4 Things You Should Know Before You Book a River Cruise

1. A room with a view but this could include a surprise…

One of the best things about river cruising is the view outside your window, or from the deck. When the ship is sailing, the view unfolds before you and I love to sit and relax with a drink, taking it all in.

When the ship docks there are some important things to know about your view. You could have an incredible view over the river, but the view could also be of a dock wall. In busy ports, river ships may be required to parallel park. They dock adjacent to each other and on one occasion I opened my curtains to find I was looking into a passenger’s room on another ship. It’s wise to open your curtains with care, or at least, fully dressed.

It is worth noting that your view from the deck can’t be obscured by another ship as they are all the same height. I love being docked in the centre of a city, admiring the lights at night from the deck.

2. Your river ship is like a floating boutique hotel, but it is much smaller than an ocean cruise ship…

One of the best things about a river cruise holiday is the ship. With most of them carrying around 120 to 150 passengers it feels like a small hotel. You get fantastic and very friendly service as well. It never feels crowded. The ships all have great facilities and often have an outdoor swimming pool, spa facilities and a gym, as well as bikes to use in port. Usually if you want to see more than one European city on a trip you have to keep re-packing your bags. Checking-in, checking-out. Getting on and off a coach or train. When you’re on a river cruise, you unpack once and then all your time is your own to relax and enjoy yourself.

The small size means entertainment is limited. There may be two restaurants, a small spa, a gym and a small pool. The exception is AmaWaterways AmaMagna with an unusual double width design meaning that she has four restaurants for guests to choose from. You’ll not find a casino or west-end theatre style show onboard. The entertainment tends to be low key and is often more about the evening meal, the company and the accompanying wine.

After dinner there may be a local entertainer. Some of the best entertainment I have experienced was onboard Uniworld Joie do Vivre where we had two visiting musicians who came onboard for the night. Both were exceptional.

There will sometimes be a quiz night or a themed evening. Some ships have a resident entertainer who will sing and act as DJ as required and to suit the mood of the audience.

3. Be in the heart of the action, but your itinerary could change…

River cruise ships are relatively small compared to ocean ships, so they will tend to dock in the centre, and you can be right in the heart of things.

But…as we are dealing with nature and the weather can be unpredictable, trips can be disrupted by the water levels. When the river is low, the ship may struggle to reach some areas. High water can also cause disruption as the ship may not be able to fit under bridges or navigate locks. This does not come as a surprise to the river cruise companies, and they have efficient contingency plans in place. The itineraries will be adjusted and may include a couple of nights in a hotel. It is also easy for the river cruise company to provide excursions by coach.

In Europe, high waters are more likely to happen in late spring when the snow melts in the alps. Droughts in the summer could lead to low water in later summer or early autumn. Weather is unpredictable so there are no guarantees. The Danube River and the Rhine between Cologne and Vienna have historically been the most affected by high water issues.

Asian river levels are more likely to remain navigable. One of the reasons is that there are less bridges and the peak river cruise season is outside of the rainy season. However, there could be unusual amount of rainfall that could change things.

Other destinations such as the Amazon, Mississippi, Nile and Yangtze don’t tend to have the same water level issues but again, unusual weather can change things.

4. All inclusive or not all-inclusive? That is the question…

A big extra cost when you’re on holiday is usually food and drink, so it’s very reassuring to know that all your on-board meals are included.

Many of the river cruise lines also include return flights, transfers, excursions, complimentary drinks, tips, Wi-Fi and much more too, representing great value.

Some river cruise lines take a more flexible approach to what is included, and you’ll pay extra for drinks outside mealtimes and for excursions.

I usually get asked about what is included in the river cruise package with different cruise lines and I am happy to help.

I enjoy river cruise myself and would love others to discover it too so if you have any questions or would like to find out more, please get in touch.