With ocean cruising being far more popular than its leisurely-paced counterpart, I feel it’s time someone stood up for river cruising – the stigma it receives about only being for retirees is similar to how non-cruisers felt about ocean cruising twenty years ago. Here’s a list of reasons why you shouldn’t dismiss a river cruise if you usually cruise the seas.
- It’s calmer
River cruising is calmer in two ways: both physically and mentally. A river does not have anything close to the swell of the ocean, so if you have found yourself feeling a little green around the gills while cruising on the sea, you should find river cruising a much smoother experience. It offers a much gentler pace of life too. While many ocean cruises pride themselves on the constant entertainment, activities and sheer size; a river cruise ship tends to focus more on relaxation. The entertainment is often geared around the location: live music from local musicians, cooking demonstrations using local produce, and craft workshops using traditional local methods. You won’t find a Flow Rider on-board surfing machine or an ice rink on a river cruise – think culture, sophistication and relaxation.
- It’s less about the vessel, more about the location.
Ocean cruise lines often base their marketing around how amazing their ships are: the size and luxuriousness of their staterooms, the number of bars and restaurants and the range of on board activities. River cruises don’t need to shout about all that. With regular stops in some of the world’s most beautiful cities, towns and villages, as well as a constantly changing view for the serial-sightseer, means the entertainment on a river cruise is the travelling. That’s not to say river cruise ships are not luxurious – some cruise lines feature marble bathrooms, 300sq ft staterooms and excellent restaurants. So when booking a river cruise, consider the ship as your floating hotel, not your floating all-inclusive resort – and have a look at all the amazing places you can visit on the way.
- Just as with ocean cruises, you can have lots of different experiences with a river cruise
Many non-cruisers’ arguments against cruising rely on the stereotype they have of what a cruise is like: often ‘trapped’ on a single vessel, surrounded by ‘old people’, or forced tacky entertainment. We know that you can experience a cruise aimed at older people, or one with continual entertainment shows and organised activities – if that’s your thing. But you can also go on a cruise where say, wildlife is the focus; or gourmet food and wine – it really depends what you’re into. River cruising is no different – you can be on a ship full of retirees cruising down the Rhine who all have an interest in European culture, wine and food; or you can be cruising down the Yangtze in China with a group of backpackers, appreciating the sites and meeting new people.
- You can easily dip in and out.
An ocean cruise tends to be your entire holiday – you book a cruise and that’s what you do for a week or two. Due to its in-land location, it’s much easier to combine, say, 5 days of river cruising with 5 days of exploring a country in other ways. You can ‘test the water’ (as it were) of river cruising, without being stuck on a boat for two weeks and that being your holiday over. You might like it, or it may not be your thing at all, but at least you’re free to make the best of your holiday without committing too much.
- The food is often better
Partly thanks to smaller ship sizes, there’s less of a feeling that the chefs are cooking for an army, more like a large dinner party. Coupled with the fact that you are likely travelling through towns, cities and villages with incredible local produce available, means there’s a much higher chance you will receive gourmet food as part of your included meals – unlike on many ocean cruise lines where ‘fancy’ restaurants can cost extra and the regular food is often described as ‘good, for a cruise’ at best. The regular stops on a river cruise mean the ship can take on food continually, meaning fresher produce too.
Hopefully this has inspired you as someone who goes on ocean cruises (or is new to cruising altogether), to at least consider heading to the river next time you get the cruising urge.
Author Bio: Neil Aston is a keen river cruiser and gets to write for River Voyages about his favourite type of holiday on a full time basis.