Is river cruising right for you?
A cruise vacation can be one of your most memorable experiences. Choose the wrong cruise, however, and it can ruin your vacation. If you’re trying to decide to take a river cruise or an ocean cruise, have a look at my nine reasons why you might not want to take a river cruise after all.
You might not want a river cruise if:
1. You prefer to wait in lines with a few thousand fellow passengers. Ocean: 900-5,000 passengers vs. River: 8-190 passengers.
2. You like to dine in a different restaurant each night and love all the different culinary options. River ships have one or two specialty dining experiences, not 20.
3. You’d rather pay a premium for your wine, beer and cocktails. Most river cruise ships everywhere include wine and beer at lunch and dinner. In America, river cruise lines include a complimentary cocktail hour.
4. You don’t mind having to pay for shore excursions. Tours are included on river cruises, except for an occasional optional tour in a special city.
5. You’d rather rush after dinner to catch the daring acrobats or juggler perform in the main show room than walk a few feet to the main lounge to hear a local performer sing French ballads or enjoy classical quartet.
6. A motor coach ride from an industrial port to the nearest shopping mall has more appeal than the ability to walk from your river ship right into medieval towns, charming cafés and historic ruins.
7. If you’d prefer to travel with your toddlers than your parents then river cruises aren’t for you. There are no onboard programs for very small children. However, a few river cruise lines now offer a handful of family-oriented cruises in Europe.
8. The idea of a catamaran booze cruise in the sunny Caribbean is much more appealing to you than a pub crawl in Germany or wine tasting in Oregon.
9. You’re on a budget. River cruises are an expensive vacation option. While you can easily find a $50 per person per night Caribbean cruise, a river cruise isn’t a cheap getaway. They can range from $300 – $750 per night per person. But if you factor in all the extras that you pay for on an ocean cruise, a river cruise might be within reach.
There you have it; nine reasons not to take a river cruise.
If you simply can’t vacation without unsurpassed, broadway-style entertainment, a dazzling array of dining options and dozens of innovative onboard activities, stick with ocean cruises. If you said no to any or all of the above items, you might seriously fall in love with river cruises.
I’m the editor and creator of CruiseMaven.com, a solo traveler cruising the world on waves and wheels, collecting recipes along the way. I hope my articles and photos entertain, advise and inspire you to travel the world without flying. Take a breath…stop for a local meal and a glass of wine along the way.
Sherry Laskin says
Thank you for sharing your thoughts on river cruising. I’m not sure who “Charles” is, though, as I travel solo. That said, you assessment on what happens when there’s low (or high) water is pretty accurate. The Middle Rhine stretch (or Romantic Rhine) only takes about 3 1/2 hours to navigate and see 30+ castles and fortresses. From Koblenz onward to Amsterdam, you’re right…it’s very industrial. And then there’s Cologne in the middle and I love Cologne. From Basel to Koblenz is beautiful, too.
Yes, there are issues that can arise on river cruises that you really don’t hear about in the commercials or read in the brochures. Maybe you should try a river cruise in America? Though there still can be low water and locks breakdown, too.
Thanks for your thoughts. Happy (river) cruising!
Judy Sickles says
I wish someone had shared the CONS of river cruising with me before we booked ours. We did not have the great experience you and Charles had. But this is not meant to be a negative post either but more an informative post so that others get the whole picture rather than just the glorified version the cruise lines advertise. We were on a highly acclaimed European River cruise line. The pictures you see on the Rhine River cruises with all the castles and quaint villages are all exact and beautiful but all seen on one day of cruising. It’s called the Middle Rhine. Everything else is very industrialized on the Rhine and there are barges continuously coming and going. We were astonished to see how flat most of the area on the Rhine is…not mountainous as shown. If the river is low, be prepared to miss ports and/or change boats….which means packing and unpacking again. You do get refunded for missed excursions.We were transferred by bus (3 hours) to a day-cruiser ship so we didn’t miss the Middle Rhine while our rooms on the new boat were prepared and our luggage transferred. A low river also means gangplanks at an angle of 30-45 degrees…dangerous! We are in our 60’s and found it difficult. My husband was actually helping older passengers. We felt the crew should have been helping but they were not. The majority of our excursions (the ones included and the extras we booked) required a bus drive…some as long as 2 hours one way. Most of the excursions were fabulous! However, some are very strenuous walking with no time or place to rest so there’s lots of standing and one medieval castle tour actually locks the door behind you. The only exit is forward and there’s no handrails. But with all that said, the very best reason to take the river cruise is the friends you will make. On an ocean cruise, you are lost among the crowds. You rarely see the same people twice unless they are at your assigned dinner seating. We made life long friends!! It was an experience we won’t repeat but one we will never forget either!!
Sherry Kennedy says
Hi Charles, Thanks for your positive comment! What’s not to love about a river cruise!