Ocean-going cruise ships, by and large, limit sightseeing to the major coastal regions of the world. However, in Europe and Asia, many of the classic cities and attractions actually owe their existence to their proximity to rivers, the original trade routes. These waterways are often simply not large enough to accommodate ocean-going cruise ships.
They’re not, however, too small for a fleet of specially designed river cruise ships.
As a niche of cruising, luxury river cruising is becoming ever more popular, especially for travelers who enjoy the finer comforts of cruising, but want to see more of a region’s heartland.
River ships take you on the calm, inland waterways and lead you to places inaccessible by the traditional ocean cruiser, or, in some cases, even the train or car.
A leisurely, up-close-and-personal cruising style
Cruising on rivers may well be one of our last leisurely modes of transportation. On the rivers, speedy travel is never the objective – here it’s about slowing down to be able to get a clearer view of gorgeous meandering landscapes as lazy afternoons pass languidly by at around 10km/h. This centuries-old form of transport guarantees a taste of the local culture, and an up-close view of inviting scenery, studded with castles, vineyards, quaint towns and picturesque villages.
What better way could there be to explore one of the world’s classic regions along a great waterway than on a luxury vessel, all while enjoying good company, magnificent food, 5-star accommodation and wonderful amenities – and the next day being able to disembark right in the heart of yet another iconic destination, with quick access to wonderful sightseeing? All of this is possible on vessels that rarely exceed 200-passenger capacity, so you won’t get lost in a crowd while experiencing the jewels of Europe from the perspective only a river can provide. As a final bonus, there’s pretty much no risk of sea sickness either.
The Long And Short Of River Cruising
River cruises range in duration from a few days to several days and even weeks – for example, a grand voyage from the North Sea to the Black Sea lasting 21 days is possible. This would be an amazing trip, connecting from one majestic waterway to another, passing through 12 countries and a myriad of villages, towns and cities.
River Cruising Destinations
If you haven’t yet tried a river cruise, we think Europe is definitely the best place to start.
Typically, river ships cruise the Rhine (which flows through the Netherlands, Germany, France and Switzerland, among other countries) and the Danube (which crosses through Germany, Austria, Hungary and Serbia, and along the Romania / Bulgaria border). In the 1990s, the opening of the Main Canal, which connected the Rhine and the Danube, meant that river ships could now cruise both rivers as one. Russia’s Volga is another popular river for cruising between Moscow and St. Petersburg.
River cruising is not limited to Europe though. In Asia, China’s Yangtze has long been a river cruising mecca, and the Mekong, which flows through Vietnam and Cambodia, is gaining in popularity. Of course, there’s also Africa’s Nile River – in fact, river cruising is probably the easiest way to explore the Nile and the famous temples and tombs of Egypt.
The Right Luxury River Cruise
One thing to keep in mind though – pretty much every river cruise company will advertise their cruises as ‘luxury’, without being clear exactly what they mean. After all, there are different types of luxury, just as there are different types of budgets. Here the best solution is simply to talk to your travel specialist at The Luxury Holiday Company – we’ll be able to steer you straightaway to the right cruise company with the best vessels.
Top-End Luxury River Cruising
When it comes to determining what the difference is between one ‘luxury’ river cruise and the best, the answer simply lies in the details.
At the top end of the market are the one-of-a-kind river ships – more like floating boutique hotels. These are meticulously designed vessels with signature touches, such as their own distinctive theme and colour palette, original art, sumptuous furnishings and antiques.
On these vessels, the latest technology and ultra-luxurious amenities blend seamlessly and unobtrusively with old-world elegance.
The cruise companies that run these vessels have only one purpose in mind, namely, to provide their guests with a truly unsurpassed and unforgettable river cruise experience.
These river ships feature exceptionally appointed staterooms with in-suite butler service in some instances. Stylish restaurants where guests can linger over culinary masterpieces prepared by master chefs, before adjourning to plush lounges with full-service bars, an ideal venue for drinks with friends or dancing the night away. There will likely be a number of sun decks, a splash pool, a well-equipped fitness centre, and maybe even a spa retreat, perfect for a relaxing massage after a day’s sightseeing.
In the end, however, all river cruising, be it top-end luxury, run-of-the-mill ‘luxury’ or otherwise, is about gentle, easy exploration and gaining a true appreciation of the place you are visiting.
The Luxury Holiday Company – The fine art of travel.