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Tips for First-Time River Cruisers

TravelPulse logo TravelPulse 5 days ago Lisa Iannucci
Vitava River, Prague © Flickr Vitava River, Prague

River cruising is increasing in popularity all the time, with new river cruise vessels launching every year.

However, if you’ve never been on a river cruise before, you might not know what to expect. It’s definitely different from a traditional ocean excursion, so what else do you need to know?

Ask A Pro:
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“My best advice is to get a travel professional who has been on a river cruise,” said Candie Steinman, Dream Vacations Franchise Owner and Vacation Specialist. “This a tough trip to do on your own. If you have not done one, you would not know which river cruise company would best suit your needs or which river to travel on.

"There are many things included in river pricing that are not included in most ocean options, and that needs to be explained. Many passengers are at first turned off by the higher prices for river, but when you compare everything that is included...river is actually a good value. Often, air rates are very competitive through the river cruise company and the agent can explore that for the new river cruiser.”

Karen Quinn-Panzer, Dream Vacations Franchise Owner and Vacation Specialist, emphasized how many choices there are, with notable differences between the top five to six brands and different rivers in Europe, Asia and the U.S.

“So make sure you talk to a travel agent to learn what works best for you,” she said. “Wine or theme cruise? Which rivers are you most interested in? Do you want a very active river cruise with hiking/biking or one where you can tour the highlights of each port? These are just some of the questions a good agent will ask.”

Take a Group Tour:
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“When traveling with a group tour, you'll get a far better, less expensive rate," said Greg Geronemus, the co-CEO of smarTours.  

"Our tours are all-inclusive, so everything from airfares, to transfers to most meals are included in our price. Traveling smarter with a group on river cruises equates to spending 50%-60% less, yet enjoying the same amazing sights.”

Research:
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“Understand your accommodations can vary based on the price level you are at,” said Greg Antonelle, managing director of MickeyTravels LLC.

“Like regular cruises, hotels, or airline seats, there are value River Cruises and there are high-end river cruises.  Know what you’re looking for prior to booking to avoid any surprises.”

Book Ahead:
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“Book at least nine months to a year in advance for the best options and pricing,” said Quinn-Panzer.

Don’t Get Sticker Shock:
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“Many people think the price is high for a river cruise," said Amy Madson, Independent Vacation Specialist with Cruises Inc.  

"When you consider all the included excursions, beer and wine with meals, intimate ships and a crew who knows you by name, river cruising is good value for this high service, culture-immersive cruise experience.”

Don’t Worry:
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“You do not need to allow extra time for embarkation and disembarkation because there are no long lines for boarding the river cruise,” said Ronda Zeneri, Land & Cruise Specialist with Cruise Planners.

“It’s similar to checking in for a hotel stay. Also, you do not need to worry about transportation in the ports because most of the towns are just a few steps away.”

“If you’ve been afraid to cruise because of seasickness worries, rest assured you won’t get seasick on a river cruise,” said Madson. “The shore is always in sight and there are no real waves on the rivers."

Be Entertained:
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“One of the biggest differences of river cruising vs. ocean cruising is the entertainment,” said Madson.

“On river cruises, you won’t find casinos and big production shows. You find amazing local entertainers, such as a couple who will teach you how to waltz in Vienna or an Austrian Folk music group serenading you during dinner.  If you are lucky, the crew will put on a show for you and this will be one of the highlights of your cruise.”

Get Out and Enjoy
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“Take comfortable, walking shoes for the many available tours,” said Zeneri.

Enjoy the sites,” said Margie Lenau of Wonderland Family Vacations. “You may only be in a city for a few hours, so don't miss out.”

“[If] you are flying all the way to Europe, why not stay a few days before and/or after the river cruise to enjoy a little more of Europe?” added Zeneri.

“Be ready to meet people and share stories,” suggested Madson. “River cruising usually offers an intimate group of 200 or fewer travelers with open seating for dining.  Sit with different people each day, learn their stories and share yours. You may make some amazing friends.”

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