River cruising is an easy, relaxing and increasingly luxurious way to explore a multitude of destinations from the Danube to the Mekong. Which? Travel helps you to choose your cruise.
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River cruising hasn't always evoked the glamorous image of its ocean-going counterpart, but the industry is changing rapidly.
Companies are now launching more luxurious vessels and itineraries are becoming more adventurous, navigating rivers in destinations such as Cambodia, China, Laos and Vietnam, along with the Rhine and Danube favourites.
Board, unpack and relax
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But despite becoming more exotic, river cruising is still easy. You board your boat, unpack and simply relax as your floating hotel takes you from one place to another, from iconic cities to historic centres to picture-postcard towns.
Boats usually moor close to cities or towns so you can explore alone, but as most river cruise lines include daily excursions in the price, you can also join a guided tour without worrying about cost.
In fact, budgeting is generally easy on river cruises as meals are included, and many cruise companies serve free drinks with dinner and have complimentary wi-fi. Some even include gratuities as well, so there is very little else to pay for.
The ease of travel, the joy of seeing so many places on one trip, and the ever-changing views of cities, towns, villages, hidden castles, craggy cliffs and luscious vineyards – viewed from the open sun deck or your cabin – is what river cruising is all about. All this without ever having to worry about feeling seasick.
River cruising: handy hints
As river cruising is all about the scenery, if you have room in the budget, book a cabin with a view. It's lovely to lie in bed and watch the fields, vineyards, or even a town go by.
Also, if you can, book with a company that includes as much as possible in the price so you don't have to worry about how much things cost when on holiday, or fret about how much to tip the crew. Specialist travel agents such as GoRiverCruise or Ponders can advise what each includes.
River cruise boats are small, holding on average 100-160 passengers, and don’t have facilities for kids, so families with young children should steer clear. However, they are educational for teens – giving them the chance to learn about the local history of the places you visit.
Their small size makes for a very friendly atmosphere, but for something even more intimate, how about a 12-passenger dahabiyya (traditional Egyptian sailboat) on the Nile, or a luxury hotel barge for between four and 12 people.
If you don’t like to fly, there are no-fly river cruises that use Eurostar trains from London to Lille, Paris or Brussels, and onwards using national high-speed rail services. It's a relaxing travel alternative for cruises on the Seine from Paris and Rhône from Lyon in France, and for itineraries that start in Amsterdam.