River Cruising – Myth & Reality


Isn’t it overpriced?

In general river cruising is 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 it with a three or four star Ocean ship carrying 2,000+ passengers.

Some river lines include excursions, tips and all drinks, in their fare. This makes their fares look even more inflated, but if you do the maths,  it is probably a better deal than it first appears.

There are of course some budget river ships/lines.  These are often based on older river boats. 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 there is no shame if you get what you have paid for, as long as you do not expect five star product for a three star fare.

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 a river ships.  However  you will probably find at least some 30, 40 and 50 somethings on-board.

Isn’t it  boring?

River cruising is sedate and relaxing, but generally not 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. The river ship will probably have a duo (vocals and keyboards)playing low-key pop songs.

Some river cruise lines are a little better in this department than others. 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. This makes river ships quite spacious.

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 boats are of a similar size to those on-board newer ocean ships. Most cabins on newer river ships have a Juliette balcony of drop-down window.

No one will speak English on-board

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

You can 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 severe.

If the river is too high or too low your cruise will get cancelled

River levels can adversely affect your river cruise. If this is the case, the river boat may be used as static hotel and you are bussed to the ports. It’s not ideal, but it’s still a holiday.

The itineraries are very limited

There is actually a wide choice of itineraries offered by numerous river cruise lines with many boats to choose from.

There are a surprising number of long rivers in Europe too. It is possible to visit multiple countries on some 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 America, China, Russia, Vietnam and Cambodia. The only limiting factor may be 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