Choosing a river cruise can be like trying to order a meal. What type of bread, which soup, what dressing, how do you want your steak? Every year more and more boats are on the rivers. Which one suits your appetite and bank account? I guarantee once you read this, you will be calling an expert.
Where and Why Do You Want to Go?
River cruising is spreading like wildfire around the world. If there’s a river out there, someone is trying to launch a ship on it. Most popular destinations include the rivers of India, Russia, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Africa, the USA, South America, and Europe
Why do experienced travelers like river cruising? The answer is simple. They often use it as a “sampler” before booking a return visit to one of their favourite destinations.
Do I Want This? Do I Need That?
If you are considering a river cruise, be aware that the choices are frightening! Butler service, heated bathroom floors, art deco or old world décor, veranda, French balcony (or both)?
Cutting edge technology at your fingertips, newspapers direct to your tablet or smartphone, charging pads, on-demand movies, one-touch room controls, and that’s just your cabin! What about a swimming pool, hair salon, spa, and fitness centre?
Inclusions vary widely. If you don’t drink alcohol, why are you paying for the privilege? Are all tours included? Can you choose?
How about airport and hotel transfers, pre- and post-hotels, laundry service, prepaid gratuities, bicycle rental, etc. What you don’t ask about could end up as a nasty surprise on your credit card.
From ultra-luxury to budget-minded, once you have chosen your ship, next come itinerary, length of cruise, cabin location (mid-ship, port, or starboard), square footage, veranda or French balcony (or both), and amenities. But at the end of the day, everyone gets the same view.
The available river cruise excursions may define your choice. They will take you to museums, sites, and places that most people have on their lists. However, how you experience these excursions is another matter.
If you really want to go behind the scenes, experience private tours, and maybe even an unexpected dinner with royalty, then you might want to book a luxury cruise that have their own “collections” of tours.
Adding a Theme
Want to go a little deeper than just the destination? Wine tasting, garden tours, yoga, lecture series, all types of music, golf concierge, and, of course, Christmas and New Year’s Eve. And if you put a large enough group on it, ships will be happy to accommodate your own theme.
Groups Within Ships
Some tour operators buy up group space on river boats for their own clients. For instance, one such luxury operator will take some of their guests on an already existing river cruise.
They will have their own tours, guides, wines and spirits, and other extras that are only available to them. If your gang is really into biking, active adventure tour operators have combo bike and cruise tours.
Something a little different if you want to travel with only a few guests or take over the whole boat with your friends or family is barging. It’s popular on the enchanting, small waterways of France and elsewhere.
Barging can be very luxurious and often expensive. Personalize your menu, wine list, and even your itinerary. Usually, but not always, barges accommodate 6 to 18 guests.
Limited Mobility Issues
It is common practise to tie up to other river ships in port. When this happens, you may be required to walk through another ship to disembark, with many ships requiring you to do so from the sun deck, where there is only stair access.
Some ships have elevators, but they may not reach the sun deck; and most boats may have no elevators at all.
Price vs Value
Timing can be everything when it comes to price. Travel advisors know when certain products are going to be promoted or come on sale. By just rearranging a few things, they can get more inclusions for your dollar or upgrade you to luxury ships.
For instance, a river cruise line may decide to have a limited time promotion that includes economy or even business class air! They go fast; snooze, you lose.