Embark on a river cruise

Caroline Cassidy
Choosing a river cruise
Choosing a river cruise

Pic: AFP/Getty

Cruising can be a relaxing and stress-free way to travel, but if you're not a fan of the high seas, a river cruise could be the answer. Travelling along the world's waterways enables you to explore beautiful cities and scenery from the comfort of your cabin, without spending days with a sea view or feeling poorly when things get choppy.

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Why a river cruise?
If you're a first-time cruiser, the river is a great way to get a feel for life on the water. Cruise ships are obviously smaller than the ocean-going variety, typically with less than 200 passengers on board, and this often makes the experience a more relaxing and informal one.

Another advantage is that, given the geographical importance of rivers and waterways historically, you are often sailing into the very heart of cities, where you can stop and explore easily. When you're not enjoying fabulous urban destinations, the scenery is constantly changing, so there's always something to see, whether that be from the privacy of your own cabin, or with fellow passengers on deck.

River cruise ships are often just as comfortable as the big liners these days too, so you'll have all the creature comforts and amenities.

Where to go
With such a vast wealth of culture and history on our doorstep, Europe is ideal for a river cruise. The River Danube, for example, flows through both grand cities such as Budapest and Vienna and pretty little villages and riverside towns, and is a great way to explore Austria and Germany. Similarly, the Rhine passes through much of Germany's Black Forest region, where fairytale castles sit proudly on the riverbanks, and wends its way past Holland's famous windmills. In France, there's the Seine, taking you to the heart of Paris, while the Saone and Rhone both take in some of southern France's most beautiful countryside.

For the more adventurous, why not try Russia's Volga river, running through both Moscow and St Petersburg, or opt for sunshine and warmth with a journey along the Nile, the world's longest river. Asia too is becoming ever more popular as a river cruise destination, with both the Yangtze in China, and the Mekong, which includes both Cambodia and Vietnam, offering astonishing countryside between bustling Far Eastern cities.
Tips for first-timers
Given their smaller size, most river cruise ships don't offer the same level of entertainment and facilities as an ocean-going vessel. For example, you may find that though your meals are catered for, the eatery is closed between mealtimes, so take the opportunity to try some of the local cuisine when you stop off at port. Also remember that a river cruise often passes through a great many beautiful cities and towns, and you'll want to make the most of your time in those destinations, so be sure to pick up a map (available on board) well before you dock, in order to plan your must-sees ahead of time.

But remember, a river cruise is also about relaxation, so never be afraid to miss the odd excursion or tour.

Have you taken a river cruise recently? Tell us about your experience below...