River cruise ships have been amping up everything from the quality of their food (AMAWATERWAYS, for instance, has completely overhauled its fish program to ensure fresh fish is served at lunch and dinner) to the quality of the bedding (who doesn’t have Egyptian cotton anymore?). Here, some of the best new amenities to be on the lookout for on the European river cruise ships.
The recent trend of carrying bicycles onboard for passengers to use — so far, AMA and Uniworld River Cruises both have bikes — makes for a perfect compliment to the river cruise experience. I am partial because I enjoy being active on trips, as well as exploring new places in new ways. But there really is something magical about biking through the European countryside, winding along cobblestone streets, passing quaint storefronts, stopping for a picnic in an orchard, all by bike. Much of Europe is very bike-friendly, with bike paths separated often entirely from the main driving roads. Obviously, the weather must cooperate to make biking a viable option, but if it’s sunny out, be sure to give the biking a shot. For some, it might completely enhance the river cruise experience like it did for me.
First, river cruise companies all started building a casual alternative dining lounge at the aft of the ship, and I thought that was a pretty nice option for those nights when some of us don’t feel like facing the more social dining room. But when Avalon Waterways introduced outdoor grilling on the top sun deck this year, I really couldn’t believe more ships don’t have that option. Again, weather is critical. But, on a nice sunny, day, with a light breeze from the gliding ship, a grilled sauasage and a beer, there’s no better way to experience the river.
Better beds and bedding
I don’t think anyone can object to the improved quality of beds and bedding in the staterooms onboard river cruise ships in recent years. The comfortable mattresses and fluffy bedding almost make up entirely for occasionally being jolted awake in the middle of the night by the ships’ engines starting back up. How can you not fall right back asleep under those Egyptian cotton sheets?
There are so many other enhancements that have been made and continue to be made — from increasing the number of suites onboard, to the use of headsets during excursions to better hear their guides, from improved bathroom toiletries (Tauck wins in this category with delectable L’Occitane products) to including wine and beer with dinner, for better or for worse. Even ensuring that more and more staterooms have floor-to-ceiling windows or French balconies is a significant improvement in river cruise ship design. But the above were some of the standouts. As for future improvements, there will likely be more. I’m personally hoping for a better, more cohesive spa, Jacuzzi, sauna and fitness center experience.