A river cruise provides a unique vantage point for you to see some of the world’s most beautiful destinations. Here are our top tips to help you choose, book and plan your holiday, brought to you by Titan in partnership with Uniworld
River cruises explore a wealth of extraordinary destinations, from the Rhîne, the Danube and the Seine, to the vast network of rivers, lakes and canals in Russia. Or you could cruise along the Douro, from Porto, on Portugal’s coast, all the way to the Spanish border. If you want to venture further afield, then head to Asia, and the fascinating Mekong and Yangtze rivers. Research the itineraries carefully to find a holiday that suits your tastes. Many cruises offer coach trips once you have disembarked so that you can travel even further afield, while other voyages focus upon excursions closer to ports. And overnight stays are another perk to look out for.
The choice of river ship is often dictated by your choice of departure and destination, with vessels assigned to specific sailings. The newer long ships, such as Uniworld’s luxurious SS Antoinette, feature facilities to rival ocean-going vessels, including a state-of-the-art 3D cinema and innovative balconies that convert to fully-enclosed conservatories at the push of a button.
One of the most fascinating aspects of river cruising is that each waterway is unique, with its own distinctive characteristics and highlights. Sail the Rhîne and you can enjoy breathtaking landscapes with fairy tale castles. Cruise the legendary Nile, however, and you’ll experience the world’s greatest open-air museum. Or indulge yourself with a voyage through one of France’s most distinguished wine-producing regions, Bordeaux.
This depends upon how far you’re travelling – many itineraries last between eight and 11 days, but cruises through multiple countries can last anywhere up to 17 days. You may wish to combine itineraries for your very own ‘grand voyage’ experience; or choose a shorter voyage to discover whether river cruising is for you.
When it comes to choosing your accommodation on board it varies between decks. On the lowest deck the windows in the staterooms are placed just above the water line to allow in natural light, while suites on the upper decks will usually have a full or French balcony with floor-to-ceiling windows and a seating area from where you can relax and enjoy the river view. It’s often worth paying that bit extra so that you can gain the full benefit of sailing past the constantly changing scenery passing you by on the river banks.
Cruises vary in price – European cruises tend to be the most affordable whereas rivers like the exotic Mekong and Yangtze are more expensive options, when you factor in flights. River cruises include more in the overall package than ocean voyages, with meals, drinks with dinner, snacks, all entertainment, airport transfers (Titan offer a private door-to-door, chauffeur-driven transfer service allowing your holiday to start smoothly) and excursions all incorporated in the price.
River cruising is different to ocean cruising
River ships are more intimate than big cruise liners – the average ship will carry 140 passengers – so rather than being lost in a crowd, you will definitely recognise your fellow passengers at dinner time.
There may be a change of schedule if the rivers are too low, or high, for certain passages – such as navigation through locks. The cruise line will be used to this and swift alternative arrangements will be made.
Once you’re on board
It’s all about the sightseeing on a river cruise and because you’re never far from shore, there are always plenty of excursions on offer. But remember to take some time to unwind on deck or in your room between visits, so you have the energy for more exploring. Uniworld provide cosy fleece blankets for evenings on deck, so there’s no need to pack too many layers if you’re cruising in a mild climate. When it comes to dining options the spread is no less lavish than an ocean cruise, with buffet breakfasts and lunches offering a range of hot and cold options – afternoon tea is a popular choice and table-service evening meals have complimentary wine. And there are always snacks, tea and coffee available so you will never get hungry.
Guided tours are an excellent way to explore a destination but there’s always the option to explore for yourself, or hire a bike to get even further afield. Sometimes there’s the opportunity to choose between excursions if you’ve visited a site before – Uniworld’s The Choice is Yours programme offers just that.
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Whether you’re looking for a cultural holiday or relaxing break, find your perfect cruise here.