What to Expect on a River Cruise

If you’ve never been on a river cruise before it is difficult to comprehend the whole concept. What do the ships look like? Are the cabins small? Are river cruises expensive & do I need to pack my cocktail dress? River cruising is a whole different holiday to any other and until you have been on board it is difficult to know what to expect!

First and foremost – and perhaps quite obvious – do not expect a ship large enough to hold thousands of passengers, with various restaurants, bars and lounges. River cruise ships hold roughly 150-300 guests, their size is limited to ensure they can sail under low bridges and through tight locks. Built for purpose, the small size of river cruise ships allows them to dock in the heart of cities and towns – meaning you can walk straight off the gangway and into the centre of town. At each port of call there will also be an option to join a guided tour or excursion – most of which are included in the price of your river cruise (be sure to pre book your space). Many river cruises even carry bicycles on board for passenger use in ports (free of charge).

Intimate & Relaxing

River ships are intimate, you can’t get lost in the crowd – expect to see similar faces throughout your holiday. On board you will find one main restaurant (very rarely you may find two dining rooms), a couple of bars and lounge areas and a small pool on sun deck. However many operators are becoming more innovative and resourceful with their restricted space – Emerald Waterways in particular have installed retractable flooring into their pool area, along with a drop down screen which transforms the area into a cinema. Life on board is calm and relaxing – there is no rushing here and there – no crowds or long queues.



The entertainment on board is limited; there is no theatre, no casino, no dance clubs – there are usually a selection of talks and lectures during the river cruise, relative to the destinations – you often will find local folk groups invited on board as entertainment, giving guests an insight into local cultures.


Decor &  Accommodation

A common misconception is that the ships are old fashioned, when in fact the ships are of similar décor to that of a modern hotel, with similar amenities and facilities - of course with the added benefit that they move!! The cabins are reasonably sized with enough room for a double bed (or two singles), a dressing table, set of wardrobes, two chairs and a coffee table PLUS a separate bathroom with a shower (and a bath if you upgrade). There is also a choice of cabin, you may wish to upgrade to a balcony cabin or even a suite! Be sure of which cabin you choose – for some useful hints and tips regarding cabin choice click here. If you choose to upgrade you’ll be given additional amenities such as a personal butler, in cabin dining options and free laundry services.



Breakfast and lunch, is served most often in a buffet style whereas evening dining is full table service and operated on that they call an open dining system – you can come and go as you please (during opening hours) – PLUS the dress code is relaxed so leave your suit and tie at home (if you’re wondering what to pack, click here). The service in the dining room and in fact everywhere on board is exceptional, I’m yet to find a fault. The food is exquisite, PLUS they are very good at catering for dietary needs (i.e. gluten free). You often find a themed night in the dining room during your river cruise whereby they adapt the menu according to the destination – it’s a great experience, the waters tend to dress up for the occasion too!


Fellow passengers

It is common to find a mix of nationalities on board with the majority of passengers over 50 – but that’s not too say you will not see younger generations on board – in fact river cruising is growing in popularity amongst all ages! It is rare to see children on board though – while they are welcome on board, most river cruise lines do not cater for children in the same way an ocean cruise does; there are no children’s clubs and activities.


Constant scenery

whether that be peaceful hilltops or mediaeval castles, there is a constant 360 degree view to enjoy (so don’t forget your camera)!


Finally...leave the motion sickness tablets at home

The flat bottom ships sail effortlessly along the rivers, there are no large waves – just smooth sailing.

Looking for a great deal? Visit www.rivercruising.co.uk to find the right River Cruise for you! Alternatively, call one of our friendly river cruise experts on 0800 810 8229.

Think I’ve missed something or want to know more? leave a comment, let me know!

Come back soon. Jess Nuttall - RiverCruising.co.uk