Imagine being able to travel into the heart of the countries in Europe, then being able enjoy a more in-depth, authentic experience in multiple destinations with smaller towns and villages. Experience the exclusivity and true all-inclusive nature of river cruising.
River cruises appeal to many travelers seeking authentic yet hassle-free experiences. Instead of feeling cooped up on a motor coach or a crowded ocean cruise, river cruisers spend most of their time engaging theirs senses with the local area.
For the past five years or so, groups have increasingly pursued this laid-back style of travel. When you look at the numerous benefits and cleverly constructed itineraries, it is easy to understand why.
Many travelers have experienced some of those convenient aspects of cruising aboard large ocean-going vessels. But ocean and river cruising differ greatly. One of the biggest contrasts is between the all-inclusive nature of the river cruise and the ocean cruise’s add-on pricing policy. River cruising is the most immersive cultural experience that combines the best of land and cruise with amazing destinations.
Ocean cruises also vary greatly in passenger counts. An average ocean cruise holds around 3,000 people; the maximum capacity for most river cruises runs about 150 to 200 people. Groups often enjoy the less-crowded and closer-knit feel of these smaller ships.
Many travelers have also noted that ocean cruises focus more on the ship and its extensive amenities, but river cruises keep the spotlight on the destination and maximizing passengers’ time in port.
You stop almost every day at a new port with river cruises, often for walking tours through quaint towns with little tourist traffic, and you’re always in view of land. With ocean cruises, you can go days without seeing land, and ports of call and excursions tend to be more exotic and high-adventure.
Europe and Beyond
River cruising first took off in Europe, and that continent remains the most popular destination for this travel style. Many find the charming European scenery visible from the ship part of the appeal, since river routes lead past cities of historic navigational importance.
It’s a great way to see the interior of Europe and, a river cruise takes you back to a time before there were highways, since people used to travel using these rivers. It is a Victorian way to travel.
Cruises sailing along the Mosel, Rhine, Seine, and Danube rivers currently sell out for most river cruise providers. Outside Europe, Myanmar, China, and Vietnam have also attracted large numbers of passengers looking for something a little more adventurous.
Passengers can immerse themselves in the history of the destination during a cruise, with onboard lectures, cooking demonstrations and regional-craft-making sessions. For example, a cruise through northern France might include a lecture on impressionists inspired by the Seine.
Groups can choose optional guided tours of most cities that offer headsets, so they can walk at their own pace but still hear the escorts recounting the area’s history. Excursions have expanded to offer more adventurous outings, such as cycling tours.
Niche cruises that cater to special interests have also increased, such as departures focused mainly on local cuisine or classical music.
An American Renaissance
The dynamic growth in European river cruising has inspired some companies to foray into American waters as well. The American Queen Steamboat Company has resurrected North American river cruising with ships running up the Mississippi and Columbia rivers.
The most popular domestic itinerary is round trip from New Orleans to Memphis and from St. Paul to St. Louis. There's also itineraries from Portland to Clarkston, Idaho, on the Columbia River.
Domestic cruises have proved a popular first-time experience because of the ease of traveling for those who wish to stay within the United States.
As always, I’m here and would love to discuss your next cruise. We can look at all the moving parts of your upcoming trip — what you need, what you want — and together we can come up with a cruise you and your group will enjoy.
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Thelma Pruitt has been an avid fan of cruising for some time and feels this is a great way to see several different islands in one amazing trip. She loves to help her clients plan their vacations whether it's by land or sea.