5 Choices You'll Have To Make When You Take A River Cruise
From the outside, it may look like all river cruises are created equal. You may think they all offer a similar service and experience, so you just need to find one to suit your budget and you’re all set. However, it’s not always as straightforward as that. There are various decisions that you will need to make along the way in order to tailor your holiday to your own needs and therefore get the most out of it.
River cruise lines vary in lots of ways – from the regions they visit to the style of décor on their ships – so asking yourself these five questions will help you find the right option for you.
All-inclusive or More Inclusive?
The general rule of thumb is that river cruises include more in the price than ocean cruises, but that doesn’t mean that they all include everything. Your accommodation and onboard meals will be part of the fare as standard but things like drinks, gratuities and shore excursions may be an added extra. If you know you’re going to spend a lot of time at the bar, finding a cruise line that includes drinks outside of mealtimes is definitely worth it.
Likewise, if having plenty of choices when it comes to onshore activities is important to you, choose a company like Tauck or Scenic where all excursions are included. Most lines will offer at least one complimentary tour but more in-depth outings may be charged as extra.
Stateroom or Suite?
The good news is that, except in very rare cases, all river cruise accommodation will offer a river view. However, there is still a choice to make when it comes to your own private space on board. Staterooms may or may not offer a balcony and are obviously smaller than a suite, but that doesn’t mean they are cramped. Some of the newer ships are pushing the boundaries when it comes to space saving, meaning that even the standard grades provide plenty of room to make yourself at home. Also, choosing a stateroom over a suite can be a great way to keep the cost down.
Alternatively, if you want access to some added extras and improved facilities then a suite is definitely the best way to go. Not only will you have more space and guarantee yourself a balcony, but you could also enjoy features such as luxury bathroom products, iPod speakers and complimentary Champagne. Additional services may also be provided such as an in-suite butler, complimentary laundry and the option to dine in your room.
Main Restaurant or Alternative?
There was a time when dining on board a river cruise ship offered little or no choice in way of dining venues, with the main restaurant being the only option most of the time. However, many new ships now offer the chance to enjoy a second, or even third, restaurant area in order to provide a change of scenery and menu. This is the case with Viking River Cruises and Uniworld, as well as the forthcoming AmaMagna and the recently arrived Crystal Mozart.
This extra dining area can be anything from a casual bistro that offers the chance to dine al-fresco to a more formal and intimate option like AmaWaterways’ Chef’s Table. Either way, it leaves you with a tough choice when it comes to mealtimes. Our advice? Follow your nose and mix it up.
Active or Leisurely Excursions?
We’ve already talked about shore excursions a bit, but even once you have decided whether you want them included in the price or not there is a decision to make as to how active you would like to be. A trend towards health-focused activities has grown steadily in recent years to the point where many cruise lines now offer different levels of excursions. These will vary from leisurely city tours to involved hikes and bike rides, and will usually be labelled so that you can make an informed decision.
Obviously, you need to take your own level of fitness into consideration, but varying your shore excursions as much as possible may be the best way to get the most from your time on shore. More active excursions may take you further afield, allowing you to explore more of the city, and might make you feel less guilty about those four-course lunches.
Sun Deck or Below Deck?
With all the fun things to do off the ship, you may start to think a river cruise is all go. However, this is actually one of the most relaxing ways to see the world and there will be many chances to spend some time doing absolutely nothing but admiring the great views. The question is where do you want to do this? Do you want to lie back on a sun lounger on the top deck, or do you want to take a seat in the lounge with a drink in hand?
Obviously, part of this will depend on the weather, but it also depends on your personal preference. The Sun Deck arguably offers better photo opportunities and will let you soak up the rays, but the lounge often has more seating and is more conducive to a catch-up with new-found friends. It may also be easier to find a quiet corner in the lounge in which you can curl up with a good book.
If you would like to know more about the ins and outs of river cruising, our team will be able to answer all your questions. Call us on 0800 954 0064 or click here to contact us through the website.