I’m an addict. There’s no question about that. I am addicted to river cruising. I am also fortunate. I’ve been able to do more than 30 river cruises in the past decade, and I have loved them all.
I’ve been on the Douro, the Loire, the Rhone and the Saone. I’ve cruised the Seine, the Rhine and the Danube (upper and lower). I’ve been on the Main (pronounced mine) and the Main-Danube Canal. I’ve yet to do the Elbe or the Po, but I have barged a few canals, in Burgundy and in the south of France (and I am going to do so again in September).
People often ask me what’s so great about river cruising. They are the uninitiated, of course, not veteran river cruisers like us. To answer skeptics, I’ve distilled my love of river cruising in Europe down to three basic attributes.
- Accessibility. You can get on the ship with ease and off the ship with ease. Yes, there are times when port cities are crowded, and river boats have to tie up alongside one another. If you’re lucky, you walk straight through the lounges of the adjacent ships to reach the river banks. If not, you may have to go up and over, which makes it particularly difficult for the mobility-impaired. That said, 80 percent of the time, the river boats I have been on have docked alongside the riverbanks. The only thing that separated me (on the boat) from the shore was a gangway of probably 30 feet or so. I walk off the ship and into a village, city or an attraction in Europe. River cruising gives incredible accessibility.
- Pack and unpack only once – while traveling. You’ve heard this one many times before no doubt. It is magical to embark a ship, be escorted to your stateroom and to unpack and know that you will not need to look at your suitcase again until the end of the cruise. And what is amazing is that each day, you’ll wake up in a different city, unless the boat is overnighting, such as in Vienna or Amsterdam or other cities. River cruising is hassle-free travel (airlines, take note). One of my favorite moments in river cruising is when the ship is motoring along in the early morning. The effect is mesmerizing, no matter where you are on the ship, in your stateroom, in the dining room or out on deck.
- The beauty of Europe. I’m sure I would love cruising along just about any river, but the fact that river cruises take you through the heart of Europe is like the apple in the strudel. It just adds so much flavor to the experience.
There are many other reasons why I love river cruising. I’ll share those with you next week. In the meantime, what about you? Do you love river cruising? And what are your three reasons?