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So you have decided to make your next dream vacation a river cruise but you are undecided about which class of stateroom to book. Like this writer, some of you may have ocean cruised before or perhaps this is your very first cruise of any type. Either way,you no doubt have questions regarding your stateroom: what is the best location on the ship? Should we book an inside stateroom, an oceanview or a balcony? Are there upgrades available? What about size?
Let’s begin with the class of staterooms. Unlike ocean cruise ships, there are really only three types of staterooms on a river ship: the riverview, the balcony, and the suites. Stateroom size varies from 150 square feet for an older Riverview to 250 square feet for a Suite. Most ships are designed with the staterooms in rows on port and starboard on either side of a central hallway that runs the length of the ship. For this reason you probably won’t find a windowless inside room. Staterooms are also arranged by decks beginning at the waterline and rising, usually two decks with the most uppermost decks having the premium staterooms. River ships are defined by the locks through which they pass so they must be long, narrow and not too high (bridges).
Location of Your Stateroom
Location of your stateroom and the amenities within such as balcony, French balcony or suite are primarily what drives the pricing. For my part, this writer believes there really is not a “bad” stateroom on a river cruise because you spend so little time in your room. Having said that, there are a few things to consider when you are making your selection. The first is your deck. Most advertised pricing on river cruises is for a riverview stateroom which will be located at the waterline with a fixed window for viewing. The rooms are certainly adequate be you need to be aware that, although motion is not much of a factor on river ships, you may hear some noise from water slapping against the hull at night as the ship travels to its next destination.
Another aspect to consider is location forward, midship , or aft. Forward cabins will experience more wake noise and aft cabins ( no matter what deck) can be subject to vibrations emanating from the engine room and propellers. Some cruise lines design their ships to have smaller public rooms aft to prevent this. For the best experience, I would recommend choosing a stateroom midships, and on the middle or upper decks depending on your budget.
As to room amenities, most of the newer ships offer both balcony and French balcony rooms. A French balcony is a full length sliding door ( think patio door) which when opened, reveals a railing directly outside. You can lean out but not go out. The true balconies allow you to sit outside; however, they are quite small, about half the size of an ocean ship balcony in many cases. No matter what stateroom you choose, you will find it well equipped, and because of the size restrictions, the cruise lines put a lot of effort into the finer touches such as linens,internet stations, and dazzling bathrooms, especially on the newer ships.
A Final Piece of Advice
My final piece of advice in choosing a stateroom is to buy as much stateroom as your budget can afford. When it comes to river cruise ships, it is always worthwhile to stretch that extra 200 or 300 dollars to be located on an upper deck with a balcony. Don’t book a lower deck expecting that you can get a free upgrade or purchase an upgrade at sailing. These ships sail at 100% capacity about 99% of the time so this is not a good bet.
Of course, I always recommend availing yourself of the services of your trusted travel professional when booking your river cruise. Their knowledge of ships, cruise lines, and itineraries will ensure your investment in a dream vacation is well spent
How Come River Cruises are All the Rage?
Have you ever wondered why river cruising in Europe today is all the rage? Why are we just now hearing about it? I hope to enlighten you about the history of river cruising and what makes it so special.
It wasn’t until 1992 when one could travel in Europe from the Black Sea to the North Sea by river. That’s 2200 miles of exploring life along the banks of many rivers. What changed do you ask? The engineering marvel of the 106 mile Main-Danube canal.
About the time those canals opened, a few travel industry veterans took notice. If freight could be transported through those canals and locks, then perhaps passengers could too! They would design the barges with ocean cruise ship amenities. Unpack once and see the interior of Europe! An option to the “if it’s Tuesday, it must be Belgium” way of traveling.
The big question is which river cruise is right for you? There are many different cruise lines, and in order to compete with each other, they have to be different to attract their right audience. You must realize what is important to you when booking your river cruise vacation. You should know that not all river cruises offer the same amenities. There are river cruises that offer award winning cuisine, bikes on board, hot tubs and even swimming pools. What’s important to you should be the experience once you’re on board.
