What is a River Cruise?
River cruises, much like ocean cruises, keep you entertained and engaged for your entire journey, and there are stops along the way that allow you to abandon ship for awhile and step into the culture of an exciting new place. While ocean cruises promise water parks, broadway shows for the family and an ultimate destination of crystal blue water and ice white sand, river cruises delight you with an authentic, visceral experience. Stepping into everyday life in a new place, you’ll have the opportunity to develop meaningful connections with people who share your interests and affections.
Why Are People Falling In Love With River Cruising?
There’s more to love about a river cruise than just short guest lists and long trip itineraries. River cruises also provide the chance to bond with other travelers who share your passions, while boasting superior service, an unmatched level of convenience, and enough destinations, themes, and benefits to inspire just about anyone.
River Cruises Offer Something For Everyone
As river cruises gain popularity, cruise lines are adapting to the demand by expanding the depth and breadth of their offerings to accommodate a wider variety of interests, passions, and people. Until recently, these cruises were primarily geared toward Baby Boomers who had both the time and money to afford them, and who had the deepest appreciation for the relaxed environment and fulfilling excursions. While most ships still cater primarily to this demographic, we’re starting to see lines marketing to foodies, fitness gurus, wine lovers, and even Disney fanatics of all ages!
Spend Time With People Who Share Your Interests
Taking a river cruise provides you with the unique opportunity to feed off the passion and energy of those who share your interests. When you book a river cruise, you do so because the ports, excursions, and countries call to you, and the same goes for everyone else on the ship. You’ll share dinner with another couple who have been learning French in order to truly immerse themselves in the experience. You’ll master pasta-making next to another person who also listed that activity at the top of their bucket list. You’ll gaze at the northern lights while among others who might shed a tear or two when beholding nature’s majesty.
Because such passion runs so deep among the small crew on board, many of those who embark on river cruises return with new friendships and connections that can last a lifetime.
Experience Exceptional Service (Both On and Off the Ship)
River cruises don’t come particularly cheap, but there’s a reason you pay what you pay. Aside from being all inclusive, the cruise has a very attentive on-board staff that go above and beyond to make sure your trip is fabulous. The chefs are world class, the hotel operations and housekeeping staff make sure your room is always picturesque, and the entertainment is second to none. It’s true what they say: the crew really does make the ship.
But the superb service doesn’t end once you step foot on land! River cruise lines partner with the best tour guides to guarantee your excursions are truly enriching, once-in-a-lifetime experiences. These experts will guide you to all the must-see destinations each stop has to offer, and will dazzle you with in-depth commentary on each location’s significance within the country’s culture. These individuals serve as your personal, all-in-one guide, concierge, translator, and more!
There’s No Need to Worry About Transportation
When you take an ocean cruise, you’re at the mercy of the ship’s ability to anchor. Because these massive ships need to port in areas where it’s convenient for them, there’s a chance you could hit the shore and still be miles away from your true destination—which is not so convenient for you.
On a river cruise, you won’t have to worry about taking a two hour bus ride to get where you’re going. Rivers flow naturally through the European countryside, and thriving markets were built in strategic locations along the same waterways hundreds of years ago to facilitate trade. The thriving markets allowed lively cities to grow in suit, and those cities are now some of the world’s most popular vacation destinations. Another perk of a smaller ship cruising is the ability to float right into these cities—right into the heart of of your destination—where you can disappear immediately into the sights and sounds of the country’s storied past and lively present.
Is River Cruising Right for You?
Of course every vacation sounds magical when you’re reading about it online and in brochures, but that doesn’t mean every last destination and experience will match up with your wants, needs, and travel style. Curious if river cruising is actually right for you? We can help with that.
River cruises are more intimate and personal. because river cruises max out at about 250 people, and the itineraries are so carefully curated that they attract like-minded people, you’re less embarking on a journey with strangers and more taking your first trip with future friends.
Ocean cruises are more about all of the amenities on the boat and less about the actual stops, while river cruising is just the opposite. River cruises don’t have olympic sized pools or on-board night clubs because you spend less time on the ship and more time delving into the art, culture, food, and history of the city you’re visiting. With a river cruise, you’re only on the boat to sleep and to travel from point A to point B, while with an ocean cruise the boat is half the fun.
There likely won’t be any scenarios where you’re bound the boat for days at a time like you would be on an ocean cruise. River cruises do most of their traveling at night to give you as much time as possible each day to go on tours, excursions, and explore the countries you’ve been dreaming about your whole life. There are times where this may not be the case, though, and for good reason! If one of the stops on the ship’s itinerary is known for its nightlife—Paris, for example—the ship will usually dock overnight, not pressing on until morning or even the next evening so you have more opportunities to truly see everything each location has to offer.
