For many travellers, the slow chug along a river offers just the right pace for their holiday... they can get the lay of the land, gazing upon hills dotted with castles, vineyards that stretch for miles, colourful floating markets and old-world villages. There's no doubt as to why river cruises continue to grow in popularity as a holiday option - they visit more destinations, in more countries, than ocean cruises, all the while offering a more intimate experience.
Whether you cruise the waterways of Europe, Asia, Russia, South America, North America or Egypt, you will gain a deeper appreciation for the countries you visit as you watch local life pass you by from the windows of your private cabin. Rive cruises stop at major and minor ports, offering a combination of world-famous sights and lesser-known experiences that are off-the-beaten-path.
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River Cruising Overview
- Popularity - while river cruises have always been popular in Europe, they have seen resurgence in recent years as more cruise lines expand their fleets and add more destinations to their itineraries all over the world.
- Sights - these cruises are best suited to people who are interested in learning about their destinations and seeing more of a country beyond its capital city and resorts. River cruises travel the length and breadth of continents, stopping at ports of all sizes to offer easy access to local natural and man-made marvels – from the pyramids of Egypt to the romantic sights of the Rhine and Seine.
- Facilities - river cruises offer comparable on-board facilities to ocean cruises, but on a smaller scale. You can find cruise options to match your budget and needs, from child-friendly cruise lines to upscale options boasting luxury suites, spas and casinos.
- Personal Service - river cruise vessels carry fewer passengers than larger ocean cruises, usually less than 200, and this creates a more intimate environment and personalised service where your cruise staff will know your name and your favourite drink. You could also find it easier to make friends with your fellow passengers without feeling overwhelmed by the crowds.
Who goes there?
Cruise ships depart from major river ports all over the world. Scandinavian-based Viking Cruises, Uniworld, APT Cruising and Avalon Waterways specialise in European cruises, with additional routes in North America, Egypt and Asia.
Scenic Tours operates in Australia, New Zealand and other international destinations, and there are also smaller cruise lines dedicated to local areas, such as Asia's Pandaw River Cruises. Some cruise lines cater for certain demographics. Tauck offers child-friendly cruise activities and facilities ideal for families, while Travelmarvel offers a budget-friendly alternative to sister-cruise line, APT.
Best time to go?
Prime cruise seasons vary in different parts of the world. High season for European and North American cruises is usually between April and October, while warmer countries in Asia and Africa can be suitable for cruises all year round. River cruises in these regions tend to be less affected by monsoon seasons than ocean cruises, though some routes may vary during the dry season.
Things to See and Do
- Europe - European river cruises offer the opportunity to visit a multitude of countries along a single route; the Danube winds through 9 countries and 4 capital cities and the Rhine flows from the Swiss Alps through Austria, Germany, France and the Netherlands.
- Africa - a Nile river cruise is the most scenic and relaxing way to see Africa, from the desert landscapes of Egypt and Sudan to the fertile plains of Kenya and Tanzania. There are many programmes available for cruising the world's longest river, whether you dream of seeing the Pyramids of Giza or taking an African safari adventure.
- North America - the USA and Canada are two of the world's largest countries, and travelling by sea or air only offers a taste of their diverse landscapes and experiences. See more of the continent on a journey down the Columbia River from the Rocky Mountains, or cross 10 states on a Mississippi cruise.
- Asia - Asia's rivers pass through key tourist destinations while offering the chance to observe local life and culture. Experience China on a cruise of the Yangtze, the longest river in Asia, or take an international cruise along the Mekong to see the sights of Tibet, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.