River Cruising is an amazing way to explore the world! You may have heard of river cruising, but do you know much about it? What makes it different? On our recent river cruise on the Danube, we met up with Patrick Ludvigsen, a business development manager with Avalon Waterways, and he was kind enough to sit down with us and answer some questions about river cruising and Avalon Waterways.
1. How is a river cruise different from a land tour?
The biggest difference is that your hotel moves with you! A river cruise allows you to unpack once and settle in. Sleeping, eating, transportation and tours are all part of a complete package and fully managed by your cruise line. Your journey is a seamless experience!
River cruises are often more inclusive than a land tour. The cruise line provides all meals, including drinks. Every day of your itinerary includes a choice of excursions (and any necessary transportation) that are often guided by locals who are very familiar with the city. Also included: Bicycles to use while in port and Wi-Fi on board the ship.
2. What are the advantages of cruising with Avalon Waterways?
Let’s talk about 3 reasons to choose Avalon Waterways for your next river cruise: Space, Views and Choice.
SPACE. Like some other lines, Avalon has what the industry terms longships (433 feet long). By offering a smaller passenger capacity, Avalon is able to have larger staterooms – approximately 30% bigger than other lines.
VIEWS. Avalon ships have plenty of large windows and many areas of the ship boast floor to ceiling windows – including your stateroom. Only available on Avalon Waterways, the 200 square foot Panorama suites offer a unique Open–Air Balcony® . Opening up to eleven feet wide for stunning views, these windows have the widest openings in river cruising!
CHOICE. Avalon offers activities for travelers with varying interests and for all energy and fitness levels. This allows you to tailor a vacation to suit your interests and pace.
- Active excursions are for the traveler who thrives on motion and action. Avalon offers a variety of energetic excursions that include activities like hiking to castle ruins, biking around Vienna or even a canoe trip on the Danube.
- Discovery excursions offer more engaging experiences and allow you to dive deeper into the culture you are visiting, These hands-on experiences include a painting class in Amsterdam, tasting locally produced cheese at an ancient abbey or learning how to make schaumrollen in a local bakery. Traditions come to life as you shift from observer to participant.
- Classic excursions offer traditional sightseeing tours for those who long to see classic sights. Avalon excursions are lead by locals who know the area well and provide you with interesting information as you explore a new city.
Avalon Waterways is part of the Globus Family. Besides Avalon Waterways, the Globus family includes Globus (premium guided tours), Cosmos (value guided tours) and Independent tours (tours without the group). This family owned and operated company is celebrating their 95th year of travel expertise! Because Avalon is part of the Globus family, you have the unique opportunity to combine a river cruise with a land tour to extend your vacation with all your options in one seamless package. Visit sites that are more inland from the river or spend more time touring your favorite destination after your river cruise is complete. There are many ways to create the perfect journey for you!
3. Are River Cruises really that different from Ocean Cruises? YES!
River cruises are designed around your destination. Tours and excursions are included for each port stop, usually begin right after breakfast and last longer than a typical ocean cruise excursion. A midday break allows you to return to the ship for lunch (if you prefer). The afternoon is often on your own, allowing you to explore more of the city at your own pace. There are some days that offer a morning AND an afternoon excursion.
There are no sea days on a river cruise. Your cruising time often occurs during the night, but there will be some travel during the day. Take the time to go to the sky deck and enjoy the beautiful scenery as you meander along the river. Even if you travel during the day, you will still have a port stop on that day to explore.
There is rarely sea sickness on a river cruise! As opposed to the open sea, rivers provide calm waters and the river cruise ships glide along smoothly.
Experience river locks. Rivers will sometimes have different water levels and in order for the ships to move from one level to the next, engineers have designed river locks used for raising and lowering ships between stretches of water of different levels. It is a cool, one-of-a-kind experience watching the process!
In the image below, the ship is entering the lock. Once inside, the water level raises the ship to the top of the concrete wall and the ship will then sail out of the lock.
You will find a much smaller passenger count on European river cruises. The Avalon Waterways average passenger count is 150. On our Danube River Cruise, everyone cruising with us could comfortably fit in the lounge during evening entertainment and the dining room could hold everyone who wanted to enjoy the 3-course meal in the evening (with no wait). While some river cruise lines have a higher average, the largest European river cruise ship has a passenger count of 196 passengers.
4. What are the activities offered on board Avalon Waterways?
- Putting green
- Lawn games, including chess and checkers
- Hot tub
- Evening entertainment, such as a local musician.
- Fitness Center, plus guided morning stretches and yoga
- Game & books in the lounge with 24 hour specialty coffee and snacks.
5. What are some of the more popular river cruises?
The Danube is a popular river cruise with a diverse itinerary offering larger cities like Budapest and Vienna mixed with quaint villages like Durnstein or Vilshofen.
The Rhine is also popular, with the amazing Rhine Gorge, and provides a great itinerary visiting cities like Amsterdam, Cologne and Basel.
Themed River Cruises are an extraordinary way to combine your river voyage with a hobby or passion dear to your heart. Savor rich culinary experiences, delve into local history, tap your feet to enchanting music, or soak in the festive cheer at Christmas markets – this is just a short list of the possibilities!