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The beginner’s guide to river cruising


The beginner’s guide to river cruising

story by: Anna Sarjeant

So you’ve been 'umming' and 'ahhing' over a river cruise. You’ve heard the glowing reviews and you have countless friends all raving about ​them. But you’re still unsure; you don’t know what to expect. You just wish someone would give you a clear lowdown on the entire thing.

Well my friend, consider it done. Here’s your definitive guide ​to river cruising.


1. It’s one of the most luxurious ways to travel
From five course a la carte dinners to suites that are plusher than your average 5* hotel room, luxury is the main theme when you’re river cruising. Staff will clean your shoes if you’ve visited anywhere even remotely dusty; you’ll never have to put your own napkin on your own lap, and the on-board manicurist means your fingers (which you won’t have to lift even once) will always be perfectly polished. A bit like the ship itself.  


2. You’re unlikely to get ‘sea sick’
A river cruise doesn't rock like a cruise ship. With sedate waters and a sturdy ship, you may, at times, feel a slight vibration but it’s nothing that will have you grabbing for the hand rails.  


3. You see an awful lot
Excursions every day; the likelihood of a new port every morning; no heavy road traffic to deal with. You see a huge amount in very little time.  


4. It’s a sociable affair
With guest numbers ranging from (on average) 130 - 170, you can’t hide amidst a sea of faces. Dining in particular, is a sociable affair. You’ll be encouraged to sit at a different table each evening and although you will find your favourites to dine with, it’s more common for table guests to interchange. Similarly, the crew are likely to know you by your first name within the first 45 minutes. It’s nice to remember theirs too – name badges do help with that.


​5. You’ll only unpack once
But you’ll also see half a dozen different places all in one trip. And that’s heaven. Possibly one of the biggest perks of river cruising is your floating hotel ship; distributing you from one amazing destination to another, and all the while your clothes stay in the same wardrobe, and your suitcase remains under the same bed.


​6. Everything is thought of and catered for
Unlike a trip that you may organise yourself, there’s no hanging about with a river cruise. No time wasted tracking down a taxi, or negotiating fares, or organising airport transfers. Getting from A to B is as simple as the ABC because it’s already done for you. Feeling parched after a day of sightseeing? There will be iced drinks and cold towels on your return to the boat. In dire need of a cup of tea? Someone’s already squeezing your bag and adding the milk. Not sure how to get into bed yourself? No worries, the nightly turn-down service will ensure your bed sheets are neatly folded back – with a bed mat indicating where you should climb in. Easy peasy.   


​7. Relaxation is key
Excursions are normally morning and afternoon, with a return to the ship for lunch. However, there is no requirement to leave the ship at all​. Stay aboard and do exactly what you please. Similarly, the ship doesn’t solely sail at night so when you’re on-board and it’s full steam ahead, take some time out to relax on the deck, ​visit the spa or go for a run in the gym.


​8. Entertainment is low key
Don’t expect razzle or dazzle. There are no jazz hands to be found here. River cruise entertainment usually includes on-board lectures (destination history, WWII experts), nightly movies and the company of a pianist and his singer. In some cases, local entertainment will be brought on-board. 


​9. Dress code on the ship is smart casual
Tittering towards comfortable. Ball gowns and tuxedos are not required. Comfort is key for most day excursions, whereas most guests will slip into something a little smarter for dinner. Imagine you’re going for an anniversary dinner and you’ll fit right in.

*** If you’re going on a cruise that includes excursions to religious hot spots, such as temples and monasteries, you may need cool and casual attire that also covers your shoulders and knees.

10. Consider how you’ll use your suite
River cruise suites are nothing short of exquisite. As roomy as a hotel room, the space is ample for two. The bathrooms are also generously sized; enough to swing a cat and a couple of kittens too. When deciding what level of luxury you want to enjoy, consider how much time you’ll actually be spending in the suite. With so many excursions, lectures, movies, culinary experiences and a glorious outdoor deck, you may find no use for a balcony. On the flip side, with such an intimate on-board environment, if you’re someone who appreciates solitude, you might like your personal sanctuary to be the biggest and most accommodating.


​11. A good travel agent will put you on the right cruise
Still confused/unsure/undecided if cruising is the way to go? Drop into your local House of ​Travel​ and have a chat with one of our experts. Even if it’s not a river cruise you're destined for, they’ll put you on the right ship.

Choose to cruise with one of these incredible ​cruise deals. 

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