With more than 40 new river cruise ships launching in 2015, travelers have even more choice of onboard offerings, destinations and ships. To help holidaymakers learn more about this rapidly expanding sector, Cruise Critic® the world's largest cruise reviews site and cruise community, breaks down some of the myths and misconceptions of river cruising.
"With so many new ships offering better facilities, exciting itineraries and excursions, river cruise lines are really improving the overall experience to appeal to a broader audience. This is a great time for anyone interested in this type of travel, and we want to help dispel some of the long-standing assumptions people have that may deter them from trying a river cruise," explains Cruise Critic editor, Jamey Bergman.
1. Bring the kids - river cruising is great for the whole family A river cruise may not provide the wealth of kids' activities that many ocean cruises or family resorts do, but provides a more traditional holiday experience. Children can become immersed in new cultures and share memorable experiences with the whole family.
For example, Tauck River Cruising offers all-inclusive river cruise packages tailored to families, which include cultural activities, such as dinner served in a castle and a visit to a French ranch. This week, Adventures by Disney, announced the launch of its first river cruising itineraries in a partnership with AmaWaterways. In 2016, Adventures by Disney will take families through Europe to experience cultural, immersive experiences, such as visiting scenes from the "The Sound of Music" in Salzburg and exploring Devin Castle in Bratislava. There are onboard activities catering for everyone, with wine tasting, music, dancing, and fine cuisine for adults. For children, offerings include movies and karaoke, while teens will also find events tailored to them. CroisiEurope is another family-friendly line, and has cruises during school holidays to Spain, Portugal, Italy and Croatia, with children aged 16 and under invited to travel free-of-charge on these sailings.
2. River cruising isn't limited to Europe Brand-new itineraries in more far-flung and adventurous destinations, such as Burma and the Amazon, have expanded river cruising beyond Europe, and even within Europe the options continue to grow.
Many of the river cruise lines now have ships in Asia, such as AmaWaterways, Viking and Avalon. South America is an emerging river destination, and Lindblad Expeditions, for example, offers sailings aboard Delfin II enabling passengers to participate in kayaking, hikes and view the wildlife of the Amazon.
3. You can explore the rivers in luxury Luxury is increasingly being incorporated within the river cruise experience – making it easier to pamper yourself. Luxury river cruise operators include Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection and Belmond. For the ultimate lavish experience, Sanctuary Retreats has some of the largest suites on the rivers, and top-tier cabins all offer butler service. Meals include local produce hand selected by the ship's chefs, and guests can even opt for a private dining experience in the ship's library.
4. A river cruise can offer excellent value River cruises are highly inclusive, making it easy to stay within a budget. River cruises include transport between destinations (via ship), daily onboard meals or packed lunches, some drinks (most include alcohol with lunch and dinner), and many incorporate tours and excursions. Do bear in mind, however, that while river cruise lines serve a good (and usually plentiful) three meals a day, many don't include free snacks outside of meal times. When booking your cruise, if something initially seems pricey, do clarify exactly what is included within that price – you may be pleasantly surprised.
5. River cruising is making changes to suit all ages Traditionally, a river cruise was all about the destination and scenery, with the entertainment simple, and activities fairly limited. However, this is changing as operators and agents target promotions to attract a wider market. While the itinerary remains important, cruise lines are adapting ships to provide an enhanced onboard experience, and appeal to younger cruisers.
AmaWaterways is improving the onboard experience to encourage a wider range of guests. New additions, on select ships, include heated pools with swim-up bars on the top deck, new spa areas and cabins with interconnecting doors, popular with groups and families. Following the recent launch of Emerald Sun and Emerald Dawn, Emerald Waterways' portfolio now comprises four ships which all include a dual-purpose area that transforms from an indoor, heated pool with retractable roof during the day, to a cinema at night.