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How to plan your first river cruise

04 September 2015

Planning a Holiday

Updated March 2017

Whether it be exploring the delights of Southeast Asia sailing along the Mekong or discovering the wonders of Europe on the Rhine, river cruises are a great way to see the world.

With carefully planned out itineraries and excellent hospitality onboard, venturing along one of the world's most famous rivers is a great way to enjoy a holiday. It could even be a break from the traditional beach holiday or city tour that you tend to go on. On these cruises, not only will you visit some beautiful places but also see some glorious sights en route.

If you are planning your first river cruise, there are probably a few things you will want to know before stepping aboard. Here is our handy guide to your first river cruise adventure.

Picking your location

The first thing you need to be considering is where you want to go and there are a huge amount of cruises to choose from spanning the globe. You can pick from Asia, Africa and Europe with all the trips ranging from 7 night voyages to 16 night adventures.

There is a wide selection to suit all tastes. Why not explore the likes of Holland, Germany and Austria with a cruise of the Rhine or see a different side of Spain and Portugal with a trip along the Douro? Eastern Europe can be covered with a Danube Explorer holiday which visits other nations such as Hungary and Slovakia.

You can travel a bit further to the likes of Vietnam and Cambodia to get a flavour of Southeast Asia. Even sail along the mighty Mississippi discovering the southern states of the US, there is simply so much choice available.

You will need to be aware of the travelling time involved. European cruises will include either flights or Eurostar travel to your first port of call while the longer cruises will involve longer trips to reach your starting point. So you need to decide what type of holiday you want to experience.

Read more in our blog about exotic vs European river cruising.

How long to go for?

Each cruise is tailored with a special itinerary in place, ensuring that you get to see all the best bits during your river cruise. The majority of European cruises span seven nights, including either flights or Eurostar connections, making them very manageable. The further afield trips in the likes of Asia, Africa and beyond are much longer. The latter gives you the chance to recover from long flights and ensure you have overcome jet lag before you set sail. Many of them will include a couple of nights stay in a hotel, giving you the opportunity to not only recharge the batteries but experience cities such as Siem Reap or Beijing before hopping on the cruise.

What to pack

This will no doubt be one of the first thoughts that crosses your mind when preparing for your first river cruise. You will get many chances to step off the ship and explore plus there will be many chances for dressing up and donning your smart attire.

Life aboard a river cruise is a laid back and casual affair but there are a number of formal evenings where a dress code may be required - so pack your best glad rags for these occasions. We also recommend low heeled shoes and comfortable footwear for when exploring the towns and cities during your holiday. Something for rain or shine is advisable and always pack sun block no matter the time of year.

Most of the ships are are fitted with onboard Wi-Fi so you can stay connected and upload photos whilst you sail. Ask your cruise sales expert about plug sockets in case you need to take an adaptor for your appliances.

Food and drink

You will be treated to some of the finest food around as all cruises serve breakfast, lunch and dinner at no extra charge. However, you may want to take a bit of extra money to treat yourself while ashore or to dine in a speciality restaurant.

You can not go to the likes of Southeast Asia or mainland Europe without trying some of the local delicacies. So while all food onboard is catered for, don't miss out on the delicious cuisine you can find at port.

Any river cruise will be one to remember, make sure you are thoroughly prepared before setting sail and ask your agent for more information.

Browse our river cruises or find out exactly what's included in your river cruise.

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