When most people think about a cruise these days, they visualize a behemoth of a an ocean liner zipping from one crowded port to another. There is another way to cruise that provides an experience completely apart from this image, while still pampering passengers with luxury and exceptional service. It is called river cruising, and it is an amazing way to travel. In fact, river cruising is currently the fastest growing segment of the travel industry.
What makes river cruises different from traditional ocean cruises? For one thing, the size of the ships. While oceangoing cruise ships just keep growing from huge to enormous, river cruise ships generally carry only 100 to 300 passengers. (One sailing the Mekong River in Vietnam and Cambodia carries only 66 passengers.) Besides the advantages of more personal attention and a more intimate environment, the small ships also allow you to disembark the ship right in town, meaning no long bus rides to and from. Also, most river cruises include more amenities, such as shore excursions when you are in port and beer and wine at meals. Dining on a river ship is usually on an open-seating basis, allowing you to dine when you want and with whom you like on any given night.
At first the leisurely pace of river cruising may take some getting used to, but you’ll soon come to appreciate the opportunity to truly see the countryside and get a feel for daily life in the countries you visit. The flat bottom shape of most river ships ensures a safe and smooth ride without worries of motion sickness.
Most of the ports of call on a river cruise are not available to ocean vessels. Budapest, Prague, Vienna, Moscow … many of the world’s great cities grew up along waterways, so the logical way to see them is of course via these waterways. In Europe you can cruise the Rhine, Danube, Seine, Rhone and the Elba rivers. In Russia the Volga and the Svir rivers, and in Egypt the Nile. In China sail the Yangtze, in Vietnam and Cambodia the Mekong. There are even a few river cruises in the United States.
Let me know if you need more information on specific itineraries and ships so we can help you find just the right match.
Michael Downer, the “Travel Guy,” has been helping people see the world since 1986. An affiliate of America’s Vacation Center/American Express, he can be reached at (916) 933-2360 or by e-mail at [email protected].