How to have an enjoyable river cruise: A first timer’s guide

River cruises offer a boutique way to immerse yourself in a variety of countries and experiences. Unlike ocean cruises, the smaller ships allow you to disembark close to walkable city centers, giving you more time to take an excursion or explore on your own. Visiting Europe on a river cruise is especially popular and it’s one of our specialties. If you’re considering taking a river cruise as your next getaway, – great idea. Here are some of the top ways to maximize enjoyment while on board and during your stops.

Arrive early. Like most vacations, arriving a few days prior to embarkation allows you to explore the city you’ll be sailing from. It gives you some buffer and adds a stress-free element in case there are any hiccups with flights as well as adjusting to a very different time zone.

Go with the flow. No pun intended! Since you’ll be seeing a variety of destinations, you might also experience all kinds of weather and circumstances. Just because it’s raining in Vienna doesn’t mean it’ll be raining the entire way. Similarly, water levels can impact the type of ship that’s able to traverse the river – too high and the ship won’t be able to pass beneath bridges; too low and it will scrape the bottom. You’ll have a better experience by going with the flow and taking any minor inconvenience like an unexpected bus ride or ship change in stride.

Book the package. When you book a river cruise through Sunset Vacations and Travel Planning, airport transfers, hotels, etc. will be booked ahead of time so you’ll have nothing to worry about. There is no need to go-it-alone when on a river cruise particularly with the different countries or cities you’ll be visiting. Why mess with different currencies, languages, and logistics on an a la carte basis when everything including your desired excursions on the cruise can be taken care of in advance.

Mix excursions with free time. You’ll spend a lot of time on shore, so it’s important to find a smart balance between excursions and time to explore on your own. One of the main benefits of pre-arranged excursions is the VIP access you’ll gain – for example, private or early access to sites such as St. Mark’s Basilica. But that doesn’t mean you want to overschedule yourself either. Since the ship will be within an easy walk or bus ride to the main sites of the destination, there is nothing wrong with building in some time to explore on your own such as having a meal, visiting something that interests you specifically, or simply wandering. Just be certain to be back before sail away time as the captain doesn’t wait.

Dress accordingly. Business casual is usually the way to go while on the ship for dinner. On shore, prepare to walk or at least dress for the weather. This includes wearing layers and comfortable shoes. You’ll be doing a fair amount of walking during port excursions (think cobblestone streets and hills). It’s not all walking, but prepare for about 10,000 steps per day. You certainly wouldn’t want to wear dress shoes while on one of these excursions!

Leave the kiddos at home. We love family travel, but a river cruise isn’t ideal for this type of vacation. While there are some river cruises that specifically cater to families, in general the atmosphere is more mature (40s to 60s is the average age) and lower key. Mealtimes tend to run long and you’ll also rarely if ever find a pool on the ship, unlike an ocean cruise which is much more likely to have activities children will enjoy.

Take advantage of the ship. While between ports of call, spend time slowing down and experiencing the natural environment as it slowly moves by. The smaller ship size (about 100-150 people) also gives you the chance to socialize and potentially make lifelong friends. River cruise ships do not have interior rooms, not that we’d ever recommend one to begin with. But take advantage of one of the premium cabins on an upper deck. Many of these cabins will have a balcony allowing you to enjoy the scenery while sipping your morning coffee or a night cap from your very own room as you watch the world calmly float by.

No matter how you look at it, river cruising is an outstanding way to experience several destinations in the interior of a country while unpacking once. If you’re ready to give it a try, let’s get started! Contact us today.

About Denise

My goal is to simplify travel-planning through an equal exchange process where I acquire your ideas and expectations for your trip relieving you of the worry, hassle, stress and time that accompanies Do-It-Yourself planning.

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