Last weekend I was lucky enough to attend a river cruise conference hosted by CLIA in Paris. We had the opportunity to visit six river ships and I was able to spend the night on board the Avalon Tapestry 2. Before this weekend I had never set foot on board a river cruise ship.
I admit it, I was wrong about river cruising!
The growth of the river cruising sector is really exciting, passenger numbers were up 21% last year on the year before. I can’t think of any other industry that is growing so fast, it’s very exciting.
Below are misconceptions I had about River Cruising
1 – River cruise ships are dark, enclosed and just not as elegant as ocean ships.
The river ships we visited were no less elegant than ocean ships, they were just elegant on a smaller scale!
What are river cruise ships like inside?
The ships generally have one big lounge, one big dining room, a reception/atrium‘ and a top deck with lots of sun loungers. They’ll often have another lounge at the back and some even have a couple of swimming pools thrown in for good measure. Of course there is a lot of variety on this theme but generally speaking, that is how river ships are designed.
What cabins are there on river cruise ships?
The cabins are mostly either window cabins or balcony cabins. There are also a number of suites with some ships being ‘fully suite’ ships which only have suites and above. Some river cruise ship even have solo cabins and accessible cabins too!
More about the cabins in point number two.
2 – River cruise ship cabins are small.
This may be the one that surprised me the most. My balcony cabin on board the tapestry 2 was as big, if not bigger, than most standard balconies I’ve had on ocean cruise lines. This, of course, does vary by cruise line but no more than it varies on ocean cruise ships.
Do river cruise ships have balconies?
It is worth noting that on the majority of ships there isn’t a balcony in the traditional sense that you would find on an ocean ship. Most balcony cabins will have a big window which either pulls down or to side which makes your cabin into a huge balcony. Some ships do have balcony cabins with actual balconies where you can step outside onto them. These seem to be mostly in suites.
One thing I really love about the idea of river cruising is how close you are to the water, I can just imagine sitting with a drink and watching the world go by!
3 – There is no flexibility in river cruising, you do what you’re told when!
That said, there is a lot more flexibility than I thought there would be. Some ships do have multiple restaurants, seen below is Le Bristot and la cave du vin onboard Uniworld’s Joie De Vivre.
How was the food onboard?
One thing I was surprised about during my stay on the Tapestry 2 was the quantity of food served on board. The quality and presentation of the food was INCREDIBLE. Each meal was around 5 courses and the staff were incredibly attentive.
4 – River cruising is boring
What I didn’t appreciate until this weekend is that the experience of river cruising is completely different to that of ocean cruising. You simply don’t need the same level of entertainment because you have other things to do. For example, you won’t have 4 sea days on a river ship where you need to be entertained. Even when you are sailing there will be constant scenery which you are SO close to.
I tend to think of river ships as being big floating homes. You wouldn’t expect theatre shows or magicians to perform in your home would ya?!
What entertainment is there onboard river cruise ships?
5 – River cruise ships don’t have the same amenities as ocean ships
I was amazed by the number of amenities onboard the river cruise ships we visited. It is as though most things present on ocean ships are available on river ships but just on a smaller scale.
Do river cruise ship’s have swimming pools?
What else is onboard?
6 – River cruising is expensive
River ships are able to dock in the centre of cities meaning that you save money on transfers. When I took an ocean cruise to Ho Chi Minh City in May the transfer time from the port into the city was 2 hours and the do it yourself tour was $80!
Other things that surprised me about river cruise ships:
River cruise ships sometimes dock next to each other.
Is it annoying?
This isn’t really a problem but it means you have to remember to close your curtains before getting changed. My cabin on board the Tapestry 2 lined up almost perfectly with a Uniworld cabin and I ALMOST saw somebody get changed. I saw clothes being thrown into the bed and decided to look away pronto!
I asked members of our Facebook group about if they realised that the ships sometimes dock side by side. Karen makes a great point about it being a great way to make friends!
Would you like to try a river cruise?I'd LOVE to try a river cruise! Click To Tweet I don't think river cruising is for me... Click To Tweet
Would I like to try a river cruise?
Yep! I am actually taking my first river cruise next year. I’ll be announcing the cruise soon on our FB page so make sure you like the page to be kept in the loop. I’ll also be doing a live stream to talk about my first river cruise experience so if you have any questions please pop along to that.
I am ridiculously excited to be trying my first river cruise. It is a completely new world for me but definitely one I think I’ll enjoy! Watch this space for updates and please leave me a comment if you have any. If I don’t know the answer I’ll make sure I find it out for you!
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I Recently shaved my head for Macmillan Cancer Support. You can find the video here: