River Cruise… don’t those 2 words bring about some exciting thoughts & images like this picture below!! 🙂
“River Cruises offer advantages impossible to resist!”
Since I started offering my services as a Cruise Consultant almost 17 years ago, one thing I’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 I make for my clients 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 I’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” lover like me, (I’ve been on 60 Ocean Cruises and on 17 River Cruises… you can see pictures & videos of all of my Cruises, including my 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 me wrong, there’s nothing more exciting than being at Sea with hundreds or even thousands of others onboard 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!
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 newfound friends are effortless and lead to lifelong friendships like in this picture below of me with newfound friends while on an unforgettable Nile River Cruise in Egypt! 🙂
2. 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 I 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 my 17 Rivers Cruises that I’ve personally taken I’ve literally felt zero motion… there 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…
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 are 6,000-8,000 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.
And those small towns are some of the best experiences… mixing & mingling with the locals.
On my 17 River Cruises I’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, I saw how the locals lived off the land in tiny places in Vietnam & Cambodia and in Africa, etc., etc.
And some of my most memorable stops were along the Yangtze River in China visiting small towns… in one place I even got to visit a school that the Cruise Line built (see above) and I 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 I experienced in Cochem, Germany while sailing the “Moselle” River…
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 I 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 than 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! 🙂.
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 my last Ocean Cruise in Europe the majority of tours cost guests between $200-$350 per tour!!
FYI, some river cruise lines offer a few optional excursions during your free time that you pay extra for, others include them all in your up front 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 dollars… on my last Mediterranean Ocean Cruise their bike rides were $149-$199 USD per person!
Here I am just after an included bike ride in Speyer, Germany during my “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 I biked in Bordeaux, Burgundy, Portugal, Austria, Ha Long Bay, etc.!
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 I’m being critical above, I’m simply describing what MY early Ocean Cruises personally looked like! 🙂
I used to do nothing but explore on my own when in Port and thought I wasn’t missing a thing. After doing some excursions for the first time after taking a bunch of Cruises though, I 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.
Between my 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 my first 17 River Cruises)…
…my River Cruises have turned out to be some of the very BEST Vacations of my life and is the reason why I’ll be doing more River Cruise Vacations in the Future!!
8. You have the choice to skip tours if you want!
Hold on, doesn’t that defeat the purpose of what I just talked about above… a little bit, but hear me 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 yours 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 (that’s happened many times on tours during my 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 I’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 I 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!
9. River Cruises are healthier for You than Ocean Cruises!
Now you may find that statement weird but trust me, after booking over 50 million dollars worth of Cruises for my Clients I know more & more people these days are concerned about staying healthy when they travel and after 77 Cruises of personal experience, I 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 me wrong, the food is great onboard…
…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 are Biking & Hiking tours on many of the lines too… I’ve even Kayaked as an included excursion during some of my River cruises!
On all of my Ocean Cruises I’ve literally gained 5-10 lbs each time… if you’ve been on big ships I know you’ve heard the weight gain jokes! 🙂
But on my River Cruises, I usually lose a pound or two from the activities… as you’ll see in my Photo & Video Gallery I’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 than 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 I have to agree for sure! 🙂
So there you have it, a look into why taking a River Cruise Vacation is so popular these days.
Now of course, I want to tell you about some of the “World’s Most Scenic Waterways” that you can visit while taking a River Cruise and I 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 I’ll publish “Part 2” of my River Cruise lesson in my next blog post next month. 🙂
I appreciate You!
Your Trusted Cruise & Tauck Tour Expert!