What do you think of when you think of a river cruise? Laid back luxury? Splashing out on a new way to see the world? A journey through culture and time?
If these things don’t spring to mind, it may be time to take a fresh look at the world of river cruises. Often overshadowed by their larger, ocean faring counter-parts, luxury river cruises are gaining status as one of the most sought-after holidays in our portfolio.
A fantastic way to experience the beauty of travel, think of your journey more like setting foot on a floating luxury hotel, where you can sit back and enjoy the ever-changing scenery as your next destination softly approaches. A river cruise offers the chance to delve directly into the heart of every destination you pass through, boasting an array of excursions focussed on bringing to life the unique character of each enticing region you will encounter along your way.
Covering a breadth of fascinating countries, you are bound to fall in love with the world’s waterways, whether you are on your first river cruise or are a seasoned sailor of theses magical inland routes. From the storybook routes of Europe, to the glistening banks of Asia and thriving scenes of the Amazon, there is a fountain of adventure opportunities waiting across the globe.
What is river cruising?
River cruises are quickly gaining in popularity as the holiday of choice for those who want to kick back and see the world in style. Harmonious and relaxing, river cruises offer luxurious vessels that weave their way across some of the world’s most picturesque and evocative waterways, allowing those on board to be immersed in the culture and history of multiple destinations.
The appeal mainly lies in the diversity of experiences on offer and the opportunity to discover a wealth of iconic sights and hidden gems, made all the more enticing due to the fact that you will only have to unpack once, while all travel arrangement concerns are taken care of by the experienced and helpful team on board.
How do they differ from ocean cruises?
The most obvious difference lies in the size of the ship, but this has many effects that really make river cruising a completely different type of experience. Due to their smaller build, which is suited to the narrow canal passages they pass through along their routes, the onboard ambience is much more intimate. You will also find you get right into the heart of a destination, rather than skimming the surface, while no long days spent entirely at sea mean land will always be in sight, allowing stunning scenery to always be unfurling before you. Furthermore, the gentle waters of the river current mean the risk of sea sickness, as a result of choppy conditions, is greatly reduced!
Due to their often mammoth size, ocean cruise ships can only dock at large, coastal ports. River cruises, on the other hand, can burrow inland to small harbours and docks, meaning there is plenty of time to explore every city, town and array of exciting places to discover beyond the waterfront.
There is also a heavier focus on land excursions, offering trips out further afield that really dig into the culture, history and character of where you are.
Who are river cruises for?
River cruises are best suited to couples, as family facilities rarely feature on board, and cabins are mostly designed to accommodate no more than two people. They are great for lovers of culture, as excursions are usually designed to help you fully immerse yourself in all a destination has to offer, while the stunning scenic views make them perfect for anyone who loves to appreciate the natural beauty of the landscape.
Why should I go?
If you want to make the most of your time away, packing in as much as possible without sacrificing on a more leisurely pace, a river cruise could be for you. Once you have settled into your surroundings, you can sit back and relax as the world comes to you, transporting you from country to country, back in time to visit fascinating historical remains or into cultures unseen. You will also benefit from lively on-board performances and fantastic value for money, as many river cruises offer full board or even all-inclusive benefits, meaning you will want for nothing during your journey.
What can I do on a river cruise?
Most of your time will be spent out exploring the ports you pass through, and river cruise companies really push the boat out when it comes to excursions! With a range of tours and experiences offered, many often included in the price of your journey, you are free to do as much, or as little, as you please.
Tours are also often split into different levels of action, so whether you are seeking a leisurely pace or a something a little more challenging, you can adapt your activities to suit you. The tour guides have expert knowledge, often living there themselves, meaning you can discover tucked away locations that lie off the beaten tourist track.
Many river cruises in Europe also offer bikes to take out onto land, so you can explore a wider area, while guided tours are much more high-tech than you may assume, offering convenient headsets or even GPS devices with interactive maps to help guide you through the city. Our featured luxury river cruise companies put an impressive amount of effort into tailoring on-shore adventures, many boasting unique experiences, such as a private dinner in a medieval castle or exclusive access into hushed temples.
