River Cruise Guide: What to Expect

Take a river cruise and experience the beautiful scenery out ever window. River cruises are a great way to immerse yourself in the culture.
Avalon Visionary in Germany on the Rhine River

When we talk about vacation cruises, most people don’t immediately think about a river cruise. Typically they think of the massive ships that boast endless onboard entertainment that ship people to Caribbean islands or other popular beach locations. But river cruises offer a very different experience from their ocean sailing sisters, complete with their own perks and drawbacks. If you are unsure if a river cruise is right for you, check out this guide of what to expect when you take a river cruise.

River Cruise Ships

Unlike the massive cruise liners that are closer to a megaresort or theme park at sea, river cruise ships typically only have three or four decks. The smaller ship means there are less options for dining and entertainment, but there’s always at least one restaurant (if not two) on board, plus a bar and lounge area. Many ships also have other amenities like dedicated gyms and spa rooms for massages and facials.

Entertainment is limited compared to ocean cruises, but river cruises will often incorporate local entertainment to compensate, giving you a more personal experience of the culture of the area that you are visiting. Consequently the entire experience is a little more laid back, typically with a much more relaxed dress code. So feel free to leave the ball gown at home!

River Cruise Staterooms

Another thing that sets river cruises apart from their ocean faring counterparts is the complete lack of inside cabins. That’s right — every stateroom faces the outside of the ship and thus has at least one window from which you can enjoy the local scenery. This is especially nice, as traveling down rivers means there is a lot more scenery to enjoy during your journey.

As a trade off, the rooms are smaller than what you may be used to on an ocean liner. Part of the reason for this is that traveling through Europe means that they have to fit through narrow canals and under bridges. But fear not! Despite being smaller in size, that does not mean they are lacking in luxury by any means.

Emphasis on the Destination

A huge part of the appeal of taking a river cruise instead of a huge ocean liner for your vacation is that port calls are the main activity. Rather than spending large amounts of your trip exploring and enjoying the ship, you will typically spend a lot more time at port getting a taste of the local culture. You’ll also be treated to the local scenery on every leg of the journey, giving you a sense of the local countryside as well.

When river cruises stop at a town, they usually dock relatively near to the heart of the port, because the ships are small enough to dock at smaller piers. From there, you can head out on your own and find your own adventures, or sign up for a shore excursion through the cruise line. Either way is a great opportunity to get an authentic taste of the cuisine and entertainment that is enjoyed by the locals.

More for Your Money

At first glance, river cruises may seem quite expensive. But once you are there, you will see just how much is included in the cost of your ticket. Excursions, wifi, drinks, gratuities, and entertainment are typically all included. Some cruises will even include transportation to and from the ship in the price of the ticket. With everything that’s covered, it is a lot easier to just sit back and enjoy your vacation without being worried about draining your bank account as the trip goes on, while also being sure that you won’t miss out on something because you can’t afford it.

Rivers to Cruise

There are popular rivers you can take a river cruise on all across the world, ranging from Europe to Asia. In the USA, we’ve got the Mississippi river, which can take over a week to travel all the way down. In Africa, you can take a trip on one of the most famous rivers in the world, the Nile River, for a journey through the birthplace of human civilization. In Asia, they’ve got the Mekong River in Southeast Asia, as well as the Yangtze River that runs through China.

Europe, on the other hand, is absolutely littered with cruiseable rivers. From the Rhine, Elbe, and Main Rivers in Germany, to the Danube River in Hungary, plus the Moselle River of France and the Douro River in Spain, there is seemingly no end to options for river cruises in Europe. With each route offering a look at a different culture, it would be a lofty but admirable goal to cruise each of them at least once!


Book your river cruise today at Cruises.com — we can help you book the smart way! We give you our exclusive bonus offer and all qualifying cruise line offers, plus all of the cruise line loyalty program benefits. Book online at Cruises.com or call 800-288-6006 today.

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