Recently having returned from a river cruise, we have realized this type of travel is not for everyone.
While this is a sedate way to travel, if you are an independent traveler you might find that it is too structured to make you happy. Our recent trip to the South of France was very entertaining, but at the end we both felt that we had missed too much. River cruising does not always allow you time to mingle with the natives, visit the small restaurants and shops or find your way through back alleys and small streets in the historical city centers. On the other hand, it is a great way to learn about the history and way of life of a place, all in a capsule. One reason is that the excursions are included in the price of your cabin, so Manny and I have the tendency to take advantage of the ship sponsored trips and excursions because, well, they’re paid for. So we end up running from one excursion to the next without any down time in the places visited. Because these ships depend on the water level of the rivers, schedules have to be adjusted and you may end up spending less time in a port you have been looking forward to visiting, or having an unscheduled stop. If there’s not enough water, the ship cannot travel. If there is too much rain and the rivers are flooded, which was the case in our last trip, there is not enough space under the bridges for the ship to travel. So the trip becomes a mad rush to beat the waters trying to get from here to there.
Having said all that, river cruising is a great experience all travelers should try once. The excursions are well planned and very inclusive. The food is plentiful if sometimes bland. The accommodations are very comfortable. It definitely makes for a very comfortable trip. For us, however, as people who like independent traveling and spending more time when we find a beautiful spot, river cruising can be restrictive.