River Cruising Top Benefits
Having just returned from my fifth river cruise, I wanted to share why I love this style of travel so much. I continue to have such positive experiences on various cruise lines and different European rivers. There are distinctions, of course, and I’ve written about those in previous blogs, but what doesn’t differ are my three favorite reasons for continuing to appreciate this way of seeing Europe.
First and foremost is how intimate this experience is. Let me qualify that, because although the ships are reasonably small and the staff so courteous that they make you feel like family, that isn’t what I’m referring to here. I’m talking about being intimate with the towns and cities that you get to visit during your cruise. Unlike ocean cruising, where you can be docked two hours away from the European city you want to visit, the river cruise ships often dock right in the center of the town. Think of an old fishing village on the river, where the port wasn’t necessarily an industrial port, but one for smaller vessels to bring in the fish or trade from other neighboring ports.
You step off your ship into a different century of cobblestone streets lined with shops housing local produce, meats and baked goods interspersed amidst houses cared for with pride. The church is usually at the center of the town and a source of history, but don’t miss out on the local cafes where you can sample the best baked goods with a coffee or the local beer brewed in that city.
That brings me to my second favorite thing about river cruising, and that’s the opportunity to explore the destination at your own pace. The cruise line includes daily guided tours, so if you want to learn the history of the town or country, the local guides are a great source of information. If you prefer just wandering on your own and being immersed in the local culture, you also have the option to do that. And often, you can do both! Take a guided tour in the morning and then take the afternoon to explore on your own. Some of my fondest memories include speaking with a person who has lived in that town and their experience of that area.
My third reason for enjoying the river cruise experience is the food provided onboard the ship. You certainly have the opportunity to dine in local restaurants off the ship if you prefer, but the meals served onboard the ship often have a local flare. The chefs not only prepare menu items from the region you’re sailing through, they also shop locally and the beautiful produce you saw in the open market in town is what’s being served to you onboard your ship! I have enjoyed sausages in Germany, crepes in France and some of the best cheeses from the Netherlands onboard a river cruise ship. There are also local wines brought onboard, including Rieslings from the Rhine and Cotes du Rhone from the Rhone river valley.
There are MANY more reasons that I love to river cruise and I could write on and on, but suffice it to say this is my kind of travel experience! I’m headed back to Europe at the end of the week to take a group on another river cruise on the Seine in France and I truly hope that they come back raving about their vacation. If you have specific questions about river cruising, a certain river or particular cruise line, please contact us, we love to share our experiences!