The rise of river cruising over the past few years has been nothing short of stratospheric. And, as river cruisers become more expansive and luxurious, so the appeal continues to grow. The result? More and more people are flocking to this new generation of river boats than at any other time before; a trend that shows every sign of continuing over the next few years.
So, what if you’re a devoted, deep blue ocean cruiser, considering dipping a toe in the much shallower waters of exotic river cruising? Is it possible to ‘cross deck’ between the two different kinds of adventure? And what are the potential pros and cons out there?
OK, let’s take a look at a few of these….
DOES SIZE MATTER?
Naturally, even the biggest and most elaborate river boat is going to be much tighter in terms of mutual proximity than most cruise ships. So…. should you encounter that certain someone that sets your teeth on edge just by walking into the room, is escape so easy an option?
Well, most lounges on river boats are quite large, and most restaurants are open sitting, so there will usually be just enough clear water between you and your very own Marie Celeste. Also, many of the new ships have large cabins, often featuring French balconies. If you want, you can retire to your own personal, comfy bolt hole, without losing anything of the scenic parade passing by. At least on one side of the boat.
NEAR, MY DEAR…..
Another great advantage of river cruising is that most vessels rock up to a quayside right in the centre of town, usually meaning that you can forget long coach rides to see the local sights and highlights. Many will, indeed, find this to be a blessing.
ROCK AND ROLL, OR SMOOTH AS SILK?
River sailing is most always calm to the point of soporific. There’s a strange, dual sense of being almost close enough to the passing landscape to touch it, while at the same time feeling a sense of quite splendid isolation. A strange dichotomy, but not without its charm.
ACTION PACKED OR ACTIVITY LACKED?
Again, size precludes a river cruiser from offering the facilities of a deep sea ship. If you can’t live without a rock climbing wall, flow rider, 24 hour popcorn and thirty alternative restaurants, then river cruising might not be for you.
And yes, the boats are much more low key in terms of nightlife. Think ‘country house’ rather than Studio 54 with azipods.
Then again, many river ships spend overnight moored in the middle of city centres, from Porto to Prague. This gives you the opportunity to dip in and out of the local restaurant and social scenes just as much or as little as you like, and without the worry of having to find a hotel afterwards. Which can be rather nice.
THE PRICE IS RIGHT, RIGHT?
Alas, river cruising is not a cheap gig, especially in Europe. That said, many operators include a huge amount in the fares, such as most, if not all shore excursions, and free beer and wine with lunch and dinner. Specialist operators such as Titan UK even include door to door transfers, and even overnight hotels as and where necessary.
And, to be completely fair, even big ship cruising in Europe is typically quite expensive, especially in the high summer season. You pay your money, and you make your choice.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Both ocean and river cruises offer hugely inclusive, tempting, quality options for the soft adventurer, either as a solo traveller, part of a couple, or as part of an extended family group. And while nothing will ever replace the thrill of sailing into New York, or enchant me like those sun kissed, indolent Greek Islands, I am becoming more and more addicted to river cruising as well.
Does it have to be either/or? I don’t think so. If there’s an itch to scratch, I respectfully suggest you get out there, and give it a try.
Either way, I suspect that you will be pleasantly surprised. Enjoy!