As a business and travel writer, who has been lucky enough to travel extensively over several years and sample lots of different types of trips, I am often asked, “Ian, what’s your favourite kind of holiday?” The answer is simple…river cruising!
Professor Ian Cooper, international business author and travel writer, explains why river cruising is so special. Here are seven reasons why:
The ‘River Cruise Feeling’
It would be very easy to simply define river cruising by its various destinations, but it is actually so much more. Firstly, there is what I call the ‘river cruise feel’. Both first time and experienced river cruisers often speak of a ‘slowing down’ to a much more leisurely pace. With such impeccable standards of service and accommodation offered by the leading lines, river cruising evokes feelings of luxury, adventure, surprise, peace of mind and travel confidence.
Seeing the world in comfort
Most of the leading river cruise lines offer spacious staterooms with huge, sumptuously comfortable beds, an excellent bathroom with luxury toiletries, a safe big enough for a laptop computer, flat screen televisions with a choice of movies, a fridge, plenty of storage space and oftentimes a full or French balcony too.
Standards of accommodation on river cruise ships are incredibly high and there is something very relaxing about sitting on the top deck or out on your verandah with a glass of wine or a cup of coffee, slowly drifting past wonderful landscapes that are sometimes just a few feet away.
Informality, meeting people and sociability
What do the following have in common: a retired clergyman, a personal injury lawyer, a printer of banknotes, an opera singer and a plumber? The answer is absolutely nothing, apart from the fact that they were just some of the many dinner companions my wife and I met during a recent river cruise. One of the things I really enjoy about river cruising is the relaxed ambience onboard and how easy it is to get to know your fellow passengers.
With informal open seating for all meals, you can sit anywhere and with whomever you wish. My wife and I usually make a point of sitting with different people everyday. With most river cruise lines, it is unusual to find more than 200 passengers onboard, so you will always find likeminded people with whom to share the experience.
No fear of motion or seasickness
For those people who are concerned about motion or seasickness, it simply isn’t an issue on the river. Most of the time, you can barely tell you are moving and you certainly needn’t worry about encountering high waves.
Always something to see
One of the real advantages of river cruising is that there is always something interesting to see. The riverbanks are rarely far away and you get a unique perspective that is difficult to experience any other way. On the Rhine, Danube and other European rivers, you can expect to encounter magnificent scenery and fairytale castles.
If you fancy a bigger adventure, several river cruise lines offer extremely good value escorted river and land tours to Russia, China, Vietnam and Cambodia. In fact, the best trip I have ever been on was Viking River Cruises ‘Imperial Jewels of China’ itinerary. The Yangtze is home to breathtaking gorges, hazy waters and overhanging cliffs.
Of course the real beauty and convenience of river cruising is that you are literally sailing through the countryside, where you can simply step off the ship and onto land, ready to explore some of the world’s major towns and cities.
Inclusive drinks, excursions and entertainment
Most river cruise lines include wine, beer and soft drinks with meals, and some even offer a fully-inclusive drinks service. When it comes to wines during mealtimes, you probably won’t even have to ask; turn away for a second and a waiter will have filled your glass! Teas and coffees are also available, whenever you fancy, at no extra charge.
As far as excursions are concerned, you can expect an included trip or choice of excursions everyday. These can range from a guided walking tour of the town or city, to a visit to a major place of interest or visitor attraction. All will be led by professional and very knowledgeable guides.
Most evenings some gentle entertainment is provided, ranging from quizzes to lectures, food tastings and musical performances from local players.
Let me put it this way, you won’t go hungry on a river cruise! Somehow or other, perhaps because of the gentle pace of life onboard, the mealtimes on a river cruise ship seem to merge into each other! You can expect a wide range of foods, all beautifully presented and often reflecting the region or country you are in. Vegetarians and those with other dietary requirements are always personally and discreetly looked after too.
To conclude, with all of these advantages, it is hardly surprising that river cruising has seen such an explosion in popularity in recent years. If there is a more elegant, peaceful and luxurious way to travel, I have yet to find it!