Why River Cruising is Not for Everyone
River cruisers and barges are evolving in such ways that it’s hard to imagine that anyone could be ill-suited for them. And with more than a hundred vessels in operation, the on-board ambience spans such a range that there are ships to suit most travel preferences and lifestyles.
Who Should Proceed With Caution?
Nonsmokers, in particular, should beware since few river ships ban smoking completely. On some vessels smoking is allowed in all public areas or at least a part of the lounge, and sensitive travelers still may be offended by the prevalence of cigarette smoke. Be sure to ask whether smoking is permitted on the ship, and if so, where. If smoking is permitted in the lounge, the social hub on many ships, you may want to consider looking at other river cruise companies or consider other forms of vacation.
Families with infants or small children may find river cruising to be less than ideal when compared to other forms of cruise travel. While oceangoing ships often have babysitting services and children’s programs, river cruisers typically do not. That said, barges are popular options for families, as the smaller vessels typically carry family-size loads, from 6 to 24 passengers.
The physically challenged will want to look for vessels with easy access between ship and shore as well as ships with elevators; not all river vessels have them. Read more about Accessible Travel River Cruises.
If you’re the type who dreads the thought of dining with others each evening, then river cruising may not be for you. Few, if any, river vessels offer room service, and even fewer have alternative dining venues as is the norm on the big cruise ships. That said, some ships now offer tables for two. And it’s also possible to use the vessel only as a floating hotel, skipping the dinners on board and dining ashore instead, though you will probably not get a refund for uneaten meals.
If you’re accustomed to ocean cruising and require all of the big-ship trappings, then you may find river cruising a bit boring. River cruisers are smaller and have fewer facilities. Entertainment is on a much smaller scale, if it exists at all. You won’t find expansive gyms and spas, though they are sometimes offered on the larger ships.
One aspect of river cruising that is not so different from ocean cruising is that single travelers will usually have to pay a hefty supplement if they choose to occupy a double cabin alone. There are few single cabins, just as on regular cruise ships.
River Cruising is Changing.
Increasingly, river-cruise lines are seeking to appeal a wider range of interests. Some river vessels offer theme cruises focusing on such activities as gardening, golf, and history. Many river cruisers carry bicycles on board so that active travelers may cycle once ashore.