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how to river cruiseSo, you want to river cruise but worried about overspending? Not to worry, follow these tips and cruise worry-free!

Develop a Trip Funding Strategy

“I can’t wait to have enough money to take a river cruise.”

I hear this one a lot. If you wait too long, you’re going to be dead. I know that’s harsh. But I don’t get it. People tell me all the time they can’t afford a river cruise or some other bucket list trip. The next thing you know, they’re coming out of Best Buy with a new flat screen TV.

If you want to river cruise, then river cruise. Prioritize it and figure out a way to pay for it. My aunt is a retired 2nd-grade teacher and she’s been to Europe 5 times. And, each trip has been 2 to 3 weeks long.

What’s your excuse? If you want to travel, make a plan.

Now, I don’t suggest going into debt to travel. That’s not smart. If you honestly can’t pay your bills, stop reading this article and figure out that part of your life.

And, if you don’t want to travel that’s ok, too. Be honest with yourself and know what you want in life. It makes things a lot easier.

Plan Ahead for your River Cruise

Book early. I know that’s annoying to hear, but you want to do this.

River cruise ships are smaller than their ocean-cruising counterparts. Mega ships on the ocean can have 6,000 passengers onboard. The river cruise industry is much different. It’s about smaller ships and fewer passengers. At most, river cruise vessels carry 190 passengers. That’s only 95 cabins. And, many cruise lines have a lot fewer people onboard than that.

By booking early, you can also take advantage of any “early booking” bonuses that the river cruise line might offer.

Bottom line – Waiting for a “last minute” deal isn’t a good plan. The cruise will sell out.  And, booking early is paramount if you’re picky. The most sought after suites will book out a year in advance or more.

If you know what you want, make that deposit.

Photo Courtesy of AMA Waterways

Know What’s Included in your River Cruise

If you’re an avid ocean cruiser, you might have some “sticker shock” when you first begin researching river cruises. You have to remember that the two are not the same in their pricing strategies.

Some ocean cruises are truly all-inclusive but most aren’t. With river cruising, more is included so the initial price is higher.

What’s nice about this is you don’t come home from your trip with a huge credit card bill looming over your head.

The river cruise companies themselves have different pricing strategies also. Some lines price lower but less is included once you’re onboard.  It’s a pay per-use-system. And, it works great for many travelers. They only pay for what they want.  In the end, the additional charges will be minimal compared to the overall cost of your trip.

On the other hand, many river cruisers swear by the all-inclusive river cruise companies.They don’t want to feel nickel-and-dimed whatsoever.

Gratuities? Extra.

Drinks after dinner? Extra.

An added excursion? Extra.

Transfers? Extra.

If paying for anything additional onboard irks you, then the 100% all-inclusive river cruise is the way to go. With these river cruise companies, your wallet never comes out of your pocket. No math calculations whatsoever.

Which is the right way to river cruise?

It’s your preference. Consider both before you decide.

A note about included excursions – Not all included excursions are created equal. All river cruise companies provide at least one included excursion per day. Some provide choices for the included excursions, some don’t. Know what’s important to you and then decide which cruise line is right for you.

Beware of the “Really Good Deal”

No trip is a “good deal” if it’s not where you want to go in the first place.Decide your cruise itinerary and river cruise company before you get sold on promotions.

Free airfare? Yay! Sold!

But know what you’re getting. On my last river cruise, I met a couple that took the “free air” promotion. They took 3 planes to get to Europe and 3 planes to get home. They drove 4 hours to get to the airport with the “free air”. The night before their flight, they stayed in a hotel close to that airport with the “free air”. Mind you, they lived close to a major airport that could have gotten them to Europe faster and simpler, but it didn’t have the “free air”.

To me, this is nuts. I’m not sure if they really saved any money and they surely didn’t save any time. They were happy though so I wasn’t going to be the one to rain on their parade.

Do the math. Think about the logistics. Decide if it’s worth your time.

Stick to your Plan on your River Cruise

“Sticking to the Plan” is usually the hardest part. Unlike other types of trips, it’s harder to overspend on a river cruise. You’ve paid for most everything upfront.  Like I mentioned before, If you go with a truly all-inclusive line, the only extras will be the shopping you do. If you go with one of the others, the extras are truly minimal (unless you’re a total lush and rack up a huge bar bill.But then again, river cruising isn’t a party scene. If you are a looking for that, then you should consider something other than river cruising.)

SS Antoinette
Photo Courtesy of Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection


Are you ready to river cruise? Contact me to start planning your next river cruise adventure!

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