River cruising is a relaxing way to vacation in style, explore fascinating communities, relive history while soaking up magnificent sceneries en route. Glossy brochures and enticing videos sell dreams of glamour and enchanting experiences. Wait, before booking your dream vacation, you may want to assess if river cruising is really for you?
- Motion Sickness – River cruising is a better option for cruisers who are prone to motion sickness. There is minimal turbulent travelling on a river compared to sailing on high seas.
- Unpack Once – A leisurely way to travel, no living out of a suitcase when moving through multiple cities and countries.
- Access to Remote Locations – Opportunity to explore far-flung locations as smaller ships can navigate through narrow bodies of water.
- Tranquility – Less crowded and noisy (if your cabin is not in the rear section) as ships rarely carry more than 200-passengers. Some carry as little as 25 guests per vessel.
- Evolving Sceneries – The landscape is constantly changing as the vessel glides along.
- Shore Excursions – They are normally included as part of your all-inclusive package.
- Emergency Assistance – Vessels tend to stay close to the shoreline. Help is more reachable in case of an emergency.
- Weather and Water Level Dependent – Your cruise may be delayed causing the cancellation of preceding ports of call if bad weather or fluctuating water level prevents the vessel from sailing.
- Ports of Call Not Guaranteed – Cruise companies cannot promise the fulfillment of your cruise itinerary due to natural occurrences beyond their control.
- Limited Time and Choice of Onshore Excursions – Sightseeing tours are typically limited to the city or village with less opportunity to experience true local flavours compared to land based travel.
- Shared Dining – A table is typically shared with four to 10 people.
- Reduced Entertainment – No casino nor large staged entertainment, a piano bar may be just it.
- Medical facility and Services – Very limited, facility is akin to that of a walk-in clinic. The ship doctor is usually a local hire and practice as an independent contractor. Scroll down for links to medical care on cruise ship(river or ocean bound vessel).
Cruise lines will not accept liability nor are they legally responsible (according to maritime law) for any malpractice by an independent contractor.
How to Choose a River Cruise
- Bucket List – Enlist your top destination choices, places on your bucket list.
- Budget and Time – Determine your trip budget and vacation time.
- Purpose of Cruise – Family vacation, romantic getaway, special celebration or just looking for a luxurious experience.
- Medical Concerns – A change in environment can trigger health issues. Consult with your medical advisor even if your current health condition (high blood pressure, etc.) is under control. Get his or her opinion on your health risks and ask for important health information. In case of an emergency in a foreign country, your health information could be your lifesaver.
- Consult Travel Expert – Bring your cruise requirements to a river cruise expert who works for a licensed and bonded travel agency.
- Do-It-Yourself – If you choose to book directly with the river cruise line, be sure to research the company. Read the fine print on the company’s contract. Check with the Better Business Bureau if complaints were resolved. Browse at least three different review and/or forum sites on what others say about the company’s services. Even if you book through a travel agency, read the river cruise line’s contract.
- Travel Insurance – Never skim on purchasing travel insurance protection. Again read the fine print and be sure you understand the coverage before signing on the dotted line. Insurance offered by cruise lines have limited coverage. It’s best to purchase from a reputable third party insurer.
Best Sailing Seasons
River cruises are generally 7 to 14 days long depending on the destinations. Below are the best river cruising seasons in Africa, Asia, Americas and Europe.
Africa Americas Asia Europe Zambezi/Chobe
February to May
June to September
April, May, September, October
Danube, Douro, Elbe, Main, Moselle, Po, Rhine, Rhône, Seine, Saône
April to October
October to April
March to December
November to February (cooler weather)
November to December
April to November
November to February (cooler weather)
May to October
December to April
July to September
AmaWaterways, American Cruise Lines, Avalon, CroisiEurope, Emerald Waterways, Luftner Cruises, Scenic Tours, Tauck River Cruises, UniWorld and Viking are the major cruise lines offering river cruise programs in Africa, Asia, Americas and Europe.
UniWorld Family Adventures
River cruises are generally designed for adults, age 50 and above. In recent years, escalating demand for multi-generational cruises has prompted UniWorld to launch 11 new family-friendly cruises this year. Their 2016 European itineraries include cruising the Danube, Po, Rhine and Seine rivers. According to UniWorld’s website, their family program features boatloads of fun, interactive onboard experiences, craft workshops, culinary classes and much more. Children aged 4-18 cruise for half-price on select family itineraries and departures.
Viking Cruises Provence’s Gourmet Country
Viking last month launched their new 8-day itinerary that sails the scenic Saône and Rhône Rivers through the picturesque French countryside, stopping at places like: the famed region of Beaujolais; the colorful fields of Provence; Gallo-Roman ruins in Vienne; the cobblestone streets of Arles that inspired Vincent van Gogh; Avignon, the “City of Popes”. Guests also get to learn about Lyon’s wine-making traditions and savour the world-famous regional cuisine.