A river cruise holiday is a fantastic way to see the best highlights of a particular country or destination, from the beautiful countryside and culture-rich villages to thriving city centres and incredible beach stop-offs. If you are thinking of embarking on a river cruise, here’s what you need to know!
What is a river cruise holiday, exactly?
There’s an essential distinction to be made between traditional sea cruises, and river cruises. The former is generally focussed on the ship as the primary source of entertainment. A river cruise is essentially a holiday where you sail down a river (and/or along a coastline) on a boat or cruise ship, which also acts as your accommodation. This also means that you can relax back as you travel from point to point, without having to worry about organising your own transport.
The cruises will usually stop at various ports and docks along the river, allowing you to explore different destinations along the route. Generally, these stops are extensions of the cruise itself, with tour groups departing the boat to see the port town. Detonations include historical landmarks, museums, spectacular architecture, and local attractions. This is one of the biggest advantages of the river cruise and you will likely spend more time exploring land on a river cruise than you would on an ocean cruise. Organised activities are often be included, though it’s entirely up to you if you choose to participate or simply discover each destination on your own.
River cruises typically run around 7-10 days, depending on the region, carrier and package. Port cities from which cruises set out are usually major centres, but tours are not necessarily run in that city.
Where can a river cruise take me?
The great thing about a river cruise holiday is that it can take you almost anywhere you want, anywhere in the world! Simply choose your country and your destination/s, determine the length of time you want to spend away and then just show up at the dock!
Popular river cruise destinations include:
- Murray River cruises in Australia, where you get to see the best of the outback and Aussie heritage
- The Rhine River in Europe, which runs from the Swiss Alps to the Netherlands
- The Nile River in Egypt, where you’ll get to go on excursions to see the Pyramids and much more
- The Mekong River in China, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand, where sights include famous temples, floating river markets and jungle scenery
- The Amazon River in South America, which stretches through Brazil, Peru and Colombia and intersects with some amazing destinations
- Mississippi River Cruises in the USA, where you can experience America's 'Deep South'
Where do I get on and off?
Some river cruises will offer a return journey for travellers, meaning that you board and disembark the ship at the same location. However, some river cruises will also pick you up at one point and drop you off at another at the end of the trip. The positive thing about this, though, is that you can tailor your river holiday cruise so that it fits in with your greater travel plans.
What’s it like on board?
While some cruise ships can be highly lavish and luxurious, river cruise ships can sometimes be a little smaller, simply because the huge liners can’t enter into rivers and canal ways. But a smaller ship can mean a great intimacy with your surroundings and a more peaceful journey, with less people on board. The style of your boat will depend on your personal preference and budget and the countries you choose to explore.
On board, some river cruise packages will include your cabin, meals and entertainment, while others will cover your cabin and entertainment, and feature a range of dining options which you have to pay for separately (though alcohol is often included with a meal).
If you’re on a bigger ship, you’ll find luxuries like swimming pools, tennis courts, theatres and casinos, while smaller vessels may include things like heritage and cultural lectures, game rooms and lounge areas.
European river cruises
As a continent, Europe already has so much to see and do, and river cruising offers a refreshing take on sightseeing. Below is a selection of rivers in Europe famed for their cruising potential.
- Danube - Beginning in the south of Germany, the Danube runs through a host of eastern European countries, including Austria, Hungary and Romania.
- Douro - A river dividing Spain and Portugal, the Douro is famed for its stellar wine country. Though this cruise only covers two countries, the various regions of the two present travellers with incredible cultural diversity.
- Seine - The Seine runs throughout France, and takes in the quintessential continental city, Paris, among many others. On offer is some of the finest food and wine in the world, it’s a must for any foodie traveller!