Why choosing your ship is so important
One of the most important – and most often overlooked – aspects of choosing any river cruise is the ship you’ll sail on. After all, this single factor determines what you’ll call home for a week or longer during your vacation, and picking the right river cruise ship for you can easily make or break a vacation.
So what is the “right” river cruise ship? The answer lies in your personal preferences.
As diverse as deep-ocean cruising is, accommodations tend to be fairly standard across all lines: You have your inside staterooms, your oceanview staterooms, your balconies and your suites. But in the world of river cruising, accommodations can vary wildly.
First and foremost, interior (windowless) staterooms on river cruise ships are few and far between. In fact, the single most common type of accommodations are French balcony staterooms. These offer a sliding glass veranda window, but lack the space to ‘step out’ like a more traditional balcony offers.
Full-featured, step-out balconies are becoming more and more common on newer river cruise ships, and you might be surprised to discover that one of the hottest trends in river cruising right now are “dual balcony” staterooms and suites. These offer both French and full balconies in a single room, and are exceedingly popular with passengers.
For the budget-conscious, standard “river view” staterooms typically offer half-height windows positioned at the waterline, but don’t worry – unlike the ocean, rivers seldom experience the “washing machine” effect found on the lower decks of deep-ocean cruise ships.
Within these three basic accommodation types lie a whole host of variations, so it’s always a good idea to pick up a brochure and familiarize yourself with it before booking anything. Look at what each category offers, and where it is positioned on the deck plan. You may find you can save yourself hundreds of dollars simply by choosing a category that is positioned at the extreme forward or aft ends of a deck, yet still retains all the features of those located amidships.
Just how different can two river cruise ships be? To find out, we take a look at three diverse river cruise ships to see what they offer.
The newest member in a massive 12-ship order for Viking River Cruises, Viking Odin and her sisters represent a radical departure from anything that has come before them.
Dubbed the Viking Longships, these innovative new vessels offer an astonishing array of staterooms and full, true suites coupled with elegant design and crisp, clean Scandinavian décor.
Uniworld’s popular River Queen is the exact inverse of the Viking Odin and her sisters, opting instead for an old-world, country club elegance that recalls the glory days of the 1930’s transatlantic passenger liners, but with a modern twist.
In fact, River Queen was recently ranked the #1 ship in the entire cruise industry in a Conde Nast Traveler Readers’ Cruise poll.
The 2006-built Avalon Tapestry is one of the most unique ships in the Avalon Waterways fleet. Notable for her two-story wall of glass windows all the way forward, she is also distinguished by her rare, aft-mounted navigation bridge and engineering spaces that are physically separated from the passenger spaces for a quieter cruise along the waterways.
There are certainly newer ships out there, but Avalon Tapestry has a look and feel that is entirely unique to Avalon Waterways, even among other ships in its fleet.
With just these three ships, you can see there’s a world of difference in interior design and accommodation offerings. Each offers a great river cruise experience in its own right, underscoring that one of the most refreshing aspects of river cruising is just how diverse the experience can be.