Introducing river cruising

Post updated: 25/03/2019

Even if you’re a regular visitor to these blog pages, you may not know about our sister brand, – the UK’s river cruising specialist. A river cruise offers you a very different type of cruising holiday and brings you the very best choice of itineraries and offers.

The river cruise experience

A river cruise is a unique way to see a number of the world’s most inspiring cities and areas of interest. The principle of travelling to a new port each day – just as you would on an ocean cruise – is the same, but with a river cruise, you’ll be able to experience a host of destinations much further inland.

What happens during a river cruise?

With a river cruise, there’s no coach transfer to your destination, as you’re already cruising right through them! Your scenery changes day by day and there’s always something new to see, whether you’re in port or not. Rolling valleys, sweeping forests and plunging gorges can all form part of your constant river cruise backdrop.

As for your ship, river cruises offer a more intimate cruising experience, with vessels typically catering for between 150 and 300 guests. You’ll soon get to know your fellow passengers and dine with them in elegant restaurants which serve delicious menus of mouth-watering, locally-sourced cuisine.

Where you can go on a river cruise?

River cruises explore some of the world’s most famous waterways, from Europe and America to Asia and India.


In Europe, a Rhine cruise will see you sailing through the stunning Rhine Valley, where idyllic countryside and majestic castles are all part of the scenery. A Danube cruise will give you the opportunity to explore such historic cities as Vienna and Budapest or you can sail France’s Seine from Paris for romantic sunsets in the city.


Meanwhile, the Yangtze is your gateway to many of China’s most spectacular cities and ancient wonders such as Shanghai, Beijing, the beautiful Three Gorges and the world-famous Terracotta Warriors of Xian. Not to mention the stunning Mekong and Irrawaddy rivers which course through scenic ports across Southeast Asia.


Why not venture to Africa and explore along the Chobe or Nile rivers for the chance to spot the Big Five, uncover ancient history or experience local life in the many villages you pass on the river banks?


The Mississippi is an iconic river, with paddleboats and jazz music galore to enjoy during your sailing. Take a step back into history and enjoy the rolling tunes of Memphis and Louisiana as you cruise to New Orleans.

Steamboat on the Mississippi River

Who will you see on your ship?

Cruising, in general, is often considered to appeal more to an older demographic, mainly the over 50s. However, there are more cruise lines looking to include something for younger groups to enjoy during their sailing and to gain a wider interest in cruising.

U by Uniworld is doing exactly that, with a modern fleet offering silent discos, adventurous excursions and live DJ sets. Excursions include sea kayaking, blokarting, pub crawls and quirky walking tours, with many sailings including overnight stays in port so you can explore the cities and towns to your heart’s content.

There are also themed river cruises which attract people of similar interests such as golf, wine or classical music, where you will meet like-minded people during your time on-board.

What can you do on-board?

Despite being much smaller than ocean ships, river cruise ships still pack plenty to do on-board. There are still multiple places to dine and enjoy a drink or two in the bar. including some al fresco spaces to watch the world go by as you enjoy lunch.

Many river cruise ships include an Observation Lounge, where you get the best views of the passing scenery as you enjoy an afternoon drink. For more indulgent beverages, why not take a dip in Uniworld’s jungle-themed indoor plunge pool aboard S.S. Catherine, where you can order a cocktail while relaxing in the water surrounded by palm trees.

As for activities, river cruise lines are an excellent way to immerse yourself in each and every port of call in your itinerary. From guest lecturers offering expert insight into your destination’s art, history, cuisine and more to performances from local artists and entertainment such as the opera or a show at the theatre.

For ultra-foodies, a river cruise satisfies all your cravings for delicious dishes and incredible ingredients with plenty of interactive workshops, private dinners and excursions to sample the local food in the city it was crafted. Crystal Cruises has the Vintage Room where you can enjoy a customised wine-pairing dinner with the expert guidance of wine sommeliers. Meanwhile, Viking River Cruises presents opportunities for you to be fully involved with cooking demonstrations featuring traditional artisanal cooking skills.

Guests dining aboard Scenic

What is the accommodation like?

River cruise ships typically carry around 200 passengers, as they are much smaller than ocean ships. This means certain spaces are adapted to fit, including the accommodation. One of the benefits of river cruising is that you always get a window, whether a balcony or window. Balconies are usually called French or Juliet balconies, which are floor-to-ceiling windows that open to halfway down for you enjoy the fresh air.

The accommodations still include luxurious fittings and furnishings which are much more decadent in comparison to mainstream ocean cruise lines. With sailings along rivers in hot countries or humid areas such as the Nile, Mekong or Chobe, the ships are even smaller so and include additional amenities such as mosquito nets and larger balconies to enjoy the views.

Accommodation on a river cruise

What’s included in a river cruise?

Most cruise lines include the sailing, accommodation, beer, wine and soft drinks at lunch and dinner, complimentary shore excursions and WiFi in the fare. There are some which also include things such as gratuities, transfers and butler service, it all depends on what type of river cruise you’re looking for.

The main thing with river cruises is the intimate and personalised feel of being on a river cruise ship. The service is welcoming and the staff remember your name easily, as well as how you like your drinks. This service comes as standard on a river cruise, so they are a great option for those who enjoy feeling at home during their holiday.

Why book your river cruise with

Yangtze River - China, Asia

Our award-winning Cruise Concierge service is a key part of what we do and it’s something which is part of the experience too. Upon enquiry, you’ll be appointed your own highly knowledgeable River Cruise Concierge, who’ll be able to assist in all aspects of your reservation and personalise your holiday to suit your needs. We also offer you a number of exclusive discounts and offers on river cruises that you won’t find anywhere else.

So, if reading this blog has piqued your interest and you’d like to find out more, check out the website. You’ll find informed guides to the world’s most popular waterways, the low-down on the world’s leading river cruise lines, a wealth of informative blogs and of course, an excellent choice of river cruise deals.

Call our river specialists on 0800 197 0854 and speak with our Cruise Concierge team today for more information.

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Emma Smith
Emma has more than seven years' experience as a writer and has been in the travel industry for nearly five years. She loves learning about new places and cruise ships coming to market, as well as discovering fun and exciting activities to do while you sail. She has cruised with Princess Cruises, Cunard, Celebrity Cruises, Virgin Voyages, Avalon Waterways and Royal Caribbean and is looking to get something in her diary for 2024! Her favourite things to see on a ship include excellent entertainment, a delicious cocktail menu and extraordinary dining venues.

One Response to “Introducing river cruising”

  1. Victoria Addington

    Just reading through your post made me wanna come to experience site seeing cruises. I am most captivated when you mentioned that the scenery changes day by day when you are cruising, as there are rolling valleys, sweeping forests, and plunging gorges. I am excited to invite my friends to some floating tiki boat tours this coming summer.


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