River cruising may be the least understood among all the ways to tour around and see the world. And, with more than 40 new river cruise ships launching in 2015, the field of choice in river cruising is exploding. A little clarification and new must-dos can go along way in choosing where and how to take that next river cruise.
Cruise Critic offers these insights and myth-busting advice for those who want to see the world by floating on its rivers.
1. Bring the kids – river cruising is great for the whole family
A river cruise may not provide the wealth of kids’ activities that many ocean cruises or family resorts do, but provides a more traditional holiday experience. Children can become immersed in new cultures and share memorable experiences with the whole family.
For example, Tauck River Cruising offers all-inclusive river cruise packages tailored to families, which include cultural activities, such as dinner served in a castle and a visit to a French ranch.
2. River cruising isn’t limited to Europe
Brand-new itineraries in more far-flung and adventurous destinations, such as Burma and the Amazon, have expanded river cruising beyond Europe, and even within Europe the options continue to grow.
Many of the river cruise lines now have ships in Asia, such as AmaWaterways, Viking and Avalon. South America is an emerging river destination, and Lindblad Expeditions, for example, offers sailings aboard Delfin II enabling passengers to participate in kayaking, hikes and view the wildlife of the Amazon.
3. You can explore the rivers in luxury
Luxury is increasingly being incorporated within the river cruise experience – making it easier to pamper yourself. Luxury river cruise operators include Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection and Belmond. For the ultimate lavish experience, Sanctuary Retreats has some of the largest suites on the rivers, and top-tier cabins all offer butler service. Meals include local produce hand selected by the ship’s chefs, and guests can even opt for a private dining experience in the ship’s library.
4. A river cruise can offer excellent value
River cruises are highly inclusive, making it easy to stay within a budget. River cruises include transport between destinations (via ship), daily onboard meals or packed lunches, some drinks (most include alcohol with lunch and dinner), and many incorporate tours and excursions. Do bear in mind, however, that while river cruise lines serve a good (and usually plentiful) three meals a day, many don’t include free snacks outside of meal times. When booking your cruise, if something initially seems pricey, do clarify exactly what is included within that price – you may be pleasantly surprised.
5. River cruising is making changes to suit all ages
Traditionally, a river cruise was all about the destination and scenery, with the entertainment simple, and activities fairly limited. However, this is changing as operators and agents target promotions to attract a wider market. While the itinerary remains important, cruise lines are adapting ships to provide an enhanced onboard experience, and appeal to younger cruisers.
AmaWaterways is improving the onboard experience to encourage a wider range of guests. New additions, on select ships, include heated pools with swim-up bars on the top deck, new spa areas and cabins with interconnecting doors, popular with groups and families. Following the recent launch of Emerald Sun and Emerald Dawn, Emerald Waterways’ portfolio now comprises four ships which all include a dual-purpose area that transforms from an indoor, heated pool with retractable roof during the day, to a cinema at night.
Family Focus: New River Cruises from Adventures by Disney
Adventures by Disney is introducing its first-ever river cruising itineraries. Sailing with AmaWaterways, Adventures by Disney river cruises bring ways for families to experience the heart of Europe. On the roster are four sailings along the Danube River in the summer of 2016, as well as one holiday themed sailing in December 2016, giving adventurous travelers the opportunity to experience iconic locations in eight destinations across four countries – Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary.
Families can follow “The Sound of Music” in Salzburg and explore Devin Castle in Bratislava. There are onboard activities for everyone, with wine tasting, music, dancing, and fine cuisine for adults. For children, offerings include movies and karaoke, while teens will also find events tailored to them.
Sailings will take place July 7-14, July 14-21, July 21-28 and July 28 – Aug. 4, 2016. Highlights of the 8-day/7-night adventures include:
- Tour of Mirabell Gardens and adventures through a salt mine (Austria)
- Nighttime Illuminations Cruise (Budapest)
- Horse show at Lazar Equestrian Park (Hungary)
- Medieval activities at Devin Castle in Bratislava (Slovakia)
- Private marionette performance and strudel making demo at Schonbrunn Palace (Austria)
- Falconry show at Hohenwerfen castle (Austria)
- Walk along the tree tops at a unique outdoor adventure center in Kopfing (Germany)
- Oktoberfest event at a local brewery (Germany)
- Themed meals and culinary activities, such as interactive goulash and strudel making
- Biking in every port
The special holiday themed sailing, departing Dec. 22, 2016, will also include visits to the renowned Christmas markets in Budapest and Vienna, a Vienna Boys Choir Christmas performance in the Hofburg Palace Chapel and a special holiday menu lunch.
Contact: (800) 543-0865