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What's the big deal about river cruising?

Updated: Nov 18, 2021

And why AmaWaterways?

I just got back from a European river cruise! I’m so excited to share some of my takeaways!

I recorded a video and podcast episode with a lot more information.

To listen to the podcast, click here.

To watch the video and see all the pics (!), click here.

How is river cruising different from ocean cruising?

- The ship size: ocean ships are huge, often accommodating several thousand guests. River cruises only carry 100-200 people. They have to be able to fit on different rivers and through the locks.

- The activities onboard: ocean cruises are wonderful at providing incredible adventures, including multiple pools, waterslides, movie screens, theaters, kids’ clubs, and so many other ways to spend your time. River cruise ships are much more low key. They offer a sun deck with a pool and a track, a gym, spa, and salon, and a lounge for gathering and entertainment.

- Dining: ocean ships offer multiple dining venues onboard. River cruise ships offer a main dining room and a specialty dining location.

- Entertainment: ocean cruises are set up to entertain onboard and on land. You pay extra for things like specialty dining and drink packages on the ship, and excursions off the ship. River cruise dining is all included; the only beverages you pay for are the ones you drink between meals. You’re in one to two ports every day, so you’re spending far less time onboard and far more time in the destination.

I hear river cruises are pricey. Is it really worth it?

You might be thinking, “I can visit Europe for a fraction of the cost! Why would I spend extra for a river cruise?” Excellent question.

On my river cruise, I found myself thinking, “I could have come to all of these incredible little towns and areas on my own, but how would I even have known where to go? Just think of all of the RESEARCH I would have had to do, to discover all of the gems I get to experience all week!” It’s so true. Sailing through the rivers of Europe, you see castles, cathedrals, villages, and countryside. You find out about the history and personality of these amazing places, and you shop, and eat, and interact with the locals. It’s a breathtakingly personal experience, in places you sometimes had never heard of previously, which now are a part of you.

Traveling around Europe these days resembles trying to run through a field of land mines, in terms of health requirements and protocols. Between masking regulations, vaccination regulations, and Covid testing, it is really tricky to travel independently in Europe right now. Sailing on a river cruise through European countries is like floating on a magic carpet above the land mines. The cruise line keeps us up-to-date on current protocols and requirements, and it’s amazingly nice not having to worry about nitpicky things like individual hotel and restaurant requirements.

How much would it cost to travel through the rivers, towns, and countrysides of Europe and stay in 5-star hotels with impeccable service? Eating every meal in a beautiful restaurant with gourmet menus, award-winning dishes, and several-course meals, being waited on with beautiful detail? Participating in daily personalized, curated local excursions, with a little free time to explore on your own? I can’t put a price tag on all of it. YES. It was worth every penny.

Why AmaWaterways?

Some of my favorite things about AmaWaterways are:

It feels like family! Each river cruise sails with a cruise manager, who is one of the highlights of the trip, with their local knowledge, attention to detail, and the ease with which they communicate everything that’s happening. The cruise manager accompanies the guests who arrive early or stay following the cruise for a pre- or post-cruise extension. AmaWaterways is the only river cruise line that has their cruise manager do that.

The food! AmaWaterways has won so many awards for their food, and they are part of the prestigious gastronomic society La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs. All I know is, the food is amazing. All the time. Everything from freshly-baked breads and danishes at breakfast, to the soups, salads, sorbets, and main dishes, plus the melt-in-your-mouth desserts at lunch and dinner—the food is a true delight. Every bite.

The wellness components! As you know, I love wellness, and this is a BIG reason I love AmaWaterways. Each ship has a wellness host, who leads small group fitness classes on the Sun Deck at various times throughout the day. There’s a gym onboard. Healthy dining choices are offered at each meal; infused detox and gemstone waters are offered at the hydration station. Complimentary water bottles are in your stateroom, and available as you depart for every excursion. Hiking tours are offered, and a fleet of bikes travel with the ship for biking excursions. I really love all of the wellness components.

The choices in shore excursions! Every river cruise line offers shore excursions. Not every cruise line includes a shore excursion of your choice in every port, and not all offer options of active, regular, gentle, and late-riser excursions! I loved the variety—and it’s all included. The hardest part is deciding which excursion to choose.

If you’re going on a river cruise:

· Don’t expect the level of entertainment you experience on an ocean cruise; the evening entertainment often consists of performances by local artists or an onboard virtuoso pianist.

· Don’t worry about the climate feeling too upscale. We wore jeans and tennis shoes all the time. Evenings have a slightly nicer feel, but not dressy or formal.

· Dress for the weather! Because you’re out in it every day for awhile, be ready for it! Always pack an umbrella, just in case.

· The level of activity is perfect for whatever you need. If you’re active, there will be excursions for you. If you have health challenges or prefer a slower pace, there are excursions for you as well.

· There’s no seasickness! Calm river waters carry you along effortlessly, with no adverse effects.

What's the big deal about river cruising?

So: what’s the big deal about river cruising? The entire experience. If you’ve been wanting to visit Europe (or Africa, Asia, or South America) in a unique way, river cruising is the way to go. I’ve heard it said that oceans take you to countries, and rivers take you through them. A river cruise is an immersive experience.

If you’re interested in booking a river cruise, let me know! Rates are often available about two years out, so you can reserve something with just a deposit and take time to pay it off. I’d be happy to help you find the best fit for your next river cruise.


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