River cruising really is brilliant. It’s everything luxury cruising is, but in a tidy, intimate package – beautiful boats and accommodations, decadent dining and free-flowing wine, and authentic, small-group shore excursions. River cruising allows a front-row seat on the most famous waterways in the world and brings you directly into cities and villages the mega-ships can’t access. So, is it worth the splurge? Let’s take a look at what you can expect on a luxury river cruise, then you decide (hint: we give it a resounding “Yes!”
Loads of Shore Excursions
Luxury river cruise operators – think AmaWaterways and Viking River Cruises – put their destination expertise to great use when curating their small-group shore excursions. You’ll usually be offered more than one choice at each port and you’ll explore with 15 or fewer other passengers – less like a herd and more like a group of extended family and friends. You might be hiking, biking, walking, visiting a winery, painting or even taking a cooking class. Self-guided tours, and those for “gentle walkers,” are usually part of the offerings.
Wake up in your luxury river cruise suite, open the blinds, and voila! the scenery is floating by, practically within arm’s reach. Most upscale river cruise vessels have really upped the ante on their accommodations, with double sets of windows, French balconies, spacious measurements and well-appointed décor. For the best choices, look to the newer classes of ships with each company, including the S.S. series of ships with UniWorld, the Veranda suites on Viking’s Longships or the Deluxe Master Suites on Delfin Amazon Cruises’ Delfin I.
Foodies can expect to be wowed on a luxury river cruise, with restaurant-quality options. Typically, you will be offered open seating and flexible dining times, then treated to the highest-quality ingredients and haute cuisine presentations. Plus, most river cruise companies make it a point to celebrate each destination with local flavors – think German sausages and Austrian desserts along the Rhine and French specialties (and wine!) on the Rhone River.
No Tipping, Butlers and All the Extras
From unlimited beverages on many luxury river cruise ships (Scenic and APT, for example) to beer, wine and soft drinks with meals (Emerald and Avalon), you won’t be nickel and dimed as you sip the libations of your destination. Speaking of extra charges, you won’t see a lot of those either. You can expect that WiFi, airport-ship transfers, some exercise classes and hikes, even free laundry service for suite passengers, will all be included in your fare. Tipping is usually also included in the fare, so you don’t need to worry about figuring out how much to spread around to staff at the end of your vacation. And, finally, the extraordinary level of personal service – even included butler attendance in some suites – sets luxury river cruising apart. You’ll never hear “no” and you may get used to breakfast served in bed!
August 4, 2023