River Cruising 101
Guest Post by Lisa Leavitt
Are you considering the idea of a river cruise but can’t decide? You are not alone! These smaller, more intimate, cruise lines are hugely popular right now and many people come to ActiveTravels with questions about which one to choose. Are you considering a romantic cruise with your honey but want the appropriate age range on board? Bringing your kids? Are you active or do you prefer to wine and dine your way down the river?
Here are some of the brands you’ve probably heard about through countless ads: Viking, Ama Waterways, Avalon, Scenic, Emerald, Tauck, Crystal and Uniworld, to name a few. All of these brands can be compared with regards to these variables:
• Which lines include shore excursions? Crystal, Scenic, Emerald, Viking and Tauck-some offer more choices than others.
• Which lines include drinks (alcoholic, specialty coffees, soda)? Crystal, Scenic, Tauck and Uniworld
• Which lines have bikes onboard? Ama who is pairing up with active adventure company Backroads, Emerald, Scenic, Tauck and Uniworld
• Which lines are family friendly? AmaWaterways (they are now partnering with Adventures by Disney), Uniworld and Tauck. Minimum ages can be anywhere from 3 years old to 13 years old.
• What if I’m in the 21-55 year old age range? Try U by Uniworld. Their first two sleek black vessels will debut next year on European rivers and will feature more active offerings, nightlife fun, and more affordable rates for solo travelers.
Once you’ve decided on the cruise line, then you need to choose the river you want to journey upon. Will it be the Danube, the Rhone, the Rhine, the Bordeaux, the Douro, or the Seine? Here’s a quick rundown on what each river has to offer:
• Danube: Germany, Austria, and Hungary-a great first river cruise filled with storybook villages, beautiful scenery and the fascinating cities of Nuremberg, Vienna, Budapest, Bratislava and more
• Rhone: Southern France between Lyon and Arles-Burgundy and Provence, Roman ruins, biking, art of Van Gogh, wines, excellent food
• Rhine: Amsterdam to Basel-A very popular route to see lots of countries: Netherlands, France, Germany, Switzerland and many castles, UNESCO sites, riverside vineyards, and wonderful biking paths to explore
• Bordeaux: France-great for active travelers who like to hike and bike and love wines
• Douro: Portugal-If you love wines, and want less river time and more port time to explore. The Douro flows between Porto on the coast of Portugal and the Spanish border.
• Seine: Begins and ends in Paris-can see the beaches of Normandy, Monet’s Gardens, Rouen, and the shipping port of Honfleur.
• Elbe: Berlin to Prague-see the highlights of Hamburg, Wittenberg (500th birthday of the Reformation this year), Dresden, Germany and pretty little Czech towns along the way