River Cruising – Myth & Reality


Isn’t it overpriced?

In general river cruising can be considered expensive. However don’t forget that most river ships only carry 180 passengers, or less, and offer a five star experience.

You are paying for intimacy and quality. You cannot really compare the experience directly with a three or four star Ocean ship carrying 2,000+ passengers.

Some river lines include excursions, tips and all drinks, in their fare. Some even include transport to and from the ship, by bus/train/air.  This makes their fares look even more inflated, but if you do the maths,  it is probably a much better deal than it first appears.

There are of course some budget river ships/lines, although they are rarely very cheap.  These are often based on older river ships. I’m not suggesting that they all offer a poor product, but you should expect the standards of food and accommodation etc. to match the lower fares. However don’t expect a five star product for a three star fare, it never happens.

Isn’t it for very old people?

River cruising does appeal  to a more mature age group, but so does a lot of ocean cruising.

You are unlikely to find any families with children, on-board most river ships.  However  you will probably find at least some 30, 40 and 50 somethings on-board.

Many river ships appeal to a variety of nations, so the passenger mix is often multi-national.

Isn’t it  boring?

River cruising is often more sedate and more relaxing, than ocean cruising. There is not the range of public rooms or facilities on-board a river ships, compared to an ocean ship. However I would never call the experience boring. The ever changing scenery and a new port of call each day often ensures that.

The only aspect that I found a little un-stimulating was the laid back evenings and a lack of variety of the entertainment. There is no dedicated theatre or large show lounge on-board a river ship.

The river ship will probably have a low-key duo (vocals and keyboards) playing pop songs, in the main lounge, each evening. There will be a small dance floor. Classical musicians or local artist may occasionally be invited on-board. You may get the occasional enrichment lecture.

Some river cruise lines are a little better in the entertainment department than others. One line has a small cinema, for example.  However you are never going to get full blown production shows like those on-board most ocean ships.

Aren’t river ships are small and cramped?

They are certainly so much smaller than ocean ships, but they carry so many less passengers. Many operating on European rivers carry under 200 passengers. However this actually makes river ships quite spacious and uncrowded.

On their sun decks, there are normally enough loungers for every passenger. What ocean ship can boast that?

Normally there is one restaurant, one bar and one lounge, with just one sitting for dinner. If the food and service are good, how many restaurants do you need?

The standard cabins and standard suites on newer river ships are of a similar size to standard accommodation on-board the newer ocean ships. Most cabins on newer river ships have a Juliette balcony or a  drop-down window.

You normally do not get ‘inside’ cabins on river ships, but there are often cabins partially below the water line with a very small window, the cheapest grade. You are unlikely to find very big suites or duplex apartments on-board most river ships.

Are all river ships the same design?

Many of the new river ships are somewhat similar and may even come from the same  shipyard. However there are several newer vessels that are double width.

Older river vessels may be shorter and carry less passengers. There are some older vessels with complete different layouts, to the new ships.

Will the crew speak English on-board?

Most ships cruising on European waterways have English as one of their main languages. Most of the crew will be fluent.

Can you still get seasick on a river?

I suppose it’s not impossible, but it is very, very unlikely.

There are no waves on rivers. Normally no water movement is felt at all while the boat is travelling, unlike a ship on the open ocean.

You may feel and hear a little engine noise and vibration, particularly in cabins located at the stern, on the deck nearest the engines.  However this should not be too severe.

If the river conditions are poor,  will my river get cancelled?

River levels (too high or low) can adversely affect your river cruise, depending on the river.

If this is the case, the river ship may be used as static hotel and you are bussed to the ports. It’s not ideal, but it’s still a holiday.

Are the itineraries on offer very limited?

There is actually a wide choice of itineraries offered by numerous river cruise lines with many ships to choose from.  There are luxury products and more affordable ones.

There are a surprising number of long rivers in Europe too. It is very possible to visit multiple countries on one itineraries. River cruises are often 7-14 days in duration, but there are longer and short itineraries too.

There are river cruises on offer around the world, such as in America, China, Russia, Vietnam and Cambodia. The only limiting factors are your imagination and possibly your wallet!


Is a river cruise for you? See my ‘Amadeus Silver II ‘ review where I compare river cruises to ocean cruises HERE

Amadeus Elegant, my second river cruise review HERE