Fans of Masterpiece Classics shows like Downton Abbey, Poldark and Sherlock will have no doubt noticed the ads for Viking River Cruises. River cruises may be new on the radar, but rest assured, river cruises have been around for long time. And, surprise! Viking River Cruises isn’t the only fish in the pond river. There are loads of river cruise companies that meander up and down rivers around the world.
What’s it Like to Go On a River Cruise?
So what’s it like to go on a river cruise? River cruising is very different than an ocean cruise. The comparison is kind of like the difference between spending a weekend at Disneyland versus spending a weekend at a day spa. Disney is awesome and all, but there are times when you’re just more in the mood for a relaxing, sit back and watch the world go by experience. That’s what it’s like on a river cruise.
On a river cruise, you get wined and dined, but in a more intimate setting than on a big ocean cruise. You can walk around the deck, but instead of having kids (or adults) screaming with glee, you get the sounds of pleasant chatter and conversation in the background.
The Pros and Cons of Taking a River Cruise
Before you book your river cruise, take a look at these pros and cons.
- You never have to worry about booking a hotel.
- You’ll only have a few hours to tour in any port you stop in.
- There’s almost always something new and interesting to see outside the window.
- The food and meals availability is nearly constant.
- Interaction with locals will be limited.
- You’ll end up with a long list of places you want to return to for a longer visit.
- You’ll mostly be cruising with adults.
- Don’t assume there will be swimming or hot tubs.
- Onboard activities may be limited. Very limited.
- Some cruises lines offer complimentary bicycles for land touring.
If you think you might be ready to give river cruising a try, here are some extraordinary river cruises that do it right.
Scenic Cruises offers river cruising in France on your choice of three riverboats. One of the tours, Scenic Culinaire, provides a culinary tour of the Bordeaux and the Rhone regions. Onboard, passengers can engage in immersive cooking courses. If the idea of cruising and eating French gourmet food appeals to you, then Scenic Cruises should be on your list.
Tauk is another European river cruise line. Their 300-square feet suites have cute little French balconies and windows that reach from floor to ceiling. You’ll love the walk-in closets and marble bathrooms, too. Of course, there are less luxurious accommodations for less money. If this is your first river cruise, try one of their Danube river cruises.
If you like the idea of taking river cruises, but you yearn for more activity options, try the Emerald Active cruises. These river cruises offer activities like hiking the Black Forest, and a guided biking tour of Melk, Austria. Not for the sedentary, these cruises are meant for the fit crowd. However, Emerald Waterways has a slew of other river cruises. One is sure to meet your needs – and fitness level!
American Cruise Lines
Do you hanker for good old southern American hospitality? Then try out one of the river cruises from American Cruise Lines from Charleston to Jacksonville. You’ll pass by Hilton Head, Jekyll Island and Amelia Island, as well as myriad beaches and mansions. The slow pace of this 8-day river cruise will feel like a step back in time.
American Queen Steamboat Company
If you’re looking for something more inland, try the Ohio and Tennessee river cruises offered by the American Queen Steamboat Company. Choose from several river cruises that run through Memphis, Nashville, Cincinnati, and Chattanooga. And if, you still need to make Christmas plans, consider taking one of the 9-day Thanksgiving through New Year excursions aboard the American Queen boat on the Lower Mississippi river.
River cruising is worth trying, even if you’ve never really considered it before. But if you’re like most people, those Masterpiece Theatre commercials by Viking River Cruises have surely made an impression.
One last tip that might help you make up your mind about trying river cruising: Many of the package deals offered include air fare and transportation to and from the airport. When you go on a river cruise, you really are well taken care of, from the time you leave to the time you arrive back home.