Have you taken ocean cruises and prayed for the next port of call after becoming overwhelmed by the number of fellow passengers and annoyed by the noise on deck? Did you become irked by the long waits for sport facilities, games and activities? Did you tire or experience the discomfort of the rolling seas? If so, you will understand and appreciate the amazing growth in the number and variety of European river cruises available as an alternative for a vacation trip.
Think peace and quiet. Compared to a cruise ship, river cruise boats are small vessels designed for only 100-200 passengers. Boats average about 110 m (360 ft) in length except for some newer versions that are 135 m (440 ft) long. They are about 12 m (40 ft) wide to fit through many of the major locks encountered. With drafts that are limited by water depths and height limited by bridges, boats are limited to three passenger decks. Open deck space provides magnificent views and possibly a dance floor but no room for pools, water slides or tennis courts.
Most recently modernized and newer boats are of similar design with a majority of their staterooms providing a French balcony – a full height, windows opening onto a veranda – providing a panoramic view of the slowly passing and ever changing countryside. Cabins include televisions and telephones. If provided, Internet access can be iffy and expensive. However, an Internet cafe is usually available at the next larger “port”.
The countryside views are yours to choose! They can include rolling hills and mountainside castles. They can be the magnificent vineyards and farmlands of France, Germany and Austria. Just choose to cruise the Seine and Rhone of France or the Rhine, Moselle, Main and Elbe of Germany. Alternatively, float along the Danube from Germany and the Main-Danube Canal to Vienna, Budapest, and Belgrade.
Enjoy the Ukrainian steppes or the villages of Russia. Travel from Odessa to Kiev in the Ukraine on the Dneiper or go from St Petersburg to Moscow and beyond on the Svir and the mighty Volga. Itineraries will include up to two or three stops in a single day to soak in local culture or to follow a guided tour. Additionally, stops in larger cities will involve extended stays to visit the city and region with tours of historic sites and to sample local nightlife.
One aspect shared by river and ocean cruise is the need for travel insurance to cover your potential financial losses by any interruption in travel plans. Your trip insurance should cover losses of pre-paid expenses as well as unexpected costs. Travel insurance should cover cancellations from misfortune in your life as well as well as cancellations by the carrier. In your travel insurance plan, besides medical coverage, include cost for travel home – repatriation – for treatment