Not everyone likes a cruise ship – large or small – but the convenience of not having to pack and unpack frequently has appeal. River boat cruises offer an attractive option, especially for those who may be prone to sea sickness. It is guaranteed that you will always be seeing land and rivers obviously don’t have the turbulence of ocean travel.
Sawgrass resident Mary Vandenberg has been on a few cruises and prefers smaller ships. Her first cruise, to Bermuda, was in 1972. “I was sick the first 3 days,” she said. “That was before I knew about the patch. (FYI: here’s a quick peek at what google says, Studies suggest that scopolamine patches work just as well as dimenhydrinate. And, they may work better than meclizine. They also work longer and may be less sedating. You will need a prescription; these aren’t available over the counter. And you might experience side effects. ) Vandenberg was among the Delmarva Travel Club group that sailed through the Bordeaux region of France on a river boat in 2018.
River boat cruises offer plenty of choices. Currently, there are over 50 cruise lines spanning more than 270 ships worldwide. With a fleet of 60 vessels, Viking is probably the best known as it does a significant amount of advertising. Viking and Uniworld are on the upper end of the pricing scale. For example, Viking’s river cruises for 2023 last between eight and 23 days, and prices range from around $2,000 to $11,000 per person.
A bit lower on the price scale, Grand Circle is the cruise division of the popular Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT) organization. The company prides itself on the fun-loving, congenial personalities of its tour guides and educational content. Grand Circle does not use travel agents. Gate 1 Travel’s slogan “More of the World for Less” applies to its river boat cruises. The value line also compares favorably to higher priced companies.
In general, river boat ships carry between 100 – 200 passengers. Most cruises are all-inclusive meaning food, many beverages, excursions and even air fare are included in the up-front price. Packages do vary.
River boats are like long and narrow barges with a compact, cozy feel. Some are more luxurious than others
Rooms tend to be small and can be a bit claustrophobic. Some are so small that they have murphy beds that double as sitting areas during the day. When not on a daytime tour, most passengers gather in the common space that serves as a reading room, cocktail lounge, entertainment center and usually the best spot for wifi accessibility.
Unlike larger sea and ocean cruise ships that offer numerous dining locations, there usually is one dining where breakfast, lunch and dinner are served. Entertainment is likely to be a one-person singer/keyboard player and not lavish productions that are usually found on larger cruise ships. Nor is there likely to be a casino. River boat cruises tend to appeal more to those looking for a hassle-free, low-key vacation and a large percentage of customers skew toward an older demographic, typically between the ages of 50 – 70 or older.
Most river boat cruises focus heavily on educational experiences for guests. Tour guides spend a lot of time explaining the mores and cultural aspects of the cities and towns visited both on and off the ship. Because the ships typically dock right in a town or city, it is easy to take advantage of excursions and guided tours that are offered. There may be occasions when the boat cannot dock. The solution is water buses.
Another tip: Water levels, especially in Europe, should be considered according to Gary Bembridge’s Tips for Travellers. Water levels could be too high or too low resulting in a change of itinerary.
So if sea cruises aren’t your bag, then perhaps the little brother, river cruises might just suit your fancy!
Missed part 1?
By Mary Jo Tarallo, Guest Journalist
Mary Jo Tarallo spent much of her career in public relations with various non-profits and spent 40 years involved with the ski industry as a journalist, public relations director for a national trade association and as executive director of the Learn to Ski and Snowboard initiative. Prior to her ski industry involvement she worked for the Maryland International Center in Baltimore and United Way of Central Maryland. She won a Gold Award for TV programming for a United Way simulcast that starred Oprah Winfrey. She has been cited for her work by numerous organizations. Mary Jo grew up in Baltimore, attended the University of Maryland and Towson University, lived in Washington, DC for 21 years and has been a full time resident of Rehoboth Beach and Milton since May 2019.