With words of wisdom from cruise industry doyenne Edie Rodriguez
by Patti Pietschmann Travel Diva
River cruises continue to be hot tickets. You can credit companies such as Crystal, Viking, Tauck, AmaWaterways, Uniworld and others for glamorizing the experience. No longer your grandparents’ riverboats, most now come with butlers, balconies and gourmet food.
Since the restyling of the industry, River cruises now attract more millennials and younger folk partial to upscale travel and immersive cultural experiences.
River cruises catering to younger generations
Savvy cruise lines recognize the trend and are configuring ships accordingly. For instance Uniworld now operates U River Cruises la with two ships aimed at the youth market.
AmaWaterways AmaMagna gives generation Xers what they want with more bars, yoga classes, a choice of dining venues and more active excursions.
One of the first to launch upscale river boats, Crystal Cruises can take a lot of credit for the huge swing in popularity. Its fleet of Rhine Class little ships are about as chic as they come.
Edie Rodriguez on river cruises
We spoke with Edie Rodriguez former CEO/president of Crystal Cruises who helped spearhead the luxury travel company’s introduction into river cruises in 2016. Edie left the company in 2017 to become Americas Brand Chairwoman of luxury expedition ship operator Ponant Cruises.
Edie explains that “River cruises are clearly a different experience.” Size does a make a difference,” she adds noting that capacity is about 100 people.
“It’s a much more casual than ocean liners and there are more port stops making it a great way to explore he world.”
Why river cruises are all the rage
“Back in 2001, while I was working on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, a colleague came on board from river cruises,” Edie recalls. “I had never even heard about this genre.” “’Then wow since 2017 it skyrocketed into a phenomenon that expedition cruises are currently embracing.”
Edie warns folks who prefer big ships that they won’t find the action on river cruises. “It’s a much slower pace that’s all about docking and getting off the ship, seeing and doing,” she says. “It’s best to always check with a travel adviser to discuss this.”
Now for those dozen things you need to know before booking a river cruise
Think of is like a “slow boat to China.” The pace is leisurely but the scenery and experiences are stupendous.
There are definite differences.
1. Riverboats or yachts are very intimate. We’re talking tiny to small. If you enjoy meeting and mingling with people this is it. One couple who took their first river cruise was turned off by the lack of privacy.
2. For the most part no matter river going vessels don’t have huge spas, casinos or production shows.
3. If you seek the nightlife you can find it in ports such as Paris, Amsterdam, or Budapest.
4. Rolling down a river is a much more relaxing and casual environment than big ships. Maybe too much downtime for some. You don’t need formal wear ever.
5. Fares are all inclusive and can amount to less than what you pay for ocean cruises. Nearly all river cruise fares include just about everything. The majority of river cruise lines serve complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks with lunch and dinner as standard. Some, such as A-Rosa, Scenic and Uniworld, are all-inclusive and have an open bar. Others, including Viking, offer beverage packages covering alcoholic or soft drinks.
What time of year is best to take a river cruise
6. The best time to catch a bargain is fall. But it depends on your activities. Christmas cruises on Viking River Cruises are always fun if you’re in a holiday mood. But if you like it warm then summer time’s ideal along the Danube. Despite the risk of high water levels during spring (March and April), a river cruise at this time of year can be a rewarding experience due to blossoming tulip gardens along the river. If you want to play it safe, avoid the rainy months from April to June.
7. If you’re flying to Europe for a river cruise know that they are normally a week long. There are a few longer ones. To defray the cost of air you might want to combine two back to back voyages or pick up an ocean cruise in one of the ports.
8. Bone up on the countries you’ll be visiting. It’s good to know something about the culture and people. Also this will help you decide if you want to go off on your own to explore. There are always lecturers on board, too, to fill you in. There are often pre-or post cruise options to consider (your agent will know this).
If age matters
9. Some river cruises still attract an older generation. If age matters discuss this with Pavlus agent who can steer you in the right direction.
10. Be ready to be adventurous with your eating. With fewer passengers to cook for, the food is usually fresher and even tastier than mega-ships. But sometimes they also throw in exotic dishes. You always have a choice.
Pick a theme
11. Pick a theme cruise if your curiosity extends farther than ports of all.
12. Leave the kids home. Chances are they won’t really enjoy it with some exceptions. A few lines cater to kids with storybook itineraries that include castles straight out of Hans Christian Anderson and Harry Potter files. Disney doesn’t do river cruises but the company works with AmaWaterways to offer Adventures by Disney. On these you can leave the children on board while you tour. They’ll be entertained with age-appropriate diversions such as treasure hunts and workshops.
Not all river cruises are alike. So be sure to contact a Pavlus agent who can match you with the right choice. You can also go to various web sites for backgrounders.