The top ten DON'TS of river cruising
This article starts with a damning confession. We have never river cruised. We have thought about it many times but given limited holiday time in any given year, we’ve always bottled it and booked ocean. Ocean is where it’s at, right? There are so many more benefits to cruising the sea rather than the river, right? It’s just a better experience overall. Erm, right?
Well, work with me as I attempt to convince myself that river cruising is NOT the poor relation of those giant resorts that crawl around the coastline. So, in typical negative fashion, here’s my top ten things you don’t do whilst river cruising that you do do on an ocean ship.
1. You don’t get seasick
If you’re a regular ocean cruiser, I’ll put my next door neighbours house and all their belongings on the fact that at some point you will get seasick. Any sea or ocean has the potential to turn your guts into a cement mixer. It’s not pleasant. In fact, it’s downright horrific. A river, on the other hand, is at worst moving with the tide and only tends to gently raise and lower over several hours, like it’s breathing in ultra slow breaths. If you get nauseous feeling that, then you should probably check with your local G.P. that you haven’t got an inner ear problem or something. A river ship could host the World Snooker Championships, it’s that stable.
2. You don’t have to share the ship with 5000 other people
Sharing a river cruise ship with thousands of other guests is something guaranteed never to happen. There isn’t a river in the world that will take a Royal Caribbean Oasis Class ship and some would say thank goodness for that. Most river ships carry no more than 200 passengers and their size is limited by the rivers they sail along. There are larger vessels carrying more, like Emerald Waterways’ Russian MS Rossia that is three stories high and entertains 224 guests, but generally they are the exception, not the rule. If you like small ship boutique ocean cruising, chances are you’ll love river cruising too.
3. You don’t dock in giant smelly old industrial ports
Ever drawn back your curtains on a brand new day in your stateroom, excitedly expecting to see some beautiful vista of the latest historic European city your daily cruise line newspaper has promised you only to find a dirty, rusting crane in your face and acres of concrete where renaissance buildings should be? On top of that, it’s a bit disappointing having to buy a shuttle bus ticket just to get you to the edge of the vast, soulless port, isn’t it?
Good news though! Rivers mostly run THROUGH cities, not around them. It follows that a river cruise ship delivers you straight into the heart of the action - no bus required and no wasting the day by waiting around for the next bus.
4. You don’t have to endure the boredom of sea days
Sea days are a blessing AND a curse. Yes, they give you a rest day from all of those shuttle busses and coach tours and the lynching by local taxi drivers at the edge of the port waving laminated pictures of their cousins taverna. But also they mean everyone is effectively enforced into a mass ‘lock in’ and therefore the pool areas, open decks and popular eating venues are stacked to the girders with incarcerated people.
River cruises very rarely have this problem. They stop every day so if it’s a quiet ship you’re after, stay on on board and take your pick of those poolside sun beds. Heck, have two! What’s more, for the adventurous among you, no two days on a river are the same. Sea days? We’ll, they’re all basically the same, aren’t they?
5. You don’t have to walk for half an hour to get from the public areas to your stateroom
We’ve been on some cruise ships that if they were actually on land, they’d have three postcodes. Ever got all your stuff together for a day by the pool, walked a couple of thousand steps to reach the pool from your stateroom only to realise you’ve forgotten your sunglasses? Yep, that’s me. Every time. I sometimes spend my entire cruise annoyed and out of breath.
River ships are so small, in a similar scenario, you’d literally be back at your lounger before your other half has kicked off their deck shoes.
6. You don’t have to squeeze into a choppy tender to go ashore
Tenders. Urgh. Choppy, nauseating, noisy and lacking any form of comfy seating, but they’re a fact of life on an ocean ship. You want to explore the locality but the ship is at anchor because some cheeky other cruise line has nipped into the berth you were hoping for? Your only option is to take a ticket, sit in the theatre or other out of context waiting area and then shuffle onto one of these giant lunch boxes.
It’s a good job then, that a river cruise ship doesn’t need tenders. There’s no ‘mind the gap’ or smell of diesel getting off these little beauties! Simply stroll right off the ship looking refreshed and slightly smug.
7. You don’t get vertigo standing on the top deck
Ever looked over the side of a cruise ship on the upper decks and then immediately regret you did? Hello, hello! I’m at a place called Vertigo! You too? Yes, walk too close to the edge and you’ll feel that weird sensation in your tummy, like you shouldn’t naturally be this high without a safety harness or a parachute. Also, the taller the cruise ship, the more you feel the movement, in particular the listing when the waves or swell hit it side on. Some people like that, but I’d guess the majority don’t.
Well, fear no more, because river cruise ships are generally only a couple of stories above the water line. In fact, you’re so close to the water, you can see the whites of a ducks eyes, AND hear it quack (probably an annoyed quack that you’re in it’s way).
8. You don’t get lost or disorientated on board
Think of an ocean cruise ship as Buckingham Palace and a river cruise ship as a four bedroom detached house. Yes, they really are that different. You can literally spend a week on a cruise ship and still get out of a lift and walk completely the wrong way. With a river cruise ship, you’re as familiar with it almost as soon as you arrive as the home you were brought up in.
9. You don’t need to be ancient to river cruise
While there are no climbing walls, flow riders or silent discos on river cruise ships, there’s no reason to assume that because of its more ‘relaxing’ approach, they’re only suitable for your nan and her bridge evening crowd (although they’re very welcome too). River cruising and it’s destinations can be just as interesting, absorbing and relevant to young people and it would be rather presumptuous to assume otherwise. Also, that’s not to say that river cruise ships are any less innovative than their giant sea cousins. For example, Emerald Waterways’ Star Ship class ships have a heated rear infinity pool with a retractible roof and in the evenings, the pool disappears under the floor and the whole area literally transforms into a cinema! I’ve not seen a single ocean ship that can do that!
10. You don’t get swimming pools full of kids
While river cruise ships are not strictly adult only, although many are, you’d be thankful that you don’t run the risk of really fancying a nice cool drink followed by a relaxing bathe in a warm pool, only to find it full of under tens, flicking water at each other, spilling Coke everywhere and poking fun at your swimming shorts. Nope. Doesn’t happen on river, although depending on your swimming shorts, I can’t guarantee that last one.
Well, there you have it. Ten slightly tongue-in-cheek but utterly compelling reasons why river cruising is as good, and some would say even better than ocean cruising. I can live without the climbing walls and the go kart tracks, but I can’t wait to see the disappearing swimming pool for myself!