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Europe – Why River Cruising Is Gaining On Cruise Ships

Written by: Kuki

River cruising is “THE hot thing” in cruising right now, and I don’t expect that trend to be short lived. So, I thought I should look at what may be the reasons for the trend.

I must start by saying that I have never been on a river cruise, and to date, for my tastes, I don’t have any particular inner drive to try one. Mrs. Kuki, on the other hand just loves the idea, and is therefore building pressure for us to go on one. Who do you think is going to win in that discussion?

To be fair (and to be prepared for our “discussion” on the matter) I should look at the pros and cons of a river cruise vs a Europen cruise on a cruise ship… as I perceive them.

Probably the most attractive thing about river cruises is the access to the towns and cities which the larger cruise ships (and even smaller ones) can’t get to.

People are naturally drawn to the “slow boat to …” method of travel, where the river cruises meander their way through rivers, enjoying the scenery slowly moving by, with the river boats docking basically right in the middle of the towns and cities where they dock.

Also, the river cruise ship, carry a much (!!!) smaller passenger load. Upon arrival in port, you are not disembarking the vessel with 3,000 – 5.000 other passengers.

In Europe it is true that if you’re sailing on a cruise ship, once the ship docks you often face long travel times to get to the major sites you’ll want to visit. When a port visit by a cruise ship might last 10 to 14 hours, it is a drawback to have to spend a third of that time on simply getting to and from (whether by tour bus, car/taxi, or limo). In addition, of course, there is the matter of the expense of the tours and transportation.

The combination makes the time spent on a European cruise very busy, and with long travel times, can be quite tiring. So the ease and pace of river cruising does seem to have an edge in this department.

If outside communication is important to you (as it is to me, as I’m normally writing for CruiseMates while on a ship) , that too is normally easier on a river cruise. Most of the river cruise companies offer complimentary Internet access, and you can pretty easily purchase a European SIM card for your cell phones, and because the ship is on a river, closer to cell phone towers, it’s much simpler to call home (or work) via cell phone, as opposed to accessing very expensive “Cellular @ sea” access.

Now, since I’ve yet to experience a river cruise, you might think it difficult for me to talk about the food on river cruises, however, from what I’ve found in researching, and heard from experienced voices I know and trust, I believe the food on most of the popular river cruise lines is quite good.

Though I am not a gourmand (by any stretch of the imagination) the wide variety of dining on cruise ships is one thing I really like and enjoy on cruise ships. I simply love all the alternatives available on today’s modern cruise liners. If only due to space limitations, I have little doubt the river cruises just aren’t capable of providing the same number of alternative venues, and choices. Therefore, that is something I (and you if you’re considering a river cruiser) would likely have to compromise the standard I look for in that area.

Shipboard life; the wide variety of entertainment options and activities, including the various lounges, casinos, etc. are a big part of my enjoyment of the cruise experience.  That is one of the things I truly enjoy of the modern cruise ship experience; the ability to travel and see, while still enjoying all the creature comforts of a lively land resort.

And I honestly I am not sure river cruises could even compete in this area.

So the reality is not that I couldn’t see myself enjoying a river cruise. But I do question if they would suit “my style”.  And I have always advised people to find the right fit before booking a cruise. Should I ignore my own advise?

Of course Mrs. Kuki says I have no style.

- A View From The Kuki Side of Cruising -

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Comments

Comment from Kenneth Eden
Time March 27, 2013 at 5:47 am

Gourmand – a person driven to glutony, excess in eating, regardless of quality of food.

That said,

I am not at all interested in river cruising. Tried it once on the Mississippi and hated it – both the river boat and the ports, the food, and the horrid Dixie Land crap.

That said, on a river cruise you are at the mercy of what the ship operators provide, as is the case on a sea cruise.

And, that also said, from the many reviews and comments from actual passengers that I have met, the food can be good or truly awful, again, the cruise operators doing.

And even with that being said, if the river water is too high, too low, too “fast a current” and so forth, buses wil be used to get you along the river, not the boat.

And finally, many of the stinky little ports are just mere cities of no consequence, not all major classy cities in Europe are on the river.

Gourmet or gourmand, give me the good old
salt air and the real deal.

Oh, lest I forget, you still get only ONE day in port on 98.3% of European river cruises, AND you MUST spend Euros.

A good alternate and much money, Barge Trips, but then, yoo are on a barge with as little as 6 people, and then again, mercy be, if the barge crew hates good food and wine, you are stuck.

Comment from Steve
Time March 29, 2013 at 6:08 pm

Kenneth,
I am sorry, but your are so off base about river cruises. To call Budapest, Vienna and Amsterdam “stinky little ports” shows you have no concept of a river cruise. I agree that a Mississippi cruise is boring, but it cannot compare to a cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam with all the historic cities along the way,
As far as spending Euros, so what?? You change your dollars into Euros. I remember on an ocean cruise when we were in Italy, France, Spain and Portugal and had to have the local currency for all those countries

Comment from Kenneth Eden
Time March 30, 2013 at 5:36 am

By no way and by no figment of some dilutional imagination was my implication that
Budapest, Vienna or Amsterdam are stinky little ports, they are world class cities.

If one can read then one would read and digest what was written above, stinky little referes to just that, and not all ports are in major cities.

As for Euros, if people want to spend money, then, they will have to spend Euros and that is an accepted fact.

Comment from Kenneth Eden
Time March 30, 2013 at 5:40 am

River cruises in Europe are getting to be a major force in travel.

Viking River Cruises has ten brand new long boats ready to enter service.

Viking River also has formed a brand new cruise line, Viking Ocean Cruises, with four brand new 48,000 tonners on line, with the formative help of former titans from the famed Royal Viking Line .

Comment from Steve
Time March 30, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Furthermore, you cannot compare a Mississippi River cruise where all you see are the levees and the tops of buildings to cruise up the Rhine seeing all the cities and castles. That is like comparing apples to lemons.
As far as the issue of Euros, if you are on an ocean cruise through the Med, for example, you will have to spend Euros!

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