I recently returned from my first river cruise experience! My husband and I had a great time cruising on the Danube for a week between Budapest and Germany. Let’s talk about all the good stuff first!
The river boats dock in the heart of the cities and villages. There is no tendering, waiting in security lines or long bus transfers. It was so fun waking up in a different village or country each day! This is one of my favorite things about river cruising.
Ease of Travel
River cruising is similar to a land tour; in that you’re able to visit more of the interior of countries (unlike ocean ship cruises). With only having to unpack once and not having to change hotels – this makes for such a stress free and relaxing vacation!
More Inclusive Vacation
On most river cruise lines drinks are included with every meal(alcohol, sodas, specialty coffees). There is also one complimentary tour in each port (mainly walking tours – but we also enjoyed the included visit to Gottweig Abbey in the Wachau Valley). Another nice perk on Viking was the WiFi included in our cruise fare.
Longer Port Days
With the short travel distances; the port days are much longer compared to most ocean cruise itineraries. This enables time for multiple tours or to enjoy evenings in the city or villages. We especially liked being able to try local restaurants for dinner.
Along with the included options; there are numerous unique tour choices on river cruises. Along with participating in one included tour – we ventured to the countryside for a farm visit. It was a fun afternoon learning their farming methods and tasting their house made dairy products. My husband and I found river cruise passengers to be very curious travelers that joined in all the tours.
If you’re looking for a night life scene or larger scale performances – a river cruise is not the best choice for you. It’s definitely an earlier to bed, earlier to rise clientele (everything shuts down by 10-11pm). On most evenings – Viking brought in local entertainers from the nearby villages (The Sound of Music short musical performance was a popular one in Austria). There is an onboard piano player who also serves as the DJ some evenings. 🙂
Due to the size of the river boats – staterooms are much smaller than what you may be used to on an ocean cruise. All the cabins have windows, french balconies, or a bit “larger” verandahs – all fairly similar in size. On some river cruise lines there are more stateroom options – but on each Viking Longship there are only 2 suites; which have a separate bedroom and living area.
To begin with; the food is terrific and I really enjoyed the daily regional dishes (the quality is top notch) of each place we visited. Lunch and dinner are only available at the scheduled times (breakfast a bit more flexible) and during the off hours there are only very small snacks available (cookies/pastries). Viking doesn’t have room service (this is available on a few of the other river cruise lines). I understand it’s a small kitchen/staff, but this more rigid eating schedule is a big con for me.
Overall, a river cruise is an exceptional way to travel! It has become one of the most popular vacations for my clients and I look forward to river cruising in another part of the world on my next one.
Until the next adventure – bon voyage!