A number of options are often available each day, meaning you can pick an activity that appeals to your own interest, whether you would rather taste locally made wines than hike through velvety forests, or marvel at stunning city architecture rather than explore authentic village life.
What are the boats like?
Relatively small inside, a typical river cruise vessel will carry no more than two-hundred guests at any time, sometimes even fewer. However, don’t expect this to mean that they are any less built to impress! With five-star amenities and infallible service, these boats can be seen as floating luxury hotels, where guests can relish a sumptuously boutique journey.
Most staterooms and suites make genius use of the space given to them, offering beautifully proportioned accommodation, boasting oversized windows or balconies to make the most of the beautiful views gliding by from morning until dusk. Elegantly furnished and surprisingly spacious, rooms feature all contemporary comforts you would wish for, including wi-fi and HD television, while the rest of the ship usually spoils its guests with hotel essentials such as spa treatment rooms, fitness rooms and sundecks, some even featuring a swimming pool for lounging in the open air as your next destination approaches.
What about dining?
Dining experiences are one of the highlights of a river cruise, with offerings ranging from casual lunch time buffets to degustation fine dining. Ships have their own restaurants on board, though you may also have chances to disembark for the evening to enjoy private dinners in the midst of your current port of call.
Chef’s take pleasure in designing menus inspired by the regions they are travelling through, sourcing fresh and seasonal ingredients to create delectable dishes that allow you to taste the culture and traditions you are visiting. Some ships may also offer on-board cooking lessons, where you can learn for yourself how to create your own regional recipes.
Where can I go?
The great thing about cruising the world’s rivers is that waterways are often where most cities and civilisations began life, since they offer a source of water, transportation and easy trade routes that provided the backbone of many cultures. This means you cut straight to the heart of many destinations across the world, granting you front row seats to some of the most treasured sights, rituals and historical monuments you could desire.
European routes are a good way to introduce yourself to the world of river cruising. There are a huge number of routes and itineraries to chose from, allowing to find a journey that suits your interests perfectly. The Rhine flows from the Netherlands into Germany, where it joins the Danube, slicing across Austria, Hungary, Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria, making it ideal for those looking to check off some major Capital cities.
France also boasts some widely popular river cruising destinations, including the Seine, which makes for an iconic ride past the Eiffel Tower down to Normandy, offering some picturesque scenes along the way, torn straight from the pages of Impressionist artistic history. For wine and food lovers, the Rhône, Saône and Bordeaux offer culture, art and gastronomy in hearty portions.
If you would rather cast your sights further afield, the Mekong River can take you on a colourful journey across Cambodia and Vietnam, while the once secretive Irrawaddy River offers a fascinating glimpse of the magnificent pagodas of Myanmar. The Yangtze River, meanwhile, is your route into the stunning Three Gorges Valley of China, while the Lower Ganges can reveal to you the evocative contrasts of India.
For the adventurous, river cruises along the Peruvian Amazon offers the chance to explore swathes of thriving jungle, while the more placid River Chobe in Botswana is a magical place from which to observe the majestic wildlife that congregates along the shore.
When is a good time to go?
It’s always a good time for a river cruise somewhere in the world! Spring is a magical time along the Rhine and Moselle in Germany, when the vines start to bloom, while during summer months, you will find plenty of events and festivals to get involved in along your way. As for winter, the festive season brings cheerful yuletide markets along the Rhine, where you can revel in the abundance of Christmas delights in Koblenz, Mainz, Frankfurt and Rüdesheim.
How do I book?
If you are ready to set sail, our expert Travel Consultants are here to help. Take a look at our full selection of luxury river cruises, and please call 01244 897 200 to let us know where you would like to go, and we can tailor-make your perfect luxury river cruise holiday.