One of my favorite river cruise companies is AMA Waterways. They believe “luxury is more.”
AMA Waterways balcony staterooms are larger than other river cruise companies and offer twin balconies. Their ships have fewer staterooms, allowing you to feel less crowded in the public areas. They offer “more active ways to explore” the cities along the rivers by offering complimentary bicycles on board. They have “more ways to indulge” with award winning cuisine in several dining venues including the exquisite Chef’s Table. These amenities are included in your cruise price.
Whether you are traveling on the rivers of Europe, Cambodia and Vietnam, Africa or Myanmar, AMA Waterways “luxury is more” is the right choice for those who love luxury.
If you’re not familiar with AMA Waterways, they are a great option for your river cruise. Which river do you want to start with? Rhine River, Danube River, Rhone River, Seine River, Mekong River…. Confused? We’ve been on all of them and can help you make the right decision.
Ten Reasons to Love River Cruising
Fun No Matter What Your Age!
Have you been on a river cruise yet? Do you think it is just the choice of older, retired pensioners on vacation? If you have never been on a river cruise, or haven’t been in a few years, you may be surprised to find it is a vacation choice for all types of people – the history buffs, the culinary and wine connoisseurs, the experiencers – and folks of all ages too.
Here are ten reasons to consider a river cruise for your next vacation, no matter what your age.
• River cruising is a bargain. Wine, beer, and bottled drinks are complimentary – sometimes for all three meals. (Mimosas at breakfast anyone?) And another big saving is that at least one or two excursions a day are included in your fare. Some lines also have free internet. Book on a themed cruise and you may have guest lecturers, wine or beer tastings, classical or jazz concerts, and visits to breweries, vineyards, and specialized museums at no extra charge. River cruising is truly all-inclusive.
• The ships are small and intimate. No crowds of people anywhere on the ship so no long line-ups, even at embarkation. Because river ships must fit through locks on most itineraries, they are long and narrow. The only way they can expand is in their length – too high and they might not fit under a bridge, too wide and they wouldn’t fit through a lock. Most only have a couple of decks, and there may be as few as fifty cabins. It’s a fantastic way to meet people if you are so inclined – or travelling alone – as there are so few guests on board.
A culinary learning moment ( Image: Uniworld®)
• Meals are gourmet quality and exceptional. Remember, the kitchen is serving far less people than a cruise ship or even a resort. Like to cook? Theme cruises may have cooking lessons with the chef – or even shopping in the local food markets pre-dinner preparation. And with free drinks you can fill your wine glass up before retiring to the lounge to take in the evening’s scheduled entertainment – local singers, dancers or musicians.
• Stateroomsare just as compactly designed and comfortable as those found on an ocean cruise liner, but the corridor distance to your room is shorter – a huge plus! You can leave your room and be at your dining room seat in under two minutes. Depending on the ship, you can choose a stateroom with a window, a French balcony (think patio doors with balcony railing), or a small balcony – some river cruise lines have both the latter types available in the same room. Avalon Waterways® boasts you can lie in bed on their ships and enjoy the passing scenery.
• River cruises have a view – always – and not just of surrounding expanses of water. Whether from your room’s balcony, the windows in the public rooms, or out in the open on the top deck for a 360 view, you can watch the surrounding countryside, small towns, villages, and cities pass by. Depending on the river, there may also be other ships or small boat traffic to see as well.
• You are where the action is. Because the ship sails a river, it docks in the heart of towns and cities, and you can often walk where you want to go, exploring on your own instead of an excursion, or timing your strolls in the intervals between excursions or other activities. Skip dinner to eat in a local restaurant on shore, shop, or take in some city nightlife.
Yes, some river cruise ships have pools! (Image: Amawaterways™)
• River cruising can be a very active, engaging vacation – or not – it is your choice. Bicycled down a country road in Europe lately? Been on safari in southeastern Africa? Sat down for a meal with locals? Explored a vineyard and tasted the wine produced there? There’s excitement around every corner, every day of your cruise. You don’t have to participate in all the activities on offer if you don’t wish to, you can just sit back and enjoy the ambiance and the views. But if you want to be engaged every minute, you can be on the go with guided bicycle tours, walking tours of nearby sights, or making the most of interactions with locals. Most lines ensure that walking tours are offered at various levels of physical activity, so no one feels hampered by slower walkers, or conversely, feels they are rushed and out-of-breath.
