COLUMN: Journey through history on a river cruise

  • Wednesday, May 28, 2014

River cruising is the hottest segment of travel right now, having grown in leaps and bounds over the past 15 years. In fact, there will be more river cruise ships launched in 2014 than oceangoing vessels.

You can cruise on a paddle wheeler on American Rivers, on river ships in Europe, Asia and other parts of the world. Sizes range from ships that carry 35 guests up to 450 guests. Most European ships carry between 118 and 190 guests.

These ships sail on calm rivers where you get to see the countryside as you slowly pass by, have the opportunity to embark on excursions to castles and ancient cities and dine in style in the luxurious dining rooms. These river cruises get you “up close and personal” to the cities you visit and offer first hand experiences in historical locations.

Many companies offer these cruises including Viking Cruises, Tauck, Avalon Waterways, AmaWaterways, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collections, American Cruise Lines and American Steamboat Company. Prices, of course, vary depending on the cruise line, destination, length of cruise, type of cabin and amenities.

Europe remains the biggest destination for river cruising. While river cruise companies still offer a wide range of sailings on the Rhine, Maine, Danube and Moselle, they are also expanding on the rivers of France, Portugal, Italy and even Russia.

And once guests experience European rivers, they can also book what’s called the “exotics”, namely the Amazon, Mekong, Nile and Yangtze.

River cruise companies in the U.S. now offer sailings on the upper and lower Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, Columbia and Snake rivers; Puget Sound and Hudson.

Most river cruise companies offer an inclusive product where you pay one pricefor accommodations, meals, wine and beer with dinner and lunch, and most tours and excursions. There can be some additional charges for specialty tours as well as port charges and fees.

Cabins on these ships now range from 150 to 300 square feet or more as river cruise companies have upped the ante on comfort. They offer comfortable hotel-style beds, easy chairs, couches, desks, small refrigerators and more.

Suite categories on the top two decks of European river ships usually sell out first so it is to your advantage to book your trip with your travel advisor as soon as possible.

And most ships offer cabins with picture or floor-to-ceiling windows, many of which can be fully opened.

Most river cruise ships offer a main restaurant for breakfast, lunch and dinner that can hold the entire complement of passengers in a single seating. They also feature “dine at any time” during lunch and dinner hours in a casual environment.

Food served on board is gourmet quality, with regional specialties and winesoften featured. Some offer smaller, alternative restaurants where tables must be reserved. Others feature “dine off the boat” options that are included in the price.

For river cruising, the main focus is on the destination, not the ship, even though vessels offer extremely comfortable accommodations. Several different levels of tour experiences are often available, including ones designed for more active passengers.

And there are plenty of walking tours as you dock so close to the venues you wish to visit.

There is so much more to write about when it comes to cruising, whether on a river cruise or an ocean cruise ship. Consider a river cruise for your next vacation.

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