙂

But on our River Cruises we usually lose a pound or two from the activities… as you’ll see in our Photo & Video Gallery we’ve been away as much as 3-5 weeks at a time on back to back to back River Cruises & came home the same weight or less… much nicer then having to work off 10 lbs after your latest vacation!!

As one of the CEOs of a River Cruise company said “OCEAN CRUISING IS A DRINKING MAN’S CRUISE. RIVER CRUISING IS A THINKING MAN’S CRUISE!”… and we have to agree for sure! 🙂

Can you see yourself sitting back on this plush couch sipping your favorite drink relaxing your mind and body? Bet you can! 🙂

So there you have it, a look into why taking a River Cruise Vacation is so popular these days.

Now of course, we want to tell you about some of the “World’s Most Scenic Waterways” that you can visit while taking a River Cruise and want to tell you which River Cruise lines are the most popular but you’ve already done a lot of reading for today so stay tuned and we’ll publish “Part 2” of our River Cruise lesson in our next blog post next month. 🙂

We appreciate You!

Nancy & Shawn
Your Trusted Cruise Experts!

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