What's the Big Deal with River Cruising?
Whether you are an aficionado of cruising or not, you are probably aware that ocean cruising, with its bellyflop contests and buckets of beer, is slowly giving way to a more “civil” mode of travel – river cruising. Now I make that tongue-in-cheek statement about ocean cruising knowing full well that all cruises, cruise ships, cruise lines and cruise passengers are not alike, and that there is not one cruise that is right for everyone. It's my business to know that, and it's my job to find the one that suits YOU perfectly. Stay tuned, and next week I'll discuss that further. Today we're talking about "rollin' on the river."
Most commonly thought of as a European phenomenon on the Rhine, Danube, Seine, Douro and even Po rivers, river cruise lines have extended themselves itself to Russia, China, Africa, Vietnam & Cambodia, Egypt, and – yes…even the United States. Many of the voyages are themed for special interests such as “wine immersion”, “Tulip Time”, “Jewish Heritage”, a safari-style cruise, and the ever-popular “Christmas Markets” cruises during the months of November and December. Here are several reasons why so many travelers are switching to river cruising…and very few of them will ever go back to the oceans.
1. The boats are smaller and more intimate (120-170 passengers) so you can actually get to know your fellow guests and not feel like you're just part of a giant herd. You may eat with whom you choose each evening and have a choice of a few onboard dining venues for variety.
2. It is as close to hassle-free as you can get. There are no lines to get on or off the boat and, when you arrive at your next stop, you can usually walk right off and be immersed in your destination. Europe grew up along its rivers, so there are some very charming and interesting small towns and big cities to explore. Very few of the ports require bus transfers, which makes it easy to come and go at your leisure. Fitness classes, sundecks, a swimming pool, bicycling, immersive excursions, spa and salon services...it's all available on a river cruise.
3. The trip can be totally all-inclusive, depending on the cruise line and ship you have chosen. Your bill at check-out might be non-existent, but you if you splurge on a massage, that will be it. Most river cruise lines include shore excursions in every port, airport transfers, Wi-Fi and all gratuities. You won't be required (or allowed!) to tip your staff and they won't give you the side-eye as you depart the ship. Even your butler won't expect anything when he brings your coffee to you room every morning.
4. Being on the river, there are no waves, so seasickness is not an issue. Also, most cruises include transferring through a series of “locks” to accommodate the changes in elevation, which most people find super interesting to watch. You can literally touch the walls of the locks from your balcony as you pass through! Evening entertainment can be a little sparse, but there is always live music in the lounge, lots of movies and entertainment on your in-cabin TVs and most cruise lines bring on local entertainers in some ports, such as an oompah band in Passau Germany, or Gypsy/Romany dancers in Budapest. Plus, there are informative talks on the ports-of-call, and cocktails with your newly-made friends from around the world.
Most people are familiar with the concept of river cruising thanks to Viking River Cruises, the most well-known of the river cruise lines because they spend boatloads (ha!) of money on television and print advertising. However, they are by no means the only river cruise line there is. There are several others with higher customer satisfaction rates and more complimentary inclusions just waiting to show you the time of your lives as well. The price tag of a river cruise can cause a little bit of “sticker shock”, but when you figure out everything you are getting for the cost, it becomes much more manageable, and quite a good value.
You favorite travel advisor (ahem!) has relationships with the sales reps from all the different lines, and is incredibly valuable in helping you sort through all of the options to find the perfect fit! River cruising is also a great option for small groups of friends, family or even work colleagues who would like to travel together. Think about who might want to join you on the trip….most times at least one or two additional couples come forward! It could be a mother-daughter or girlfriends trip - enjoying travel with the ones who mean the most to you. the journey can be based on your interests: food, golf, culture, medieval history or a particular destination (even one you've explored before on a land journey). Who would you like to sip champagne with as you cruise through the incredible Wachau Valley in Austria’s wine country? Or take on a truffle hunt in Avignon, France. As you can tell by the photo up top, for me it's Tulip Time in the Netherlands...let's go!
Why not give river cruising a try? It's a great way to travel through a country without having to do the driving; there's freedom of movement, availability of food and drink, sights to see whether you get off the boat or not, people to meet, history, architecture, and the places you've only seen on in a book or on a screen (it's why I travel!). Ninety-six percent of first-time river cruisers say they would recommend the experience to a friend. Global Exotic Adventures is authorized to sell all the lines and we would love to help match you (and your friends) to the perfect experience. Get on board the river cruise movement!
'til next week!
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Contact: GLOBAL EXOTIC ADVENTURES - Juliet Weller, Founder