River cruising has become the Kim Kardashian of travel, except you don’t want to slap it. Everyone is talking about it, you can’t avoid it, and the number of ships and itineraries has exploded in the past 6 or 7 years.
So, what’s the big whoop? Why are they so popular?
Well, river cruises take many of the best aspects of ocean cruises and put a unique spin on them.
Like ocean cruises:
- You unpack once.
- You get to see a whole bunch of different locales.
- All your meals are included in your cruise fare.
But from there, the two forms of travel diverge.
On an ocean cruise, it can be more about parties and the diversions on the ship, like casinos, art auctions and rock-climbing walls, because you’ll usually have two or three days at sea within your itinerary.
On a river cruise, it’s all about the destination, because you’re in port every single day.
On an ocean cruise, there can be 3,000-6,000 passengers, which makes for a lot of eye candy, but sometimes not as many real connections, because that nice couple you met on the first day you may never see again.
On a river cruise, there are anywhere from 60-200 passengers, so there are lots of opportunities to really connect with people.
For the seasick-prone, ocean cruises can be spent keeping an eye out for the closest bathroom or oversized purse.
On a river cruise, land is always in sight and there’s pretty much zero motion sickness.
There are places that oceans cruises can’t go, due to the size of the ships, which can limit their itineraries a bit. You’ll see the cities that line the coast of a country – or else you have brief, broad-stroke experiences, because you’re being having to be bused inland, which can limit your time. For example, in France you’d dock at La Havre, and take a bus to Paris, where you’d only have 3-4 hours in the city.
On a river cruise, you see the cities, towns and villages in the interior of a country. And most of the time, when you walk off the ship, you’re right in the heart of the city. In France, for example, you’ll stop in towns and cities in Burgundy and Provence, visiting wineries and palaces and experiencing the charm of thousand-year-old villages just steps from your ship.
On an ocean cruise, everything is extra: drinks, shore excursions, ship transfers, etc.
On a river cruise – well, a Brand g river cruise – virtually everything is included: unlimited adult beverages, your shore tours, airport transfers, even pre- or post-cruise hotel nights. So, the only time you have to take out your wallet is to buy that piece of art or tip a stripper.
That doesn’t mean, of course, that ocean cruises aren’t a great value, it just comes to you in piecemeal form, whereas on a river cruise the price you pay up front can be the only money you spend.
Ocean cruises can be a total blast. There are tons of things to do on the ship, and no end of people to do them with. But if you long for a more intimate experience that focuses on unique, less-traveled destinations, maybe it’s time you find out why river cruising has become the hottest segment in travel.