Maybe you’ve seen those ads on TV, the attractive couple sitting on the deck of a beautiful river boat, glass of wine in hand, as the boat glides effortlessly through an area filled with medieval castles and quaint Bavarian villages. I was one of the people who watched those ads for years, imagining John and I on that deck exploring Western Europe by river. We took our first river cruise as soon as John retired from Boeing and we became hooked! It is a very different experience from a large, ocean going vessel with several thousand people. The boats are small (28-250+ passengers), and the experience is wonderful. We loved being able to walk right into the village from our boat. We met interesting and fun people. The service was outstanding. And, of course we loved the food and the collections of local and international wines and beers. We loved it so much that we are planning to host at least 1, if not 2, river cruises in 2022. (If seeing Normandy and Paris in the Spring is on your bucket list, we should talk) Here are 6 great reasons to try a river cruise.
1. You can truly cruise the world from a river boat.
You may be familiar with cruises on the various rivers in Europe, but did you know that you can cruise the beautiful Nile River in Egypt and visit the Valley of the Kings to see Tutankamun’s tomb and the magnificent Temple of Luxor? How about cruising in Africa and taking a photographic safari? Yes, there are itineraries from 10-19 days that include several days of cruising on a luxury 28 passenger river boat along the Chobe River (you will see a plethora of different animals from your riverboat as they come down to the river to drink); then you will disembark to take a photographic safari, spend your evenings in luxury safari lodges or tree houses (staying in a tree house is on my bucket list) and finally, stop in Johannesburg and/or Cape Town. Want to explore more of our own beautiful country? How about an historic river cruise along Mark Twain’s Mississippi River with stops in New Orleans to taste some delicious creole and listen to the best Jazz in the world. If summer where you are is hot and humid, you might enjoy a cruise along the Columbia and Snake rivers, in the Pacific Northwest, following in the steps of Lewis and Merriweather . It is cool and the landscape is green and lush in the summer. There are also numerous cruise itineraries for South America, including an 11-day Amazon River round trip cruise from Lima, Peru that includes overland explorations of Machu Picchu, Cusco and the Sacred Valley. You can explore China, Southeast Asia and India from a riverboat, too, but for obvious reasons we aren’t advising going there right now.
2. While ocean cruises take you to a country, river cruises take you through the countries.
When John and I took our first Western Europe River cruise in 2017, we visited several historic villages and cities in The Netherlands, Germany, France, and Switzerland. We loved waking up in the morning after a peaceful night’s sleep, eating breakfast in one of the outdoor cafes aboard ship, and then walking off the boat into a day of exploring a beautiful village or castle. We also really enjoyed sitting out on the top deck of the boat, that glass of wine in hand as we cruised through the UNESCO World Heritage part of the Rhine to see spectacular castles and quaint towns that seem to be frozen in time.
3. River cruises are about as hassle free as travel can get.
You come aboard, unpack your suitcase, slow down and let the river take you to several different countries. If you have traveled much, you know it can be quite the task (and somewhat stressful) to organize your transportation from one country to the next, packing and unpacking, schlepping your luggage from one hotel to another, on and off trains, over cobble stone paths. Been there, done that. On a river cruise, you never worry about missing a train or getting on the right bus or finding a taxi driver that speaks English as you glide down the river visiting several countries. We found river cruising a relaxing way to visit several countries with time to learn and see and do, but return home refreshed and relaxed, not exhausted or stressed.
4. River cruises can be as active, or laid back as you like.
I used to think cruising was for the old people. Nope. Today’s river boats (and ocean cruise ships, for that matter) cater to a younger, more active traveler. Would you like to bike through ancient vineyards? You can. Do you want to take a hike to a picturesque location that can only be viewed on foot? You can. Do you want to wander around town at your own pace, or take a morning yoga class from the deck of the ship or work up a sweat in a spin class on the aft deck while gorgeous scenery goes by? You can. However, if you or a member of your party needs a slower pace, most of the boats offer 2 -3 different levels of touring options for each day, from more laid back to very active. There truly is something for everyone.
5. River cruises provide opportunities for authentic experiences.
Today’s traveler is more sophisticated and is looking for authentic experiences, those opportunities to learn something new (e.g. cooking, art, music, dance, history) and really engage with the culture rather than just see it from the window of a bus. The river cruise companies have added numerous interesting, authentic experiences to their itineraries, most of which are included in the price of the cruise. Want to learn how to bake macarons in Paris or visit a 300-year-old Italian vineyard for wine tasting as an Italian Sommelier teaches you about that vintage? Would you like to do something good for others while on your vacation? “You care, we care” is a program where passengers can combine an opportunity to volunteer to help a community in need during a cruise.
6. Have a special hobby? There is probably a themed river cruise just for you.
Whatever your hobby- wine, dancing, reading, gourmet food, whiskey, history, politics, religion, painting, pottery, ancestry, cooking, baking, knitting, pickleball, trains, golf, tennis, running, cycling, botany, zoology, archeology, oceanography – there is probably a themed cruise itinerary for you. It’s such a fun way to meet other people with similar interests and learn together, taking your skills and knowledge to a new level…all while cruising on a peaceful and gorgeous river through interesting and beautiful countries.
Now you know why John and I love riving cruising so much. If we can answer any travel questions for you or you’d like more information on our hosted cruises for 2022, call, email or text. Until our next adventure…