River cruising is the fastest growing segment of the cruise vacation choices that folks are choosing these days. With the major uptick in popularity over the last couple of years, the options presented to the river cruiser are beginning to get as wide and varied as that of ocean cruising.
Choosing the river cruise that best suits your lifestyle and needs depends on a number factors. Having planned hundreds of river cruises for guests here is the travel professional’s top five list of items to consider when choosing a river cruise.
Where do you want to visit – Europe, Africa, South East Asia, Russia or the USA? Unlike an ocean cruise, your river cruise is going to give you an up close and personal immersive experience into the sights, sounds, people and of course, the history, of the region. So think carefully about what region of the world you wish to visit, and the river you sail on.
No two river cruise lines are the same. The on board ambience of a river cruise ship can vary from understated luxury to classic “Old World” European design in the case of some of Uniworld’s Boutique River Cruise Collection. The ship you choose will be your floating hotel room for the next 7 to 14 days so it is wise to choose the atmosphere you are comfortable with.
Time of Year:
The best time of year to river cruise will depend on the destination and your own personal travel plans. What most people do not realise is that river water levels can affect your cruise at different times of year on certain itineraries. High or low water levels can prevent a ship from traversing the entire river causing your trip to be interrupted, delayed or, most likely, travelling the remainder of the route by motor coach.
Amenities & Inclusions:
All the river cruise lines tout ” All Inclusiveness” but the definition of all inclusive varies widely form line to line. For example, do you want wine & spirits with every meal, or just with dinner? Are gratuities and excursions included, or not? And what about the stateroom selection? Should you have a balcony, french balcony, or the least expensive cabin? The age of the ship can also be a major factor as well as on board amenities and stateroom size.
Pre & Post Extensions:
Chances are that you will have long flight to arrive at your river cruise departure port. A pre cruise extension of a few days will help you get over the jet lag as well as giving you a time buffer in case of flight delays. The same goes for the post part of your cruise. Many destinations require you to have invested a significant amount of your vacation budget in flights. Why not take the opportunity to extend your stay and take in even more sights and history. Most river cruise lines provide extensive post cruise tours and five star hotel accommodations at a good value.
Photo of a River Baronness stateroom, courtesy of Uniworld Boutique River Cruises. All other photos courtesy of Bigstock.