What would you do if you didn’t have to lug your bagged from one hotel to another? How would you feel if someone offered you no layovers, no crowded trains, or indecipherable bus schedule?
What if your personal driver was a sea captain, and always greeted you with a new city to explore each morning and a new gourmet meal to dig into each night? It sounds like a traveller’s pipe dream, but it’s really just the latest trend in international exploration: river cruising.
Rivers are the world’s natural highways and have been used that way throughout history. To this day they are beloved by both traders and travellers, and have some of the world’s finest cities and cultural treasure troves perched upon their shores.
Diehard cruise connoisseurs may be reluctant to exchange the wide-open ocean for what they assume to be the “watered-down” version of the real thing. And while river cruise ships don’t typically come with all the bells, whistles, Las Vegas-style shows, indoor rock walls, and beauty parlours, that’s simply because the focus is on offshore exploration more than on-deck entertainment. Sure you’ll be treated to live music, food and wine, as well as informative talks by local experts, but the spotlight will always be on the authentic cultural experiences available when the ship pulls into port.
River cruising vessels are much more intimate than the giant ships that pack in thousands of tourists into tiny closet-sized rooms. In fact, river cruises typically accommodate 120-200 travellers, as opposed to the 2000+ that crowd into larger ocean liners. That means no chaotic circus of thousands of tourists descending on a city every time the ship pulls into port.
Solo travellers embarking on a river cruise for the first time will likely find that life-long friendships crop up in the most unlikely of places. Mingle with people from all over the world as you enjoy meals onboard, join forces with your new mates to explore upcoming port towns, and exchange contact information to keep in touch long after your sailing trip has ended. The intimate environment of a river cruise even means you’ll likely get to know your ship’s captain and staff, so don’t be surprised if your waiter knows just how you like your evening cocktail prepared!
The sites and cities visited by river cruise travellers are only accessible by smaller vessels. Narrow river passageways ensure that views from deck are nothing short of spectacular; just outside your window you’ll enjoy sightings of ancient castles, lush countryside, charming villages, and renowned monuments. But don’t be deceived. At first glance, river cruises sound like languid travel pace, but with a new port city or riverside town to explore each day, sightseeing schedules can be quite full of energy. Indeed, many river port towns sit directly on the shoreline, allowing the river cruise to dock within walking distance of downtown.
Solo travellers than have the option to join an escorted excursion (generally included in the final price) or explore the city all by themselves – the choice is theirs. The cruise ship then becomes a comfortable way to reach some of the region’s most beloved landmarks, and the focus is not the cruise itself – but on the culture, history, art, food, and adventure it gives you access to.
From Budapest to Amsterdam you will sail along three of central Europe’s most prominent waterways. As you traverse Austria, Germany, and the Netherlands you will float along the Danube, the Main, and the Rhine Rivers.
Or perhaps Asia is tempting your nomadic nature, in which case you’ll enjoy sailing along the Mighty Mekong, Yangtze, and Irrawaddy rivers as you delve into some of the most well-preserved cultures and richest histories the world has to offer.
Given the weakness of the US and Australian dollar against European currencies, river cruises can be one of the most economical ways to experience Europe without sacrificing on comfort. Pay for your entire trip’s lodging, food, and off-shore excursions in one lump sum and you’ll find that it’s much more affordable than traveling independently.
When to Book Your River Cruise
Because significantly fewer cabins are available on river cruises as opposed to ocean liners, popular routes tend to book up rather rapidly. Once you’ve found a river route that interests you, contact your preferred tour company to make your reservation, or risk having to wait for next year’s availability.
If you’ve never considered river cruises or have been on the fence about them for quite some time, allow us to tempt you with an assortment of international itineraries that may be just enticing enough to tip the balance. We promise, the only downside to this form of travel is having to choose which river is right for you