Usually, when people think about taking a vacation aboard a cruise ship, the first thing that comes to mind is one of the monstrous vessels that are seen in all of the major ports of the world. But over the course of the last decade, river cruises have quietly become more common and more popular. In many ways, they are now competing for the attention, and the budgets, of those who love to travel by water. And, while not long ago taking a river cruise might have been considered a "specialty," nowadays it is considered more mainstream.
European river excursions are the most popular and were also the pioneers in providing interesting "off the beaten path" types of cruise vacations. There are many spectacular rivers that meander through different countries in Europe, which allows people to explore many scenic and historic areas not accessible by the large cruise ships.
Nowadays, river cruises are also more common in other parts of the world. As river cruise lines noticed the rise in demand for excursions on the European waterways, they were quick to develop and offer opportunities in other continents as well. Today, you can choose a river cruise in Europe, many parts of Asia, areas of Africa and South America, and even select rivers in North America.
One of the advantages of a cruise on a river is that the cruise ships are much smaller and therefore offer a more intimate and personal experience. Most of the cruise lines that sail the watercourses of the world take particular pride in offering their passengers excellent service, often with a ratio of one cruise staff member to every three passengers, or even less. This ensures that each and every person along for the ride has their needs promptly addressed, are well attended to and even pampered on their voyage.
Even though the overall size of the ship that will carry you on the river outing is smaller, in many cases the cabins are somewhat larger than what you would find on the giant cruise ships. In addition, they are often outfitted with fine appointments, which are meant to cater to American tastes and demands. Some of the newer ships have full Wi-Fi internet access and recent renovations on older ships have resulted in cabins with flat screen televisions, MP3 sound systems, fine high-count linens, cashmere throws, plush bathrobes, and European touches in decor and furnishings.
Adding to the luxurious surroundings of your cabin, you will also be gently gliding by gorgeous French chateaus, imposing German castles, brilliant tulip fields and many more stunning sites throughout the interior regions. And, when you are not enjoying the sights rolling by from your comfortable chair on the sun deck, you will have opportunities to leave the ship and savor the ambiance of the towns and villages along the river and rub shoulders with the locals.
There are more and more travel experts who say that the best way to experience Europe for the first time is to take advantage of their river cruises. This way you avoid many of the crowds and the tourist traps that are so common in the larger cities, especially in the larger, coastal ports where the giant cruise ships dock. Cruising up and down the watercourses offers comfort, relaxation, and the wonders of seeing and experiencing Europe on a much more intimate level.
Can you imagine going on vacation and being told when you could eat, sleep or play? Cruises used to be very rigidly scheduled. Dinner was set at a specific time and the activities were set up in a rigorous manner. You needed to experience your ocean vacation according to somebody else's rules. You do not have to worry about that any more. Cruise ships nowadays are very flexible. You can choose to eat at anytime you want, even at the late hour of 2:00 am. The kitchen is always open. You can swim when you have the urge and play whenever the mood hits you.
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