As I have begun to promote river cruises I realize that because they are a relatively unknown way of seeing the world it is time to give folks a good explanation of what river cruising is and isn’t.
Although you are cruising a river when sitting on the deck of a ship that spends the afternoon floating down the Potomac or Hudson, or spending an evening dining and dancing while sailing down the river this is not the type of river cruising offered by travel agents.
For this purpose river cruising is spending anywhere from 4-15 days sailing one of the world’s scenic rivers, but most are 7-10 days. As with an ocean cruise your meals and lodging are part of the experience, unpack once and take in some amazing sites and cities. One of the added benefits of a river cruise, wine and beer is usually included. The staterooms are becoming more luxurious as river cruising grows in popularity. Avalon is adding suites to their newest ships.
Unlike ocean cruises the ships are much smaller carrying 100-150 passengers vs 1,000-5,000 passengers.
In addition on many river cruises shore excursions are often included. A distinct advantage of river cruising is the proximity to the places you really want to visit. Since the ships are small enough to sail the rivers they pull up to docks that are often right at the heartbeat of a city. Instead of a half hour or longer trip to visit a museum or market it can be a 5 minute walk.
River cruises are offered in Europe, Egypt and China. If you are looking for an exotic experience but want the comfort and security of being in same place every night a river cruise is perfect for you.
Even here in the USA river cruises are catching on. From Maine to the Potomac to the Columbia and Snake rivers cruising is a great option for getting up close and personal to American cities. Next year there will be TWO new river cruise ships on the Mississippi, the Mississippi Queen which has already booked passengers and the American Queen being refurbished now.
For those who can’t take an ocean cruise because the waves are too rough the river cruise is another plus.
A couple of things to keep in mind with river cruises:
The staff on the ships speak English.
They are not designed for children. Taking your mature 12 year old may be okay but I wouldn’t recommend it for most children.
You probably won’t find Las Vegas or Broadway style shows onboard, take advantage of those in the cities. There will often be lecturers, local entertainment and piano or jazz bars.
The food is often shopped for by the chefs in the city you are visiting, which means you will dine on authentic cuisine, but as with the larger cruise ships your dietary needs will be met, just ask.
Some of the major river cruise lines outside the US are AMA Waterways, Avalon, Uniworld and Viking
In the US, American Cruise Line offers many options.
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