River cruising is one of the fastest growing travel areas, with more and more people choosing to try it every year. Like its ocean cousin, there’s a budget, line, style and taste to suit everyone- so there really is no excuse to not try to sail some of the most famous rivers in the World. Despite this, there are still myths out there that can put people off taking the plunge. Here’s my top five myths debunked.
There won’t be enough to do
I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve had people say to me they think there won’t be enough to keep them occupied on a river cruise and they will be bored. Honestly, nothing could be farther from the truth – I’ve had some of the best fun on a river cruise, and if anything, there’s too much to see and do day-to-day.
A typical day on a river ship involves a mixture of your meals, scenic cruising through some of the most breath-taking scenery you could imagine, visiting some fascinating towns and cities, and evening activities which can range from informative lectures, to various quizzes and of course local entertainment. Honestly, you won’t be bored for a moment, if that’s what you want to do. You can also easily kick-back and relax as much as you want to in the various spaces on board, the sundeck or of course your cabin.
Not enough choice?
Another myth I’ve heard is that there won’t be enough choice in terms of food. Generally speaking, you have a couple of options to dine on board. There will be a main restaurant that’s open for all main meals, then a more casual eatery and then some form of coffee/baked goods area. Now, while this doesn’t sound much, I’ve had some of the best food anywhere while on board a river ship and every day the menu changes significantly to keep your taste buds tingling. Most lines also offer a daily menu of staple items that don’t change.
For breakfast, expect a wide variety of baked goods, cold options, cereal, fruit, cooked goods and made to order items including eggs your way, omelettes, eggs benedict, pancakes, waffles and full English. And for lunch and dinner expect a variety of options available that will draw inspiration from the region you are visiting.
Increasingly, many river ships have multiple dining venues on board in addition to the main restaurant. These come in a variety of forms, including a chefs table approach, something more casual or a destination focussed venue.
If you don’t fancy anything on the menu (or of course if you have specific dietary requirements), the chefs on board are more than happy to rustle something up just for you. And when it comes to dietary requirements, the ships go out of their way to prepare a specific menu for you for the whole trip and will engage with you daily to ensure your needs are met. It’s really impressive.
On top of this, you will be docked in ports many nights of the cruise which gives you the opportunity to nip off to see more sights at night, enjoy a meal out and a few drinks. Imagine heading off of the ship on a warm summers eve in Avignon or to enjoy the Christmas Lights and Markets of Vienna. It’s all up for grabs on a river cruise.
Classically, river cruising has drawn an older clientele, or that’s at least what I’d been led to believe. However, I’ve now taken quite a few river cruises, and while there is of course elements of truth, you will honestly get a whole range of ages on board – so my advice is don’t believe everything you read. On top of this, I’ve found river cruising to appeal to multi-generational family trips, where you will have adult children sailing with their parents and grandparents.
Another area that will appeal to different types of passengers are the increasingly varied itineraries and activities focussed around themes – so for instance wellness, enrichment, active and discovery cruises which feature a wider variety of excursions from foodie tours, to wine tasting, cycling, kayaking or hiking. You can read more about my Active & Discovery cruise in France here. Or, increasingly, you will find a variety of classes on board including Yoga, Zumba and others – for example the wellness approach that’s being taken by Ama Waterways (you can read more here about my experience on board AmaMagna).
As more lines come forward, e.g. TUI UK, will also begin to appeal to even a much broader audience and broader range of ages.
Will the ship and stateroom be too small?
It is true that river ships are quite petite, especially if you re coming from ocean cruising, but it’s untrue to say that river ships and their cabins are too small.
Broadly speaking, staterooms on river ships range from 150 – 170ft, with suites being around 220ft (although this does vary line-to-line and ship-to-ship). These are smaller than a standard hotel room, or even an ocean cruise ship cabin, where oceanview and balcony cabins can range from 160 – 220ft. However, like all cruise ships staterooms, these are designed so well to utilise the space efficiently. As a 6’3” man, I don’t really find the spaces bothersome in any sense -and as you can see below, there’s all sorts of cabin types and sizes available. All cabins on river ships are outside – that with a window or some form of balcony.
Similarly, the venues found on board can feel quite intimate, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Again, this is changing as new ships come out, for example with AmaMagna, which is double the width of a traditional river cruise ship.
Freedom to do your own thing
I think this was perhaps the most eye-opening thing for me coming away from my first river cruise. River cruises include excursions in every port, which is really good value, and on top of that you will have a number of special events through the course of your voyage. So, for example an evening of wine tasting and entertainment in the Wachau Valley or a ghost walk in the historic town of Viviers, France.
On top of this, you can pretty much choose to do whatever you want. As you tend to spend most of the time in cities and ports, you have ample time to nip off to explore on your own, or perhaps head out to a bar to enjoy the local ambiance. On every river cruise I have been on, we’ve taken the opportunity to do just that. You will also find that the ships tend to do a lot of overnights in port, which affords you the opportunity not to rush around and take things at your own pace.
You can read individual reviews of various lines below
Christmas on the Danube with AmaWaterways on board AmaMagna – Read more about AmaWaterways here
So, what do you think? Would you try a river cruise? Let me know in the comments and on social media.