If it seems to you that everyone you know has gone on a river cruise lately, you could be right. After all, there’s no doubt us Australians are mad for cruises - the number of passengers increases by a huge 20% each year - and a rapidly-growing number take a river cruise instead of on the ocean. In fact, the latest available stats tell us that nearly a million Aussies take a river cruise each year. And there are some very good reasons why.
Some of the best river cruises are in Europe, from Rhine River cruises to Danube River cruises, and river cruises along the Seine River in France. While there are plenty of European river cruise companies to choose from, APT and Travelmarvel are two that offer options for a variety of travelers, so you’re bound to find something that takes your fancy.
Here’s why river cruising is top of our to do list:
River Cruising Cuts Costs
While initially a river cruise itinerary does look expensive, when you look at the cost of hotel rooms, food and getting between destinations, cruising is actually a relatively inexpensive way to travel in style. If you’re doing a Rhine river cruise, for example, you cruise between Switzerland, France, Germany and the Netherlands - if you were going to fly, fares between the four countries can quickly add up. In addition, accommodation in cities like Amsterdam, Basel and Cologne can be costly. If you’re lucky (or time things well) cruise companies can cut costs even more, often giving airfares as part of their packages - meaning you can even fly free to join your cruise.
And once you’re on board, the cost is negligible. With onboard dining of the highest quality (think expansive buffets for breakfast lunch and sumptuous three-course dinners as the norm) and alcoholic beverages included, well, cruising practically pays for itself!
River Cruising is Easy
Not only do you unpack once and then let the hard yards of the actual travel get taken care of by someone else (hello captain!) you don't have to fly in and out of different airports, get taxis, repack bags, book restaurants - everything is laid on for you. If you’re nervous about travelling to somewhere a little more exotic than a Euro destination - the Mekong, the Nile or the Ganges for example - a cruise takes away the stresses of organisation, while allowing you prime position to witness the incredible landscapes and sights of these more far-flung places.
River Cruise Ships are Destinations in Their Own Right
River cruising with companies like APT or Travelmarvel is a lesson in luxury, and unlike ocean liners which cater for thousands of passengers, their smaller but perfectly-formed ships carry fewer than 200 people at a time. State rooms are tastefully decorated and generally come with balconies - sit and enjoy a sundowner here and you’ll be more than happy. Beds are comfortable, bathrooms well-appointed and every detail is cleverly thought out. Bars and lounges are the perfect places to while away the hours and a few cocktails - with plenty of room to socialise with other passengers, or to escape them for some private time. Spas, lounges and fitness centres can also all be found on board European ships such as APT’s Concerto fleet (where you will also find a swimming pool and swim-up bar!)
It’s All About the Experience
It’s the main reason for people’s love of river cruising. There really is nothing like waking up on board a ship that’s docked at a new destination, with a full day of exploring just waiting for you. On that river cruise down the Rhine, for example, a typical day can look like this: visit a medieval castle, walk through a vineyard, ride a bike along the river, stroll a village with a guide and learn how the locals live. Further afield in Vietnam or China you’ll be free to visit local markets, barter for souvenirs or see ancient temples, while African cruises can include luxury camping trips, or big game watching. The possibilities are endless.
With endless options on board, you also have choices when it comes to how much or how little you do - you can join a guided tour, get involved in a host of activities, simply wander around solo for the day or sit up on deck and read your book. And of course, then it’s all aboard for a night of eating, drinking and even dancing
Now, remind us again why you wondered why river cruising was so popular?