Seven of the biggest myths about river cruising…
Not sure if river cruising is for you? Think again: today’s stunning ships and exciting itineraries can match anything you’ll find at sea.
Apples and oranges: they are two fruits but they are totally different, and it is the same when it comes to comparing river and ocean cruises. Sailing the seven seas has a certain glamour, and most ocean vessels offer amazing food and entertainment.
But if you think river cruises are boring and riverboats are too small to offer choices, then you haven’t paid attention. Clever design has dramatically transformed river cruising over the past decade. Poky cabins are a distant memory; specialty restaurants and cafes offer flexible dining, and onboard entertainment can range from cocktail-making lessons to yoga, as well as traditional destination-based talks and performances by local musicians.
River cruise ships dock in the heart of the cities you want to visit, so you’re just a short walk from the highlights of places like Paris, Budapest, Memphis or Ho Chi Minh City.
Most river lines include free excursions – not just short city walks – while many offer free wine or beer for lunch and dinner. Many ships now have bikes to borrow for free, with specialist excursions for those who like an active holiday.
Today’s river voyages are a great option for ocean cruisers looking for a different experience. And if you’re new to cruising, well, this isn’t a bad place to test the waters. Still not convinced? Keep reading and let us bust these myths.
Myth one: Ships are too small
Complaints that river cruisers are cramped have been consigned to history, thanks to ingeniously innovative designs. Many new ships now have a choice of dining rooms, large observation lounges, a gym and beauty salon, as well as a spacious sundeck, often with a swimming pool and dining area. outside.
Vessels on European rivers – especially the Danube, Main and Rhine – are limited in size by the height of bridges and the width of locks (which is why AmaWaterways’ double-width AmaMagna is confined to the lower Danube ).
So if you’re looking for more space, focus on ships that take less than the industry average of 150 passengers, or look outside of Europe for river cruises in the US and Asia.
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Everything is oversized across the pond, and American rivers like the Mississippi and the Columbia can accommodate much larger ships. American Cruise Lines boasts the largest staterooms in the industry, with standard cabins measuring a decidedly spacious 275 square feet.
In India, the smallest suites aboard Uniworld’s five-star Ganges Voyager II measure an equally generous 261 square feet and the ship can only accommodate 56 passengers, so the public areas are also plenty spacious.
Myth two: food is limited
Not enough choice, restrictive meal times and having to sit where you’re told – these are some of the complaints once made about river cruises. Not anymore, however.
At the top of the market, Uniworld’s luxurious boutique ships offer four or five dishes à la carte set menus at dinner, as well as sumptuous buffets at breakfast and lunch. There’s butler service for anytime dining, while the main restaurant offers open seating and flexible dining during opening hours.
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Scenic, another high-end all-inclusive line, offers up to five different restaurants on its European ships, with room service in every suite and a late-night menu for night owls, while A-ROSA ships host fun barbecues on the deck. .
Tui’s more affordable riverboats, Isla, Maya and Skyla, each have a main dining room and a casual bistro, as well as barbecues on deck and two lounges for coffee or drinks. And when it comes to choice, most cruise line buffets are huge, varied and local where possible, with regional dishes regularly available.
Myth 3: excursions are boring
Unlike ocean-going ships that often have to anchor outside of port and send you ashore by dinghy (or dock miles from your destination so you have to hop on a bus), river ships moor right in the heart of towns, villages and landscapes. you want to explore.
This means your excursion begins as soon as you step off the ship, with plenty of exciting options including guided hikes, after-hours museum visits, bike tours, and personalized city walks.
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CroisiEurope offers themed hikes and gastronomic cruises in more destinations than most, while AvalonWaterways offers a great series of “Active & Discovery” cruises with excursions including an extinct volcano in the Rhine Gorge, kayaking in the Gorges of the Ardèche, gastronomic visits to Paris and painting. classes in Amsterdam.
On Mississippi cruises with American Queen Voyages you can visit Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley in Memphis, while in New Orleans you can stroll through the bustling French Quarter on an evening tour. .
A Nile cruise guarantees extraordinary private excursions to temples and monuments. Then there’s Cambodia and Vietnam, where Mekong shore excursions include Vietnam’s Cu Chi Tunnels, used in the French and American wars, and Cambodia’s incredible Buddhist temple complex at Angkor Wat.
Myth Four: Ships are too basic
If you think river cruisers aren’t luxurious enough, you haven’t seen Uniworld’s boutique ships with their chandeliers and liveried butlers. The line’s “Super Ship” SS Beatrice even has a Picasso hanging on the wall.
If you prefer a more contemporary take on luxury, Viking’s ‘longships’ are renowned for their scandi-chic interiors and hygge vibe, as well as exceptional service, food and wine.
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You might also want to look at the new A-ROSA Sena, which is not only wider than most cruise ships, at 58 feet, but has larger-than-average cabins, two deck pools and a Oversized spa with an ice grotto, sauna, whirlpool, relaxation cabin, treatment cabins and fitness area.
Scenic’s all-inclusive line ‘Space-Ships’ also offer butlers for all suites, with free drinks all day, a choice of included excursions, free use of the salt therapy lounge and bicycles electrical. And despite these exorbitant levels of service, tips are included in the rate.
Fifth myth: entertainment is limited
“There’s nothing to do at night” is a common complaint about river cruises, and admittedly there are no West End-style shows on board. But these days, many cruise lines import local musicians, from string quartets to cover bands that get you dancing.
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Late departures or overnight stays also give you the opportunity to explore the nightlife of the city in which you are docking. activities is much broader and more imaginative than you might think.
U by Uniworld offers mixology classes, dance parties, and paint-with-wine sessions; Emerald Cruises is turning its indoor pool into an after-dinner cinema, while Avalon Waterways is offering a new series of Storyteller cruises, starring best-selling writers including missing girl author Gillian Flynn and sex and the city Candace Bushnell.
Sixth myth: the prices are too high
A typical river cruiser only carries 150 guests. Without the economies of scale offered by a large ocean-going vessel, river fares tend to be higher – but with so few other passengers you can also expect a better and more personal level of service.
That said, you can save money by choosing a cruise line that only offers what’s important to you. Free excursions can save you a lot of money, and it also makes sense to have plane or train tickets included, unless you can use loyalty points to arrange your own. But if you can do without other extras, like a butler and free minibar, don’t pay to travel on a line that includes them.
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Riviera Travel’s Rhône-Soane cruises, for example, include a trip to historic Beaune for wine tasting, a coach tour of the Ardèche Gorges and a visit to the Palais des Papes in Avignon – but no butler. Also look for all-inclusive cruises such as those offered by CroisiEurope and TUI for great value deals.
Seventh myth: routes are boring
Complaints that river cruises don’t go anywhere exciting are absurd. How boring can browsing the Amazon be? And how about crossing from Cambodia to Vietnam on the mighty Mekong, seeing India from the Ganges and Brahmaputra, or stepping back in time on the Nile in Egypt?
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New and exciting routes are added all the time. Uniworld now offers a cruise along the Peruvian stretch of the Amazon from Lima to Cusco in the Andes, with the option of visiting the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu.
Similarly, Jules Verne offers a new cruise to Egypt, perfect for those who have already taken a classic Nile trip but want to explore the region in greater depth. Departing from Cairo, with a day to see the pyramids and the Egyptian Museum, he explores the Nile south of the capital, visiting Beni Suef, Meidum and Minya to see pyramids and tombs not usually featured on a tourist itinerary .