Trend alert: River cruises
Smaller, more intimate and much easier for many to deal with than the mega-boats currently sailing the Caribbean, river cruises offer an alternative for those wanting an updated cruise experience. We're sharing some cool cruises to think about and why you should.
"River Cruising is hot," says Janet DeVito who has been in the cruise business for 14 years. She is also the founder of GirlsonaCruise.com, a cruise group where women travel safely with other women. Their next adventure: A cruise from Budapest to Nuremberg along the Danube this November.
Why river cruising?
Move aside, mega-boats - a newer, much smaller way to cruise is taking over. "River Cruising is rapidly growing and becoming one of the fastest growing segments of the cruise industry," notes DeVito. She shares a few of the main reasons why.
- Intimacy of the cruise ship: Most large cruise ships carry 2000 to 5000 passengers. River cruising is a more intimate experience that holds approximately 100 to 200 guests, explains DeVito. "It's nice to feel recognized on a personal level by the crew."
- Convenience: You are able to visit many in-country locations while traveling on a river cruise without having to actually travel to those places on your own. "I have traveled through Europe dragging luggage on and off trains, and the convenience of only unpacking once is priceless," affirms DeVito.
- The inclusivity of a river cruise: Depending on what Caribbean cruise you take, food, drinks and excursions can add up. But for river cruises, fares include accommodations, fine cuisine, beer and wine with lunch and dinner, guided tours/excursions, Wi-Fi, etc., notes DeVito. "Inclusions differ by cruise line, and some include all spirits, wines and different number of excursions."
The convenience and intimacy of the river cruise experience is also one that is very attractive to solo travelers, especially women traveling alone. "The intimacy offers safety, an atmosphere where making friends is easy, therefore you are not traveling alone or lost in a huge group," DeVito explains. The convenience is also attractive to women traveling alone since they don't have to wander and wait at train stations or airports to get from one destination to another or carry luggage from hotel to hotel.
What to expect
The river cruise experience can be described as more destination-focused than a larger Caribbean cruise. "On a river cruise, as you cruise within the boundaries of a country you feel embraced by its culture and beauty," says DeVito. "You are cruising through a particular country for several days, spending plenty of time in that country, becoming truly immersed," she explains.
Rather than spending your days at 24-hour buffets, in the on-board swimming pool or movie theatre, a river cruise is a more cultural experience than their ocean-dwelling counterparts. "Days are spent visiting local towns and floating past magical scenery ... castles, vineyards, churches etc.," says DeVito.
Cuisine, too, is reflective of the country in which you are cruising and, notes DeVito, ranked alongside top restaurants in the world, using ingredients from local markets along the way. "Entertainment and lectures on board are also reflective of the local culture," she adds.
Planning a river cruise
River cruises are everywhere so you have a lot of choice when it comes to possible destinations. Choose to cruise throughout Europe (France, Germany, Austria, Spain, Italy to name a few). China, Egypt and Russia are all also options, says DeVito. American Cruise Lines specializes in cruises throughout North America and SeaDream Yacht Club began cruising down the Amazon last year.
With so many options your first step is to determine your destination. "Decide on what countries/towns you would like to experience," advises DeVito. "Second, choose the time of year you will be able to travel." This will help determine where you can actually cruise. Next, she recommends getting in touch with a river cruise specialist to help you decide among the many fine cruise lines. "With so many options, it is always best to speak with someone who knows the difference between the river cruise lines and which one will suit you best." Two lines DeVito recommends looking into include Uniworld and Viking River Cruises which provide for both value and service. Happy cruising!