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River cruising provides a unique travel experience




River cruising is one of the fastest-growing segments in the travel industry. Sleeker ships, larger cabins, a range of culinary options and a wide diversity of itineraries and shore excursions are all contributing to the explosion in popularity.

    The Beatrice cruises on the Danube past Passau, Germany.

    In Europe alone, there are more than 346 active river cruise ships (the largest fleet in the world), and the number of active river cruise vessels more than doubled between 2004 and last year. And shipyards are at capacity, building even more vessels.

    The new ships have arrived with changed exteriors and cutting-edge interiors, including larger cabins and suites, floor-to-ceiling cabin windows and multiple onboard dining choices.

      On the Maria Theresa in Budapest, Hungary.

      I’ve been taking river cruises for nearly 20 years, on rivers in the Netherlands and through France, along the Mekong and the Amazon, and I’ve always been attracted to the all-inclusive approach as well as the pace and style of these ships. You’re not traveling fast. You sail on waterways where commerce began, between small towns and postcard-perfect villages. And when you arrive, you can immediately immerse yourself in the local culture.

      With itineraries that can range from several days to nearly three weeks, the world of river cruising is attracting a whole new generation of cruisers (the percentage of river cruisers born after 1965 recently caught up to the number of older passengers). And whether they are sailing on the Rhine, the Elbe, the Loire, the Danube, the Yangtze or the Mekong, the number of repeat river cruise passengers is growing.

      And while oceangoing cruise ships continue to get bigger, even the newest and largest river cruise ships must remain limited in size and dimension, because there is a maximum depth and width limit for ships to be able to sail in shallow water and pass through river locks around the world. This means the number of guests per ship is small, and you’re guaranteed a more intimate travel experience.

      It’s not just the size of the ships that is a big attraction, but the activities too, especially the on-board cuisine. Some river cruise lines offer a specialty chef’s table experience with multicourse wine pairings or chef excursions to local markets and stops at Michelin-starred restaurants.

        Enjoying coffee on the sundeck in Austria. UNIWORLD® BOUTIQUE RIVER CRUISE COLLECTION

        Wine lovers have an array of river cruise choices in France. And cruises on one of the most-traveled European rivers, the Douro, offer tastings of classic European wines as well as port.

        Many river cruises cater to families, with life-size chess pieces and lessons, activities for teens and theme nights. Another attraction for families is the extension of the river cruise season into school winter holidays, with itineraries that include stops at centuries-old European Christmas markets, making gingerbread, waltz lessons at a private palace in Vienna and a visit to Oberdorf, the Austrian village where "Silent Night" made its public debut in 1818.

        In Asia, a popular river cruise itinerary is a 13-day/12-night trip along the Mekong River. You travel through Vietnam and China in French colonial style, with teak floors and furniture, with visits to a floating market and the world’s largest temple complex.

        One important note: River cruise itineraries are directly governed by the water level on the rivers. The 2018 European drought caused some surprise cruise port alterations, but also provided pleasant and unexpected experiences.

        For example, in one instance a cruise had to be diverted to a different port—Grein, a small Austrian village in the shadow of a centuries-old family-owned castle. The countess herself came down to greet the ship.

          U River Cruises

          U River Cruises introduces the next generation of river cruising—for the next generation of river cruisers. These millennial-focused cruises—which are not all-inclusive—sail on the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers. Part boutique hotel, part yacht, part local hot spot, the cruises offer farm-to-table on-board cuisine and fun day excursions at hip European destinations.

          Other features include a rooftop deck and lounge; a 24-hour coffee bar; mixology, painting and wine classes; soothing massages and beauty treatments; a gym; and more. Waterfront views are enjoyed by all cabins, and each stateroom has its own private luxe marble bathroom.—T. Foster Jones

            River cruising is one of the fastest-growing segments in the travel industry. Sleeker ships, larger cabins, a range of culinary options and a wide diversity of itineraries and shore excursions are all contributing to the explosion in popularity.

              The Beatrice cruises on the Danube past Passau, Germany.

              In Europe alone, there are more than 346 active river cruise ships (the largest fleet in the world), and the number of active river cruise vessels more than doubled between 2004 and last year. And shipyards are at capacity, building even more vessels.

              The new ships have arrived with changed exteriors and cutting-edge interiors, including larger cabins and suites, floor-to-ceiling cabin windows and multiple onboard dining choices.

                On the Maria Theresa in Budapest, Hungary.

                I’ve been taking river cruises for nearly 20 years, on rivers in the Netherlands and through France, along the Mekong and the Amazon, and I’ve always been attracted to the all-inclusive approach as well as the pace and style of these ships. You’re not traveling fast. You sail on waterways where commerce began, between small towns and postcard-perfect villages. And when you arrive, you can immediately immerse yourself in the local culture.

                With itineraries that can range from several days to nearly three weeks, the world of river cruising is attracting a whole new generation of cruisers (the percentage of river cruisers born after 1965 recently caught up to the number of older passengers). And whether they are sailing on the Rhine, the Elbe, the Loire, the Danube, the Yangtze or the Mekong, the number of repeat river cruise passengers is growing.

                And while oceangoing cruise ships continue to get bigger, even the newest and largest river cruise ships must remain limited in size and dimension, because there is a maximum depth and width limit for ships to be able to sail in shallow water and pass through river locks around the world. This means the number of guests per ship is small, and you’re guaranteed a more intimate travel experience.

                It’s not just the size of the ships that is a big attraction, but the activities too, especially the on-board cuisine. Some river cruise lines offer a specialty chef’s table experience with multicourse wine pairings or chef excursions to local markets and stops at Michelin-starred restaurants.

                  Enjoying coffee on the sundeck in Austria. UNIWORLD® BOUTIQUE RIVER CRUISE COLLECTION

                  Wine lovers have an array of river cruise choices in France. And cruises on one of the most-traveled European rivers, the Douro, offer tastings of classic European wines as well as port.

                  Many river cruises cater to families, with life-size chess pieces and lessons, activities for teens and theme nights. Another attraction for families is the extension of the river cruise season into school winter holidays, with itineraries that include stops at centuries-old European Christmas markets, making gingerbread, waltz lessons at a private palace in Vienna and a visit to Oberdorf, the Austrian village where "Silent Night" made its public debut in 1818.

                  In Asia, a popular river cruise itinerary is a 13-day/12-night trip along the Mekong River. You travel through Vietnam and China in French colonial style, with teak floors and furniture, with visits to a floating market and the world’s largest temple complex.

                  One important note: River cruise itineraries are directly governed by the water level on the rivers. The 2018 European drought caused some surprise cruise port alterations, but also provided pleasant and unexpected experiences.

                  For example, in one instance a cruise had to be diverted to a different port—Grein, a small Austrian village in the shadow of a centuries-old family-owned castle. The countess herself came down to greet the ship.

                    U River Cruises

                    U River Cruises introduces the next generation of river cruising—for the next generation of river cruisers. These millennial-focused cruises—which are not all-inclusive—sail on the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers. Part boutique hotel, part yacht, part local hot spot, the cruises offer farm-to-table on-board cuisine and fun day excursions at hip European destinations.

                    Other features include a rooftop deck and lounge; a 24-hour coffee bar; mixology, painting and wine classes; soothing massages and beauty treatments; a gym; and more. Waterfront views are enjoyed by all cabins, and each stateroom has its own private luxe marble bathroom.—T. Foster Jones


                      Image of Peter Greenburg

                      Peter Greenberg is the multiple–Emmy Award–winning travel editor for CBS News and host of The Travel Detective on public television (petergreenberg.com).


                       
                       
                       
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