What is a river cruise and what can you expect on one?

Over the last several years, river cruising has become an increasingly popular way to experience the world. While river cruises tend to attract older travellers, according to CLIA’s latest cruise industry outlook report, they are gaining traction with millennials who are looking for unique and affordable ways to travel.


Like ocean cruises, river cruises are popular because they offer great value for money. Depending on the cruise line and number of travel days, all meals are included, as are many of the tours that you can go on during port days. All of the activities on-board are included in your ticket price too, although it’s always best to check with your operator to make sure.


If you’ve ever been on an ocean cruise, you might be curious about river cruises and whether they’re any different. One of the main differences between ocean cruises and river cruises is river cruises tend to focus on the historical and cultural experience of visiting another country, while most ocean cruises focus on relaxation, with many more days out at sea and plenty of downtime. In this article, we’ll share some of the things you can expect on a river cruise, and how you can make the most out of your time aboard.



Flexibility


The great thing about river cruises is you can go for as short as three days, or as long as 24 days. Every cruise (just as every travel destination) is different. Depending on your preferred travel style, you can find a river cruise that suits your personal preferences. As river cruises continue to win the hearts of travellers young and old, new destinations are constantly being added to the mix, which means you can go almost anywhere a vessel can go!



Socialising


Because river cruises have fewer guests, you get to know everyone on board in a more intimate environment. You might have one or two main dining areas, which makes it easier to strike up a conversation. If you’re travelling by yourself this can be a great way to make friends and have a tour buddy to take photos for you on tour days. Socialising is not compulsory of course, and you can keep to yourself if that’s what you prefer.



Plenty to see and do


Some travellers worry that cruising offers too much downtime and not enough sightseeing opportunity. In fact, river cruises are largely flexible. You can do as much (or as little) as you want. You can spend port days in town, exploring the streets, buildings, dining options and shops on your own or on a guided tour. Or you can take part in some of the cruise activities like kayaking or biking if they’re available. Likewise, you do not have to partake in all of the tours if you don’t want to. River cruises tend to offer more tours than ocean cruises and focus on delivering an educational experience. You’ll come away knowing so much more about the places you’ve visited!



Scenery


Imagine waking up to the view of towering mountain ranges from your window.

From serene landscapes to timeless villages and architectural marvels, a river cruise gives you a good vantage point to see it all from the cosy interior of your cabin.


Watch the passing buildings, castles, temples and villages. Or marvel at the landscapes and gorges along the Rhine or Danube which are equally stunning in person. You’ll also be able to see these incredible sights up close if you elect to go on a tour.



Food worth raving about


When you’re travelling, it’s often difficult to find restaurants that serve authentic local food that’s also within your budget. For many avid cruisers, food is an essential travel experience and one of the many reasons river cruising so special. The food and dining options on river cruises are without a doubt, world class. You’ll get to sample fresh, local delicacies with buffet and a la carte menu options depending on your cruise operator. It’s fine dining at its finest without the huge bill at the end. And if you’re a wine connoisseur, many river cruises will include wine tasting or at least offer some of the world’s best wines for you to try or buy. An excellent way to spend your travels, don’t you think?



Night tours

For some river cruises during the summer, longer daylight hours mean that you have a chance to attend a night excursion.


These tours are based around local culture, like music performances; a delicious, authentic meal in a renowned restaurant, or a pub crawl in the local town. In winter, you also have the chance to visit the Christmas markets if you attend a themed river cruise. You have the option of doing this as a group or on your own.


It’s no surprise that river cruising has soared in popularity over the last few years, even among young people. It’s a truly immersive and unique experience that must be seen to be appreciated.


Ready to start your river cruise adventure? Here are some of our favourite cruises that we recommend for first-timers:


Magnificent Europe

Romantic Rhine

Burgundy and Provence

Legendary Danube