River cruising, what’s it all about?
River cruising is one of the fastest growing sectors in the cruise industry at the moment, and with good reason. A river cruise is one of the best ways travel inland in Europe. But be warned, it is a vastly different experience to that of a mega ship on an ocean cruise.
River v’s Ocean cruise
Along the rivers you will visit beautiful villages, fairytale towns and fabled cities. Onboard the long, sleek ships you are able to squeeze under medieval bridges and through narrow locks. Unlike the towering ocean cruiseships with around 3,500 passengers, these low river ships only carry between 100-200 passengers.
Serving as a floating hotel without the cabaret entertainment, gambling and kids clubs, river cruising’s intense emphasis is on the towns visited along the way.
But don’t think these vessels are plain and basic.When we boarded our Avalon Rhine River cruise we were pleasantly surprised. From the moment we boarded we were welcomed with a smile and received exceptional service.
What are the staterooms like?
River staterooms are complete with all the home comforts and quality. The facilities include spacious and luxurious cabins with large balconies. We found our stateroom onboard Avalon Vista more lavish than those of the ocean ships. Our bed faced a wall to wall, floor to ceiling, panoramic window that slid open to give the feeling of a balcony, although we could not step out onto it. The toiletries, bedding, etc were all very high quality and the comfort of the beds and pillows exceptional.
What is included?
Best of all once onboard it is all inclusive. From the champagne breakfast, wine with your dinner, excursions, L’Occitane toiletries, bottled water, even unlimited wi-fi, it is all inclusive.
What can I expect?
And unlike cruising the ocean seas, there are no interior rooms on the river. There is something soothing about being on the river in constant view of the land.River cruising is peaceful and calm as you sail gently past medieval castles, so no need to worry about packing sea sick tablets. It is a relaxing way to watch the world sail past, stopping at quaint little towns, experiencing the culture and sampling the cuisine.
What’s to do?
Unlike an ocean cruise, river cruises arrive at a new town or city each day, there are no ‘at sea’ days. And due to the smaller size of the vessels the ships dock right in the heart of the city, making the travel to each location’s points of interest shorter. The culturally rich excursions are included and although limited, additional excursions are offered in some towns offering a few options.
What are the facilities like?
The facilities onboard are remarkable and the decor tasteful. The dining room is large enough to cater for all the passengers to have their meal at the same time, but is still spacious and uncramped. The quality of the glassware, cutlery and table linen was very refined. The use of long windows makes the area very inviting.
Although the decor is very tasteful, the dress code is more relaxed than ocean cruises with are no formal nights. The onboard entertainment is not glitzy, but low key and reflective of the culture of the destinations.
What is the food like?
The food served caters well for the discerning palate. Despite catering for a much smaller clientele than an ocean cruise the quality, presentation and choices are excellent. The food is prepared to perfections and it goes without saying the service from to finish is outstanding. Breakfast is a full buffet with sparkling wine, egg station and a good variety of a la carte. Lunch is an extensive buffet with pasta and carving stations. Each evening it is elegant dining where the chef delights with selection of appetizers, soups, entrees and desserts or cheese. Unlimited beer, wine and soft drinks are served at no extra charge during the meals. On the final evening is a five course farewell dinner and Captain’s reception starting with sparkling wine and canapes. The meal is exquisite with an Amuse Bouche and Intermezzo included. Desserts each evening include Sweet temptations, Ice Cream and Healthy Selections.
What about the access?
With less passengers comes less queues, more space and no bumping elbows at the buffet. River cruising however is less suited for those with mobility issues or those who use a wheelchair. Sometimes the gangways can be quite steep due to the level of the river and at times it is necessary for the ship to moor alongside another vessel, necessitating going across another ship to disembark.
The Rhine and Danube would be the most popular, and in my opinion, most beautiful rivers, offering the world’s top destinations. At Christmas these areas are magical with itineraries including the European Christmas markets to bring some cheer to the festive season.
Who goes on a river cruise?
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against children, but a plus of river cruising is it is child free. With the focus on cuisine and culture and not entertainment, river cruising might be marketed to those who might be forty plus who are active and curious travellers.
Is there a downside?
For us, the only downside of a river cruise is that most of the travel is done late at night or very early morning, so most of the journey is missed. But the day starts early, though they do have a late riser breakfast session. This is not a problem for us being early risers, but for those who aren’t that will mean you have likely missed the morning excursion.
What’s the verdict?
Our verdict: we enjoy both methods of cruising and feel they can’t be compared. River cruising and ocean cruising are totally different products. While you do have the convenience and luxury of an ocean cruise, you get an in depth experience and personal freedom on a river cruise. What we can say is that river cruising does include a lot of things that add value for travellers looking to see the world differently. If you are looking for an alternative to traditional land tour and tired of packing and unpacking and checking in and out of hotels, then maybe you should step onboard a river cruise.
Have you been on a River cruise? What do you think you’d enjoy most about river cruising?
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