Photo courtesy of AmaWaterways
River cruising and barging has grown exponentially over the past few years, and options continue to expand. For those who have been on the rivers and love the experience, new and varying choices are exciting but can become overwhelming. For those new to the experience, all these options can certainly be daunting.
But selecting the right river cruise doesn't need to be any of this.
Following these steps will help narrow down your choices on finding a good match.
1. Ask yourself "Is river cruising for me?"
I always ask my clients why they are thinking "rivers" and what attracted them to this experience.
The answers are especially important when they are experienced ocean cruisers. An ocean cruise experience is very different from a river cruise. The size of ship alone tells you that certain amenities will not be available on a river cruise. These are important to know to manage one's expectations. For example, if active nightlife options or Broadway style entertainment is a must have, river cruising may not be for you.
2. Where do you want to go?
Photos courtesy of AmaWaterways
You have choices in Europe, Africa, Asia and in the US. Europe alone has ten major waterways to explore , with multiple itineraries to consider (not to mention all the canals if barging is more your style). One of the first things you need to do is determine what region of the world you want to visit.
Not sure? I suggest looking at your hobbies and special interests. Do you like museums? Are you a foodie, love wine or beer? An art lover? A US History buff? Interested in in visiting iconic cities or castles and chateaus? Prefer active vacations? Hobbies and interests are a great way to narrow down itineraries for their unique experiences. Not all cruise lines cater to every type of interest, so this will naturally narrow down the options as well.
3. When do you want to go?
Certain itineraries are available only during specific times. For example, in Europe, do you want to see the tulips in bloom? This means a cruise during late March to early May. Christmas Markets on the agenda? These start in late November and end around New Year's Day.
Do you want to avoid the heat, rainy season, crowds? This will help determine whether you travel during peak, shoulder or low seasons. TIP: When you travel will have an impact on your overall budget.
4. What types of activities are important to you?
Photos courtesy of AmaWaterways
Cruise lines offer a wide variety of activities and excursions for all types of interests and activity levels. Themed cruises include beer and wine, golf, cultural heritage and art focuses. Excursions include guided walking, bike or bus tours, immersive and exclusive experiences. Some ships offer wellness programs, including bicycles, yoga, pools and workout rooms.
What you want to see, how immersive you want to get and how active you want to be will help narrow down the best cruise line for you. TIP: Take note of the excursions being offered. Some offer one in each port. Others offer multiple options to choose from. Others offer exclusive experiences.
5. What is your budget?
What is the amount you can realistically invest on your vacation? Cruises come in various price points, so your budget will narrow down which lines to review.
Most fares include accommodation, on-board meals, certain beverages during lunch and dinner and standard tour excursions. Airfare, travel insurance, drinks (outside of meals and on some cruise lines all alcoholic beverages), gratuities, premium excursions, pre/post cruise stays, meals off the ship, transfers, souvenirs and incidentals all need to be considered in the total budget. Other considerations that impact your budget: when you travel and type of cabin you choose.
Luxury lines like Crystal, Scenic, Tauck and Uniworld offer more inclusive pricing and exclusive experiences - thus a higher base fare than the premium or budget lines (who have more of an "a la carte" approach).
From the outside river cruises (and barges) look very similar. Most ships are all the same size, with 3 decks, a sundeck, a restaurant, lounge and similar sized cabins. So what are the differences?
While not a perfect process, answering the above questions will help you discover the differences and what is important to you. Each cruise brand has a unique personality and the differences are "What they offer on the inside." Some differences are very noticeable, others more nuanced. But as they say, the little things add up.
The best choice? What ever is most important to you and your style.
Want more details on river and barge cruising?
Call Lakama Luxury Travel at 602.540.7338,
or complete this simple form and we will contact you.
Here to help you understand the differences and make the best choice.
Laurie Marschall - Owner and Founder