The cruise we just returned from was our first ever river cruise. I thought I’d write an article on river cruise vs big ship cruises for those of you that may not have river cruised. Being our first, we had no idea what to expect.

One of the big differences was it’s a much smaller setting on a river boat, with only about 200 guests and 80 staff vs 2,000- 4,000 and up on a bigger ship. On a big ship, every time you leave the ship, there are long lines, you are told to scan out and also bring your passports. We were very surprised to be told to please leave our passports in the safe and not to take them ashore as they would not be needed in Europe.

One lady asked what would happen if she got arrested. The program director laughed and said, “just don’t break the law”. He also said, the reason not to bring them to shore was it was the holiday season and should you lose them, it would be almost impossible to find a US Embassy open to get a replacement to go home. You do need a passport to leave the country.

We also found it very very laid back. Prior to finding our schedule change, I let the front desk know I would be expecting a friend to meet me in Speyer, when I was out on a tour and asked if they could board to wait on me, and they said absolutely, and took down their name. That would never happen on a big ship.

When we left the ship we just had to turn in our room keys at the front desk. They changed them for cards with our name, the ship name and a number for us to call if we got lost. When we came back we traded them back for our room keys. This way, they knew if everyone was on board. I thought that was kind of cool

Also they had a dinning room, and an upstairs lounge. You could eat upstairs for breakfast and lunch or downstairs, all your choice. It was nice because you got to come in and sit with different people, and because it was a small ship, you made lots of new friends. On bigger ships, people tend to come with big groups, so it’s harder to meet people or see the same people more than once or twice. On this ship there is only 2 places to go at night, dinner, or upstairs to the lounge area for the events or entertainment of the night. We made a lot of new friends.

River cruising is more relaxed. At first look at prices it appears to be a little higher than big ship cruising but there are just not all the extra add ons you have on the bigger ships. For example, on a big ship, all wine, beer, coke and even water in bottles are charged extra. On our river cruise we were left a plate of cookies and snacks in our room, as well as a refrigerator and free bottles of water. Also at all meals, wine, beer and cokes were included.

On a bigger ship if you want to take an excursion, you order and pay for them. On the river cruise in every port there was an automatic excursion either by bus or walking tours but you did not pay extra. You could opt out to see the city on your own or take the free tour. There also was a couple of extra type tours you could purchase after the original one if you chose to or if not you had free time in that city.

I’ve taken probably 2-3 dozen cruises on 4 or 5 different lines. I think the river cruise was the most fun and interesting of them all, because we saw other countries and cultures and even when we were sailing there were lots of sites to see along the river and narrated explanations on what we were seeing if you were upstairs, so it was like a another tour.

We also had the opportunity to meet and get to know more people. It was interesting to me that about 80% – 90% on our tour were from the USA. Since we all came the farthest that was quite a surprise.

The downside is the long long flights to get there and get home. Even though we traveled first class, we found it very tiring. I could not even imagine a flight this lone in the back section with the small seats and no way to make your chair into a bed. WE opted to make our own flight arrangements that way we could shop the air prices and pick our schedules. If you opt for them to do it, you had to go on their schedule.

If you’ve never river cruised, I would highly recommend it for a truly fun and relaxing vacation.

One place on my bucket list yet is to see Australia, but after this long flight, I’m going to have to figure a way to either cruise over and fly only one time, with long stops along the way or a round trip 6 month cruise. I don’t think I’d want to take a flight that long 2 times in the same month. I think when I do Australia, I will cruise over, stay a few weeks, then fly back to Hawaii, stay a few days, stop in LA for a few days and then fly home. That way I can rest up between flight.

All in all, I’m thankful to finally get to see some of the world.


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