Busted: Five Myths About River Cruising

Cruises Editor

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People who’ve never been on a river cruise are sometimes quick to jump to misconceptions about this style of holiday. Here are five recurring myths that just don’t add up.

River cruises are all the same

Done one, done them all? Let’s see. On a history-dense Rhine cruise through Germany you ship will waltz past cathedrals, medieval towns, castles, baroque palaces and cities with thousand-year cultures. On the Danube, between Budapest and Bucharest, you get wide-open spaces, snow-capped mountains and the fabled Iron Gates gorge (plus a bit more history). In France’s Bordeaux region, vineyards and cellar doors await. On the Mekong River you’ll see floating markets, Angkor Wat and disturbing Khmer Rouge prisons. Then there’s the Amazon, Mississippi, Yangtze, Nile…


River cruising is expensive

Everything is relative, so what’s cheap to one person may cause another to wince. But before you dismiss river cruising, consider that most companies now offer fully inclusive fares that cover accommodation, transportation, three daily meals, on-board entertainment and lectures, guided shore excursions and tipping (ocean cruises rarely include the last two.) Early booking and an eye on specials will yield significant discounts. A river cruise costs between $200 and $500 per person, per night. Try matching that yourself – and remember that someone else is doing all the organisation for you.


I’ll be holidaying with American retirees

So, part of the answer is yes, you will. On some cruise lines such as Uniworld and Viking, older Americans form the majority. Great! Have a chat, discuss different worldviews, and meet people with a wealth of experience, many of who were once intrepid travellers. The other answer is no, you won’t. Uniworld runs some multigenerational cruises aimed at children, and cruise lines such as APT, Travelmarvel and Scenic attract many Australians. All cruises are leavened with Brits, Canadians and other random nationalities.


River cruises aren’t active enough

The view of cruises being full of the overfed and nearly dead is so yesterday. River cruises provide ample opportunities to get up and go. Many ships carry Nordic walking sticks and bicycles, some have small gyms, top-deck walking tracks and morning yoga classes. Shore excursions might allow you to hike, bike or kayak. Even regular tours can require surprising stamina, involving hours of walking, often over cobblestones. Most companies shuffle the “gentle walkers” into their own tour group so as not to hold back the others.


I’m going to get bored

Yes you are, if you have no zest for life or interest in travel. True, compact river ships don’t have the facilities of ocean ships. But cruise-only days are rare, river ports close enough together to allow day-long docking – and right in the middle of towns and cities, too. Go off and explore by yourself, or take increasingly varied shore excursions, which might range from food tours to kayaking trips, history walks to truffle hunts. If you’re an inquisitive human being, you won’t be bored while river cruising.

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