Tips for finding a great river cruise vacation
The travel industry's hottest new trend, river cruising, is finding a niche as an alternative to mainstream cruises and megaships. With hundreds of options to sail the amazing waterways of Europe (the Danube, Rhine, Rhone, Seine and Moselle Rivers) and exotic destinations, via the Yangtze, Mekong and Nile, small-ship cruising is becoming one of the most popular ways for Americans to both experience and explore the world.
Part of the appeal of the modern river cruise
is that it delivers a cruise unlike other cruise experiences.
Instead of thousands of passengers, there might be 150 on a river cruise vessel. Instead of miles and miles of ocean views (if you have an outward-facing room), 100 percent of modern river cruise ship staterooms face outside, many with floor-to-ceiling windows, affording panoramic views at every moment of villages, castles and vineyards. And, while deals drive megaship bookings, river cruising provides travelers a different value: A destination-focused vacation where in-port excursions and activities, as well as drinks and dining are included in the price of the cruise.
"Each time cruisers disembark from our contemporary river cruise ships, they are in a new location, often within walking distance of the village square or city center," says Patrick Clark, managing director of Avalon Waterways. "Our cruisers can not only experience metropolitan areas like Paris, Vienna, Budapest or Ho Chi Minh City, they'll cruise to off-the-beaten-path gems such as Bruges, Bernkastel and Durnstein, where travelers can take part in included excursions or even rent a bike to explore on their own."
For those interested in embarking on a river cruise for the first time, Avalon Waterways has created the following tips to choose the perfect, intimate escape:
New, newer or newest ship?
Clark says there's a whole new group of river cruise ships that has emerged since 2004. Older ships offer travelers limited space and views (with small windows that don't open). The new class of river cruise ships - including the industry's first "suite ships" - features large, contemporary spaces, as well as floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall windows that open wide to enjoy the fresh air and magnificent landscapes.
Room to relax and unwind.
With a new class of ships from which to choose the perfect cruise experience, travelers should pay attention to the square footage of their stateroom. While some ships feature 300-square-foot suites, others offer less than 130-square-foot spaces. Know what you're getting when you book (172- to 200-square-foot staterooms come standard with Avalon's fleet).
Choice and customization.
How important is choice on your cruise? Are you looking for choice in dining options, choice in your ship, choice in bed configuration, choice in enrichment activities and even choice in rivers and destinations? Do you want to customize your trip before you go? Go with a company that offers you the choice and personalization you crave.
Culture and cuisine
While most river cruise ships do not offer a variety of restaurants like megaships, it doesn't mean they don't offer a menu of options (something you should look for when you book). If you like light fare with grilled lunches or a la carte, local chef offerings, you should have that option. If you want to experience drinks off the ship at a local pub or grill, outdoor lunches on board, go for it. Choose a cruise and/or cruise line that marries cuisine and culture while catering to your dietary interests and needs.
Discovery by your design
On a river cruise, land programs should not be an afterthought. And these experiences should be offered as part of the inclusive price of your cruise. From guided tours to a customized sightseeing adventure, choose a company with a great reputation that offers a plethora of experiences. Also, consider booking a themed itinerary if you're interested in exploring a passion like food, wine, music, art, photography or history on your vacation.
For more information, visit www.avalonwaterways.com
or call (877) 380-1535.