Think cruising is only for the very young or the very mature, cruising the open seas on mega ocean liners? Not so. There’s a trendy new style of cruising that’s gaining in popularity. Here are 7 things you didn’t know about river cruising…
It’s for all ages
Think cruising is only for a certain age group? Think again. There’s a river cruise to suit everyone – whether you’re in your teens, twenties or beyond.
For the millennial and millennial-minded traveller, there’s U by Uniworld. Their matte black ships make a stylish statement on the rivers of Europe – and they have trendy itineraries to match. Think craft beers and rooftop bars, silent discos, excursions ranging from rock climbing to onboard paint and wine nights, and everything that’s young and fun – with a crowd to match.
If you’re setting sail with your little humans, or Granny and Grandpa are coming along, there’s a cruise for you too.
Cruise lines such as Uniworld Boutique river cruises, offer cruises designed for family and multigenerational travel.
“Uniworld’s Generations cruises have all sorts of activities to keep the kids entertained safely while you get a little time for yourself,” says Carina Faulconer from Pentravel in Tygervalley, who travelled on an eight-day Bordeaux, Vineyards & Chateaux cruise in July.
“We travelled during the July school holidays and the multigenerational program was fantastic,” agrees Gail Gilbert from Johannesburg, who enjoyed a Uniworld Castles of the Rhine cruise with her husband, 11-year old daughter and 7-year-old son.
“Over and above the two onshore activities offered per day on a standard cruise, an additional multi-generational option is on offer for families. The local guides are sensitive to the different needs of young children and teens and are trained to accommodate shorter attention spans, always making excursions as active and entertaining as possible,” says Gilbert.
More important than age, is the mindset. The people you’ll meet on board your river ship are active, culturally curious and like-minded travellers. Even though if all you want to do is relax on board, that’s perfectly okay too.
You’ll go through locks
Going through the locks on the canals and rivers is a fun part of the river cruise experience.
A lock is a device used to raise and lower boats between stretches of water of different levels.
Some locks you’ll go through during the day and some at night. Definitely head up on the deck to watch the ship going through the lock during the day. Although many passengers don’t hear anything, there could be some noise going through them at night, so if you’re a very light sleeper, choose a cabin away from the bow thrusters.
No motion sickness
As the ship glides through calm waters with no waves, it’s almost unheard of to experience motion sickness on a river cruise. Passengers report that, apart from when going through the locks, you barely even feel the ship moving.
Smaller ships create a personal atmosphere
Forget the busy sun deck and crowds disembarking for shore excursions on the ocean cruise liners. River cruise ships must be small enough to fit under bridges, so even the largest ship won’t accommodate more than 200 passengers. Ocean liners can accommodate from 3000 to 6000 passengers on the mega ships.
“The design of smaller river ships create more personal opportunities for you to meet your fellow passengers,” says Teresa Richardson, Managing Director South Africa of The Travel Corporation, a family of global travel brands which incorporates Uniworld.
“River ships often have only one dining room, so it’s hopefully easier to remember the names of the people sitting next to you at the dinner table and make friends. Just like ocean cruising, river cruising can be a very social experience – just that little bit easier.”
“Uniworld prides itself on its personalised level of service so you can be assured that the staff will remember your name, as well as which type of tea you enjoy in the morning,” says Richardson.
Ocean cruise liners are designed to keep passengers entertained during days at sea. The ship itself, and its myriad of entertainment options have traditionally been the focus of ocean cruising.
River cruises, by contrast, focus on the destinations. Yes, there is entertainment on board, but they also make it easier to spend more quality time at the destination.
Every day you’ll visit a new destination, sometimes even two ports in one day. Cruising the rivers as they wind their way through age-old cities, ensure that there’s always a new view from the window. From the water, you get to see the locals going about their daily lives giving you a more intimate view of local life.
In many cases, the ship docks close enough to the city centre that you can walk – or take a bicycle ride – to get to all the major attractions in the heart of the city.
In smaller- to medium-sized towns, you’ll have the whole day to explore, while in larger cities, such as Budapest or Vienna, the ship will often stay docked for longer giving you more time to explore.
River cruises also offer a host of fun excursions unique to the region and river cruise experience. From cycling from town to town, wine tastings in vineyards, hikes and even rock climbing, you can choose one of the included tours, opt for an additional one, easily head off on your own or relax on board. Your time, your choice.
“For example, in Koblenz Germany, we embarked on a morning cable car ride over the Rhine to explore Fortress Ehrenbreistein. The younger kids could discover the city with a fun scavenger hunt and a Geocaching challenge kept the teens entertained for hours,” says Gilbert.
Weather can change your itinerary
As with ocean cruises, Mother Nature can cause unforeseen changes to your itinerary.
Ships need a certain amount of buoyancy so if the rivers are too low, as can happen during a hot summer, there are some towns the ship may not be able to access. In that case, most cruise lines will do what they can to accommodate the passengers wherever possible, such as taking them by bus so they don’t miss out on a popular town or attraction.
Not just Europe
While central Europe is the most popular destination for river cruising, there’s a whole world out there to explore from the rivers and canals.
“Uniworld offers cruises in India, Egypt, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, and also Portugal, Spain and Russia,” concludes Richardson.