5 Steps To Choosing The Perfect River Cruise
No Wonder You’re Confused
AmaWaterways Avalon Waterways Crystal Emerald Gate 1
Scenic Tauck Vantage Viking Uniworld
To the neophyte, choosing a river cruise can be daunting. In Europe alone, more than two dozen companies offer extended river cruises. What distinguishes them from one another? Complicating matters is that all river cruise companies, with few notable exceptions, are built to the same designs. That means they all look pretty much alike, with the same number of decks with the same dimensions. Unlike ocean cruises, river cruises can’t be characterized by size or in some cases features. River ships must be able to fit under bridges and through locks on the rivers and canals they ply, so they can only be a certain size. In addition to the staterooms, lounges, restaurants and sun decks, many also offer alternative dining venues, gyms, mini-spas, salons and maybe even a pool.
Yet, the differences, no matter how minimal, are important to anyone contemplating a river cruiser. What’s important to you? Bikes, hikes, booze 24/7, fine dining, alternative dining venues, step-out balconies, French balconies, dual balconies, king-sized beds, butler service – and the list goes on.
To those of you looking out on the vast fleet of river cruises, the picture can be blurry and confusing. With a little help, the process of matching you to the right ship can be broken down into five steps. It’s not perfect, but going through the process can help you choose the perfect river cruise for you.
Where Do You Want To River Cruise?
Is Italy’s Po River on your list? Then you’re in luck. There are only a few river cruise companies that do the Po, CroisiEurope and Uniworld among them. Want to cruise the Rhine or Danube? That’s where things become complex. Nearly every major river cruise company has ships operating on those rivers. So let’s make this simple.
The Danube seems to be the number one choice for people new to river cruising. Why? The Danube features a list of major cities – Nuremberg, Passau, Linz, Vienna, Budapest, Bratislava (as well as Bucharest and Belgrade on some itineraries) and it offers something for everyone.
What I’ve found that most people appreciate most about the Danube:
- Scenic beauty as you cruise through gorgeous landscapes and past fairy-tale villages
- Visits to iconic cities such as those mentioned
- Excursions to UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as Cesky Krumlov
- Evening concerts and waltzes (both on the ships and during evening visits to Viennese palaces)
- Opportunities to bicycle, particularly on the gorgeous stretch between Melk and Durnstein through the Wachau Valley
- RhineWhat I’ve found that most people appreciate about the Rhine:
- After the Danube, the Rhine is Europe’s next most-popular river cruise destination. Most departures sail between Amsterdam and Basel.
Stay tuned. More to come next time.