This is a detail you may not necessarily think about right away, but always being able to see the land is one of the biggest differentiators of ocean cruises and river cruises. For some, looking out and seeing nothing but miles and miles of ocean is overwhelming, and there’s no amount of on-board waterslides or rock climbing walls that can distract them away from that fact. If you happen to fall into that category, a river cruise is a far better match for your travel style. On a river cruise you can always see the gorgeous cities and countrysides of the lands through which you’re traveling—after all, those panoramic windows and french balconies in your stateroom certainly aren’t there for nothing, so sit back, relax, and enjoy the view!
How Much Does a River Cruise Cost?
When you first start researching river cruise vacations, you may experience some sticker shock if you’re used to ocean cruise prices. After all, you can take an entire round-trip ocean cruise for the price of one day of river cruising, but we suggest you ignore the price and instead pay attention to the value.
At about $200-$500+ per person per day for 7-21 days, river cruises aren’t cheap, but they certainly offer more bang for your buck when you consider how they’re both inclusive and exclusive in all the right places. They’re inclusive in that there’s food prepared by world-class chefs at every meal, nearly unlimited beer, wine, soft drinks, and coffee, lodging in luxury staterooms, and daily excursions. All of these perks are included in your fare, meaning the only time you’ll be reaching for your wallet is if you’re doing something that’s outside the pre-planned itinerary. On the other hand, river cruises are exclusive in that there’s usually fewer than 200 people on any given cruise with fairly high crew-to-passenger ratios. Our river cruising passengers would tell you that the smaller crowd makes the experience feel more luxurious.
When trying to find the right river cruise for your budget, here are a few things you should keep in mind:
What is Included in a River Cruise?
Many river cruise lines say they’re “all-inclusive,” but they all seem to have very different definitions of what that means exactly. To help you better understand the amenities and value built into your fare, we’ve put together a chart that outlines some of the best features included by some of the most popular river cruise lines:
|AmaWaterways||American Cruise Lines||American Queen Steamboat Company||A-Rosa||Avalon Waterways||CrosiEurope||Crystal||Emerald Waterways||Grand Circle||Scenic||Tauck||Uniworld||Vantage||Viking|
|Airport Transfers to and from Cruise||X||X||X||X||X|
|One-Night Hotel Stay Before Trip||X|
|Transfer to the Ship from Hotel||X|
|All Alcoholic Drinks All Day||X||X||X||X||X|
|Beer, Wine, and Soft Drinks at Meals||X||X||X||X||X**||X**||X||X||X|
|Drinks at Happy Hour Before Dinner||X|
|At Least One Shore Excursion in Every Port||X||X*||X||X***||X||X||X||X||X||X||X||X|
|GPS Guides for Independent Trips Ashore||X|
|Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus Service in Every Port||X|
|Bikes for Passenger Use||X||X||X||X||X||X||X||X||X|
|Alternative Restaurant with Lighter Meals||X||X|
|Specialty Wine Parings at Meals||X|
|Shipboard Credit for Shore Excursions, Spa, and Purchases||X|
|Laundry (Full Service or Self Service)||X||X|
* Some complimentary shore excursions, depending on itinerary / ** Wine and beer at lunch and dinner only / *** Shore excursions for North Americans / **** 60 minutes Wi-Fi per person, per day / ***** In-room mini-bar (soda and water) / ****** Special events mostly available on theme cruises / ******* Room and butler services available for some cabin categories
This chart only scratches the surface of all of the world-class amenities and luxuries you can expect to experience on any given river cruise line. If you’d like to learn more about specific features and amenities offered by any particular cruise line, just schedule an appointment with our river cruise expert!
How to Choose a River Cruise Line
As river cruises continue to gain popularity and new river cruise companies enter the mix, it’s getting more and more difficult to differentiate between all of the different cruise lines and ships. If you’re having a hard time picking the right river cruise for your dream vacation, we suggest you start evaluating each of your options with these five criteria:
The Journeys of a Lifetime Travel Difference
Let Greenville, SC’s river cruise experts do the research, planning, and booking for you. We’ve experienced river cruising first-hand and know all the ins and outs of the best lines and itineraries. Plus, our connections mean we may be able to get you a deal that’s not available to the general public.
Because our travel agents customize every last detail to fit your needs and desires, our team will go above and beyond to get to know everything about you and your dream travel experience. We aim to make the whole process as easy for you as possible so that your much deserved vacation can actually help melt stress away rather than add even more for you to worry about.
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