River cruising is today's leading upscale travel trend according to recent travel industry surveys. Cruising inland waterways allows guests to travel into the interior of countries rather than just seeing their coastlines. Having the opportunity to explore Europe’s postcard-perfect towns and mid-size cities is highly appealing to today’s vacationers. In addition, since rivers are quite calm and guests can always see the shoreline, seasickness is not an issue.
Travel experts expect the strong growth in river cruising to continue - and it’s easy to understand why. Here are seven appealing aspects of river cruising to consider when comparing this engaging experience with an ocean-based cruise vacation:
1. More Inclusive. River cruise vacations are usually more inclusive in their pricing than their ocean-going counterparts. River cruise fares generally include the stateroom, most land excursions, all meals and some drinks. Some river cruise lines are almost fully all-inclusive. For example, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection covers all scheduled airport transfers, shore excursions with a variety of personalized options and exclusive experiences, all tips for onboard crew and local guides, all meals, unlimited beverages, ship-wide Internet and Wi-Fi access, free use of bicycles and much more in the price of their river cruise vacations. This approach allows guests to fully enjoy their cruise vacation without worrying about logistics and the hassles of add-on costs.
2. Personalized and Intimate. Most ocean-going cruise ships are massive vessels holding thousands of people. While these ships offer multiple restaurants and entertainment venues, their large size can be difficult for guests to navigate and a bit overwhelming. In contrast, river cruise vessels are smaller and more intimate, generally accommodating between 100-200 guests. These river cruise ships are more like small floating boutique luxury hotel properties rather than ocean-going mega-resorts. There are no crowds to contend with onboard river cruise ships.
Because of the smaller size, guests have easier access to everything on the ship and spend more time interacting with the captain, officers and other guests. The intimate nature of the small ship experience makes it easy for passengers to get to know each other. Service is more highly personalized, too. Uniworld has the highest staff-to-guest ratio in the river cruise industry and the service on our “Castles Along The Rhine” river cruise was exceptional.
3. Walk Into Town. Large cruise ships generally dock quite a distance from major cities in Europe. As a result, passengers often deal with bus rides of an hour or longer each way to reach the sights. In contrast, river cruise ships tie up in or very close to scenic European towns and mid-sized cities. This offers guests more flexibility. It’s often easy to stroll off the ship and walk to local shops, attractions and cafes. Everything is within easy reach and tenders are never necessary. On our Uniworld cruise, our Cruise Manager provided detailed maps for each town and noted personalized suggestions – making it easy to find our way to key attractions during our free time.
4. Fresh and Local Dining. Cuisine is a focal point for European river cruises. While ocean cruises often offer a wide range of dining times and multiple restaurants, meal times on river cruises tend to be more fixed with flexible seating. On our Uniworld river cruise, menus featured outstanding regional food and wine selections with fresh, local ingredients. The food and wine choices, as well as the entire culinary experience, were superb. The River Empress featured a variety of onboard dining options, unlimited wines and spirits, al fresco meals, and special unique culinary experiences - all of which were included. Because river cruising ships are much more intimate, dining becomes a more personalized, social experience. On the Uniworld River Empress, guests quickly feel right at home, service is attentive, and everyone knows your name. Food allergies and preferences are easily accommodated as well.
5. Immersive Port-Intensive Experiences. On ocean-going cruise vessels, passengers often zero in on the amenities and entertainment available on the ship. On river cruises, however, experiencing the destinations is the main event for guests. While river cruise ships are modern and very well-appointed, the focus of the cruise is on authentically experiencing Europe’s most charming towns, mid-sized cities and heritage sites. After all, that’s the main reason why travelers journey to Europe.
River cruises allow guests to experience the heart of European countries without stress. Unpacking only once makes the entire vacation hassle-free. Itineraries usually include visits to one or two port towns or cities each day. Because ships generally tie up in town, river cruise guests have the opportunity to fully experience these destinations. Our Uniworld shore excursions featured exceptional guides who expertly brought their cities and towns to life. There are no sea days on a river voyage, although you might cruise for part of the day. Our cruise itinerary featured the opportunity to sail past dozens of enchanting castles along the Rhine River while enjoying a special culinary event – easily one of the major highlights of our trip.
6. Stay In Port Late. Unlike most ocean-going cruise vessels, river cruise ships may remain tied up in town until late in the evening or even overnight. This provides guests with the chance to enjoy experiences such as going out for a meal, after-dinner drinks, or taking in local entertainment with friends. Our Uniworld “Castles Along The Rhine” itinerary offered several of these opportunities and they turned out to be particularly memorable. Experiencing the local culture after hours allows for a greater understanding of the destination and adds more authenticity and independence to the cruise vacation.
7. Make Your Own Options. While shore excursions are included on many river cruises, there are no rigid touring schedules and it’s easy to explore independently. After all, your ship is tied up so close to town. Simply opt out of the group tour, break off early on your own, or grab a bike and chart your own course. On our Uniworld European river cruise, our knowledgeable Cruise Manager was more than happy to make personalized suggestions if we wanted to customize our experience and go off on our own. After all, having the choice to personalize your vacation and “do it your way” is what today's best travel experiences are all about.
If You Go:
For more information about Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection, visit www.uniworld.com.