A lot of us Malaysians might be familiar with sea cruising with the luxury of cruises from Penang and even Port Klang ready to take us places in a pre-Covid era. But perhaps when travel resume, consider river cruising instead for a change of pace and perspective.
Rivers are the flowing veins of the earth, from the mighty Amazon and Nile to the Rhine and Danube, with human, animal and plant life lining their banks. When the olden days travelers follow these waterways, they are looking for an intimate connection with the destination and a floating home to return to after a day of exploration. To the uninitiated traveller, choosing a river cruise can be daunting. In Europe alone, more than two dozen companies offer extended river cruises. But here are a few things to consider when choosing your river route.
1. What do you want to experience?
Hikes, wine, tulips in spring, fine dining, historical landmarks, alternative dining venues, step-out balconies, French balconies, dual balconies, king-sized beds, butler service – and the list goes on. Some river cruise companies specialises in a certain area of interest such as bringing the fine dining experience to its guests throughout the cruise.
But others like Avalon Waterways offer two or more options of excursions depending on your interests. This gives you the flexibility to mix and match between various activities throughout the trip - something beneficial for those with varied interests or is travelling in pairs or as a group.
2. Where Do You Want To River Cruise?
Closely tied in to the first question, the next part is listing down where you want to travel around. Rhine and the Danube are popular choices for first timer river cruises - especially the latter. Why? Aside from its picturesque views on the water, sailing on the Danube features a list of marquee cities – Nuremberg, Passau, Linz, Vienna, Budapest, Bratislava (as well as Bucharest and Belgrade on some itineraries) and it offers something for everyone.
But if you want to see more, some river cruise companies also have cruises that cut across various waterways such as the Rhine, Moselle and Main.
3. What is Your Budget?
Next, decide how much you are willing to budget for your river cruise. Some river cruise companies are all-inclusive to ensure you get a hassle-free experience without having to worry about your meals, daily expenses and gratuities. But what if you could do without that 24/7 booze or prefer to opt for a cheaper excursion?
It's hard to pin a price to the experience you want so remember that pricing is a moving target. But of course, you can always save a little more and even snag great deals when you book your river cruise in advance with an authorised travel agent such as Sedunia Travel, the official GSA for Avalon Waterways.
4. When do you want to go?
Finally, when do you want to cruise? Do you want to see tulips in bloom? Christmas Markets? Grape harvest? Fall foliage? Avoid the crowds? Avoid the heat?
One final caveat about cruising Europe's rivers: Aside from special Christmas market and New Year cruises, the season typically runs from April to October. Be aware that heavy rain and spring flooding can make the rivers swell and the locks become impassable. (Many are under bridges, so if the water is too high, boats can't fit underneath.)
Always check with your local travel agent on a recommended period as they would be able to provide you with experience and information.
5. Finally, how many people are cruising with you?
If you're a solo traveller, you may have to deal with the dreaded single supplement where you end up paying the same price as two pax to a cabin. But some companies like Avalon Waterways occasionally waiver or reduce the single supplement when you book in advance.
Another thing to factor in is how many people are onboard the ship. In a post-Covid world, we foresee that less is better which is why small-ship cruises will be more popular and higher in demand. More and more travellers will be willing to pay for that extra bit of space and privacy. Maybe being a solo traveller wouldn't be so bad after all.
Hopefully, these five questions will help you come closer to matching you to the perfect destination on a ship that suits your style. Of course, you can always get in touch with Sedunia Travel for a sure fire shortcut to getting your river cruising plans rolling in 2022!
Sources: Cruise Critic, River Cruise Advisor