The Different Kinds Of River Ship Around The World
Depending on where in the world you choose to take your river cruise, there will be plenty of differences between the regions. Obviously, your surroundings will differ, but so will the rivers themselves and the types of excursions you can look forward to. And so will the ships.
The vessels plying Asian rivers, and their cabins, will have a distinct look and feel to them when compared to those sailing through Europe, and this will certainly have an impact on your river cruise. Here are some of the different types of ship you’re likely to encounter.
Due to the number of locks and low bridges that they have to navigate, European river ships tend to be no more than three or four decks high, including a sun deck on the top where you can relax or dip your feet in the plunge pool. For the same reasons, there are usually restrictions in terms of length and width too, resulting in most European vessels having a very similar appearance. One ship set to break this mould, though, is AmaMagna, set to make her debut in 2019. The AmaWaterways vessel will be almost twice the width of others sailing rivers like the Rhine, Danube and Seine – offering more space and an elegant new look.
The ships travelling along the Irrawaddy, Mekong and other Asian rivers tend to look very different. They typically have more decks and are shorter in length, as they don’t have to squeeze under low bridges. Shallow drafts help them to deal with changes in water level and there is often a colonial feel to the aesthetics of the cabins and public rooms. Capacities are also smaller, giving guests more space on deck and a closer relationship with the crew. The sun deck of an Asian ship will have a covered section and a, smaller, outside section so that guests can have some shelter from the scorching heat.
If you’re planning a Mississippi River cruise or a journey along the Snake and Ohio Rivers, the chances are you will be sailing on board an authentic paddle steamer. Although much of the propulsion these days is created by diesel engines or screw propellers, the ships still have paddle wheels either as a feature or to provide some additional power. This harks back to the nostalgic years of the early 19th century when Robert Fulton launched the first successful commercial paddle steamer from New York to Albany. Because many US river cruises teach guests about the history of this period, the paddle wheel helps to add to the unique experience.
Junk boats have been used throughout China since as early as the second century AD and can still be seen today sailing across Ha Long Bay in Vietnam. Their striking sails make them immediately recognisable and they have become a popular way for tourists to explore this part of the world. Although they maintain the classic wooden hull and battened sails, many of today’s junks have been given luxurious makeovers to pamper guests and allow them to relax. There is debate over where the term ‘junk’ comes from. Some believe it has Chinese origins but others point to Old Javanese.
Houseboats are similar to junk boats in that they are much smaller than other river vessels and offer a much more intimate experience for those on board. One area in which you will find this kind of vessel is along the Kerala backwaters in India. Here, these eco-friendly houseboats carry just a few guests at a time through a beautiful part of the world, allowing them to enjoy nature and local life without the disturbance of an intrusive river ship. Traditionally, they are made from bamboo poles and wood tied together with rope and were first used to transport goods from one village to another. Although they have a slightly rugged-looking exterior, today’s houseboats have managed to stick to traditions but still offer modern luxuries.
If you would like to plan a river cruise on board any of these types of ships, our experienced team can offer more information. Call us on 0800 954 0064 or submit an online enquiry by clicking here.