Cruises of every kind are becoming more popular, especially amongst those of us looking for a holiday experience unlike any other. However, it may surprise some of you to learn that it’s actually river cruising that’s the fastest growing kind of cruise, with more dedicated liners and cruise ships entering play every year. It makes sense, not least due to the fact that some of the prettiest scenery and most historic cities are found on rivers. River cruise destinations are as varied as those for ocean cruises, so don’t think you’re limiting your options.

Finding the best river cruise deals is easy, although it’s also a wise idea to have some knowledge ahead of your trip. Let our river cruising tips ease your journey as we help you understand the top destinations, the experiences onboard and the inside knowledge that will give you the break you deserve.

Top destinations worldwide

River cruises boast a range of destinations just as varied as with ocean-going voyages. European rivers like the Danube and the Rhine prove consistently popular with cruisers, from those sampling its delights for the first time to those who enjoy it so much that it becomes their annual treat. Itineraries like these have become a speciality for lines like Viking Cruises, who venture along those rivers and beyond year after year.

If you’re looking further afield than Europe or Russia for your river cruise however, you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the choice of destinations open to you. Some river cruise destinations are even locked away inland where conventional cruises and package holidays just can’t reach. You can conquer the Nile, drift down the Irrawaddy in Myanmar, or witness the ancient monuments and ruins of Peru.

What to expect from your river cruise ship

Naturally, a river cruise ship is much smaller than an ocean-going cruise ship. The leading cruise ships at sea, such as those of Royal Caribbean®, are almost like their own cities, with shopping plazas, restaurants and populations of thousands of holidaymakers. On a river cruise, you’ll be taking a journey on a smaller ship, which is going to make things feel much more intimate. You can expect passenger numbers to range between 100 and 300 and there’s sure to be a great sense of community among your fellow cruisers.

Amenities commonly available on these ships include a spacious open deck, together with a bar and restaurant. Most river cruise ships also have some health and fitness equipment. That means you can enjoy a trip to the spa or the sauna before watching the sun set over an amazing destination.

Your accommodation on a river cruise

River cruise ships are intelligently designed to make the most of their available space, so you can expect comfortable beds, a TV and other facilities, as well as plenty of room for your clothes and luggage. In fact, popular river cruise ships from Viking Cruises such as Viking Buri feature the Explorer Suite class of accommodation. At 445 square feet, the Explorer Suite readily matches most hotel rooms for size and comfort.

Dining onboard

Another aspect of river cruises that guests always love is that there’s less emphasis on formality. That’s also true of restaurant mealtimes, which are more down-tempo affairs that nevertheless include a tremendous range of cuisine. The menus often source ingredients locally and feature dishes representative of the places in the world you’re visiting, with good sensitivity to those of us with vegan, vegetarian and other specialised dietary requirements.

Most cruise lines will add beers, soft drinks and wine as part of your package, although it’s always a good idea to check exactly what perks come with your ticket price. You can also enjoy light bites outside to make the most of the views.

More intimate exploration

Naturally, a river lets you deeper into the heart of many countries than even the most ambitious ocean cruise. Many of the destinations the ship passes along its river voyage will be cities you can tour and explore, either as part of a defined itinerary or under your own initiative. You could be visiting a new port once or even twice a day, making each trip over the horizon an exciting new treat. Keeping up to date with what shore excursions your cruise ship is offering next is a smart way to stay on top of your schedule, although spending an afternoon free wheeling through the streets of Antwerp, as one example, is also a sublime pleasure.

Entertainment onboard

The shows, dances and live acts of seafaring cruise ships are not so much the done thing on a river cruise. That’s not to say you’re going to be bored though, as river cruise ships use their onboard space effectively to keep you engaged. Libraries and TV rooms are the norm, together with seminars or public lectures on the culture, history or notable personas of the places you’re visiting. Gym equipment and fitness classes are also frequently available.

Best time to book

Although the world is at your fingertips with river cruises, there’s a common best season to travel wherever you’re looking to go. The months between April and September make for excellent weather and a nice selection of destinations, including North American and Canadian routes. This time of year is also perfect for exploring classic European destinations, exotic South American tours and mysterious Far Eastern adventures. Many cruise lines put their ships to port during the cooler months for maintenance and refurbishment, so you may find that there is less to choose from during the winter.

The booking process itself is just as simple as it is for ocean cruises, and the best part is that we’re only too happy to help. Don’t hesitate to get in touch about how to make a river cruise work best for you, but in the meantime we certainly hope our overview has helped to inspire your trip.

* Terms & Conditions apply

We are acting as an agent on behalf of travel suppliers and your booking will be subject to the supplier’s terms and conditions. Prices may be subject to very limited availability and are correct as at the date and time of writing. Prices may go up or down from time to time. Prices quoted are for the dates, accommodation, board basis, departure points and number of persons sharing specified only and cannot be combined with any other offer. We reserve the right to amend any quotes given if there is a genuine error as soon as we become aware of it. We reserve the right to withdraw any offers without notice.