Activities for children. A chance to learn with fun in a new environment. ( Image: Uniworld®)
• Age appropriate activities are important. “Age is just a number” is a popular phrase but there are limits to this. Uniworld® offers “U by Uniworld” which caters select sailings to active, young people – the millennials – with activities to match their lifestyle. If you are a family with younger children, it helps to have activities geared for that age interest too. Most lines have special cruise dates on which children have age appropriate menus, lessons made for fun and learning, and excursions to stretch their mind, if not their muscles too. These are the perfect river cruise opportunities for multi-generational travel.
Enjoy river cruising as a couple, a family or a group. It’s a great place to meet other travel enthusiasts so it is an excellent choice for singles too. ( Image: Scenic®)
• Lastly, river cruising is fun. It’s a no-worries time when you can leave all the logistics to the cruise line experts,especially the best to see and do on every stop of your chosen itinerary. And with river cruises in Europe, Russia, Egypt, India, Cambodia, Vietnam, southeastern Africa, the Amazon in South America, and in the United States, you can visit the heart of countries or continents rather than skirt ocean coastlines. Be a true explorer of this world.
Your experienced and knowledgeable travel professional at your trusted travel agencycan help you with the choice of river cruise line and itinerary which best suits you.
Choosing the Right River Cruise
River cruising is the fastest growing segment of the cruise vacation choices that folks are choosing these days. With the major uptick in popularity over the last couple of years, the options presented to the river cruiser are beginning to get as wide and varied as that of ocean cruising.
Choosing the river cruise that best suits your lifestyle and needs depends on a number factors. Having planned hundreds of river cruises for guests here is the travel professional’s top five list of items to consider when choosing a river cruise.
You can visit Victoria Falls on a river cruise!
Where do you want to visit – Europe, Africa, South East Asia, Russia or the USA? Unlike an ocean cruise, your river cruise is going to give you an up close and personal immersive experience into the sights, sounds, people and of course, the history, of the region. So think carefully about what are of the world you wish to visit, and the river you sail on.
Cruise Line: No two river cruise lines are the same. The on board ambience of a river cruise ship can vary from understated luxury to classic “Old World” European design in the case of some of Uniworld’s Boutique River Cruise Collection. The ship you choose will be your floating hotel room for the next 7 to 14 days so it is wise to choose the atmosphere you are comfortable with.
Time of Year: The best time of year to river cruise will depend on the destination and your own personal travel plans. What most people do not realize is that river water levels can affect your cruise at different times of year on certain itineraries. High or low water levels can prevent a ship from traversing the entire river causing your trip to be interrupted, delayed or, most likely, travelling the remainder of the route by motor coach.
The elegance of a Uniworld Boutique Cruise Ship
Amenities & Inclusions: All the river cruise lines tout ” All Inclusiveness” but the definition of all inclusive varies widely form line to line. For example, do you want wine & spirits with every meal, or just with dinner? Are gratuities and excursions included, or not? And what about the stateroom selection? Should you have a balcony, french balcony, or the least expensive cabin? The age of the ship can also be a major factor as well as on board amenities and stateroom size.
Pre & Post Extensions: Chances are that you will have long flight to arrive at your river cruise departure port. A pre cruise extension of a few days will help you get over the jet lag as well as giving you a time buffer in case of flight delays. The same goes for the post part of your cruise. Many destinations require you to have invested a significant amount of your vacation budget in flights. Why not take the opportunity to extend your stay and take in even more sights and history. Most river cruise lines provide extensive post cruise tours and five star hotel accommodations at a good value.
Photo of a River Baronness stateroom, courtesy of Uniworld Boutique River Cruises. All other photos courtesy of Bigstock.
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