RIVER CRUISE STORIES: 11 TIPS FOR FIRST TIME RIVER CRUISERS

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(This post was previously published on www.brighttravelvacations.com)

European River Cruises

Two Lovely Ladies and a River Cruise!

Photo Credit: Viking River Cruises
Photo Credit: Viking River Cruises

 

Do you want to go on a river cruise but think it’s a couples-only trip? Not so!

Grab your gal pal and get on the boat because you can have a marvelous time on a river cruise with just the girls!

Longtime friends Meloney and Caroline contacted me about going on a Fall river cruise together. I was more than thrilled to assist them because I knew they would love it. They decided upon a verandah room for the Grand European Tour on the Viking Baldur, one of Viking’s newest long ships. And, a blast they had, indeed!

Here are some tips that you can learn from their trip and a few other tips thrown in for good measure!

Tip #1:     Really Know your Travel Partner

Cabins are snug. The two of you will get cozy. In case you’re wondering, twin bed configuration is available.

Examine the square footage and make sure your friendship will survive. Meloney and Caroline had 205 square feet in their room. It worked for them just fine.

But will it work for you?

Tip #2:     Book Early if You Want to Snag a Suite

If you think a standard cabin might be too close for comfort, then opt for a suite for more room.

Be forewarned, the suites go like hotcakes. There aren’t a ton of them so book farther out if you think you want or need one.

Tip #3:     Be Flexible for Solo Traveler Specials

Many of the river cruise lines accommodate solo travelers quite nicely.  The single supplement fee is waived or reduced on select sailings. You and your friend could still travel together but enjoy your own rooms. I know some married couples that could benefit from this sleeping arrangement too. (Just sayin.)

Photo Credit: Viking River Cruises
Photo Credit: Viking River Cruises

Tip #4     Watch for People on Bicycles

Seriously, you need to do this. I’m not kidding.

Bike lanes run right along many of the rivers in Europe. It’s really cool.

But, do not stand in these paths or accidentally drift into a path.

You will get hit. And, it will hurt.

Meloney and Caroline experienced this first hand. Well, not them personally but it happened right in front of their eyes to a poor lady that was on their cruise. She stepped off the boat, walked right into the bicycle path and was hit by a cyclist. She broke her pelvis and had to be medically transported back home. This is NOT a fun way to end a trip.

This is also why travel insurance is a good idea.

Riverview-River-Cruises

Tip #5     Enjoy Your Verandah (or Not)

Meloney and Caroline’s cruise was in October so it was already a bit chillier. Some people might find the verandah too cold at this time of year. Meloney said she used the verandah quite a bit to take pictures and enjoy the views.

Many river cruise passengers end up on the top deck to enjoy the scenery too which these ladies also experienced.

Photo Credit: Viking River Cruises
Photo Credit: Viking River Cruises

Tip #6     It’s NOT a Booze Cruise

Well, alcohol is served on board so you might get a few drunks I guess, but it’s not the intent.

This is not a Spring Break party scene. It’s pretty quiet at night. Some passengers bring their own board games and card games.

It’s a low key scene. You do quite a bit of touring during the day, so you will welcome the serenity.

Vineyards-River-CruisesFor Meloney and Caroline, this trip was about the magnificent scenery along the river – the wineries in the mountainous landscape, the classical concert in Vienna, spectacular Budapest lit up at night.

Another highlight was Rothenburg – its enchanting ambiance and walkability. Of course you can also visit Kathe Wohlfahrt’s Christmas Village with traditional German Christmas decorations and gifts in Rothenburg too.

Tip #7     Entertainment is Educational (which I LOVE!)

Do not expect the glitzy Broadway style shows you find on larger ocean cruisers. You’re not going to get it. There’s not a casino for that matter either.

The piano player plays music from the country you’re visiting.

You see traditional dances that are native to the region.

A glassblower might come on board for a glass blowing demonstration.

For the foodies, cooking demos of regional dishes is always popular.

Everything has an educational focus.  If you don’t want to learn anything, a river cruise might not be your cup of tea.

Tip #8     Get to Know your Cruise Director

Meloney said the cruise director made the trip. And, I’d be surprised if it were any different for any other passengers. Their cruise director was extremely knowledgeable about each of the countries they visited. She always gave a brief history of each city they visited and was a wealth of information.  It’s much easier on a river cruise to know your cruise director and to have the opportunity to learn from them.

Tip #9     You’re Going to Have to Talk to People

Do you remember the Seinfeld episode where Jerry was forced to get to know his neighbors because Kramer had everyone’s photo in the apartment building on the wall?

It’ll be similar on the river cruise. You’ll recognize more of the passengers on a river cruise than you will on an ocean cruise. At the maximum of 190 guests, it will be hard not to run into the same people again and again on your trip.

This is what also makes a river cruise so great!

The intimate ships allow for you to get to know your fellow passengers much easier. Again, this is a huge plus for solo travelers. But, if you’re the “I hate people” type, this might not be your thing.

Tip #10     Get a Driver during your Pre or Post Stay

Meloney and Caroline opted to get a driver during their post stay in Amsterdam.  They hired a taxi driver while they were there but you can pre-arrange a private driver ahead of time too.

This is a wonderful opportunity to get to know the destination. I wish more people would hire a car. It usually doesn’t cost a ton and it’s a peaceful way to experience a city for the first time. You almost always get some insider tips. You most definitely learn more about the culture and people too just by talking with the driver.

 

Amsterdam City Life-River-Cruises

Tip #11     Know your own Mobility

If steps are difficult, make sure you are in a cabin on a deck with an elevator.

Collapsible wheelchairs can be brought along but you need a designated pusher of said wheelchair.

I can also arrange for just wheelchair assistance at the airport.

Know the streets are mostly cobble-stoned in Europe. The tours involve walking. If there is a coach tour, you will have to be able to get in the coach unassisted.

I always tell clients, the more I know, the more I can assist. We can work together to see if a river cruise is feasible or not. It’s just best to know as much up front so expectations are managed.

The point is – Don’t be shy. I need to know, so I can help.

River cruising is a wonderful way to see new places and old ones too. Not too many people come back disappointed from a river cruise. And the complainers shouldn’t have been on a river cruise in the first place.

farmhouseonrivercruiseIn case you’re wondering, the first picture in this post isn’t Meloney and Caroline.They decided to enjoy their trip instead of taking selfies!

Now, what are your thoughts? What are YOUR best tips for river cruisers?

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