Contrary to popular belief, river cruising is not exclusive to Europe. Most of the world’s great cities have emerged along the shores of mighty rivers and today river cruising has expanded to travel the world’s great rivers. There are opportunities to explore rivers all across the globe, from the Yangtze River in China to the Irrawaddy river in Burma. There are also river cruises in the USA and South America, with routes along the Mississippi and the Amazon rivers.
River cruises offer the opportunity to explore territory which is often thought of as the remit of backpackers, in a luxurious relaxed, leisurely and safe way. Often you’ll get to see things that you just wouldn’t see any other way – on land there’s no way to experience the Yangtze’s Three Gorges Dam and get the same feeling of awe as sailing through it. Completed in 2012 after as 17 year build, it’s the world’s largest dam, and generates enough electricity to power Switzerland. Along this river you can also see the Shibaozhai; a vermilion-painted, 12-storeyed pagoda built into a steep riverbank bluff – sailing past this is the best way to take in the stunning view.
River cruising has seen huge growth in popularity in recent years, but for many it’s still a bit of a mystery as to what to expect. If the sound of these exotic sights and new experiences has piqued your interest, then here are;
10 things you should know if you’ve never been on a river cruise before:
- You may need visa’s – on the subject of exotic locations; staying on board a ship doesn’t mean that you won’t need a visa if the country requires it. Some river cruise companies will include this in their offer, but it is best to check before you book so that you ensure you’re covered.
- It can be fast paced, or relaxed depending on what you want – excursions are usually included in the price, and are not mandatory. You can stay on the boat, or explore the port on your own if you prefer.
- It’s not just for retirees – most cruisers will be between 45-60, and it’s growing with the 25-39 age group too. There’s a lot of choice – there are a huge number of places to go, and some itineraries can be extended so you can make the most of your holiday.
- It’s very unlikely that you’ll get seasick – rivers are much calmer than the sea; very very few people get any motion sickness on river boats, even those people that are sensitive to motion.
- All cabins are great for views – river boats are much smaller than ocean cruises, so the difference between the height of the cabins at each deck is less of an issue. Add to this that there are views both sides and no central cabins without windows, whether you’re port or starboard makes no difference. Most people tend to spend their time up on the deck during the day, anyway.
- Timings are strict – departure times from the ports are not flexible; it’s a tight timetable the boats need to stick to, formulated around tide levels, the time it takes to get to the next port and the schedules of other boats… So it means being disciplined about getting back on time when you go on shore.
- Adults only – most river cruises are geared towards adults, there’s usually adult only activities for travellers to enjoy, rather than kids clubs. Most lines have a minimum age of around 12, but it is best to check.
- Dining doesn’t have to mean formal dress every night – unlike ocean cruises, river cruises tend to be less formal; suits and gowns are not required for dinners, although if you want to dress up, you can!
- There’s more included in the price than you think – most river cruise lines offer at least one free shore excursion in each city. Led by local guides, walking tours offer an authentic sampling of what each city has to offer from an insider’s perspective. Additionally, all onboard meals are included, along with wine, beer and soft drinks.
About The Author: Article contributed by Avalon Waterways, specialist in first class river cruising experiences in Europe and Worldwide