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How to plan your first river cruise

4th September 2015

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

river cruise far east

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

food and drink river cruise

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.

River cruising on a budget

20th August 2015

River cruising is a great way to see the world whether exploring Europe's hidden gems or embracing the culture of Southeast Asia.

A week or two-week long trip will take you to some of the places you may have never considered venturing before. Cruises along rivers like the Rhine and Danube bring the rich histories of Eastern Europe to life, whilst river cruising Asia gives you a real sense of being an intrepid explorer.

There is a common view with many of those who have never been on a river cruise before, that river cruising is expensive. However, many river cruise lines are All Inclusive and include excursions. If you consider the cost of an All Inclusive ocean cruise, plus the total price on average of an excursion in each destination, the price of river cruising compared with ocean cruising soon even out. As with ocean cruising, there are different classes of staterooms for every budget and with a bit of careful planning you can ensure you enjoy your holiday without the fear of overspending. Here are our tips for a cost-effective cruise to some of the most picturesque places in the world.


Pick an all inclusive river cruise


Scenic river cruise ship

When picking your cruise make sure that you opt for an all-inclusive option. This means you won't have to worry about any extra expenditure whilst onboard. The majority of river cruise lines will offer all-inclusive holidays which cover essentials such as breakfast, lunch and dinner, drinks, evening entertainment and a number of excursions.

If you can, look for cruises that will include flights and transfers within the price. For example, many of the Rhine cruises begin in Amsterdam so you will need to either fly or catch the Eurostar to the Dutch capital. Having this cost included can be a weight off your mind and one less thing to organise.

Seek out free attractions


Cologne Germany

Aside from the organised excursions included in the price of your cruise, you can save a bit of cash by seeking out the free attractions. Luckily, no matter what city your boat docks at there will be plenty of things to see and do completely free of charge.

Take Cologne, for example, this major city sits on the banks of the mighty Rhine in the North Rhine-Westphalia region of Germany. Its landscape is dominated by the imposing Do, a cathedral regarded as a focal point of the city. What makes it even better for tourists is that it is free, allowing people to wander around this magnificent Gothic structure for as long as they like.

Other favourites along traditional river cruise routes are the German National Museum of Contemporary History in Bonn, Begijnhof in Amsterdam and Geldmuseum in Vienna, all free of charge.

Sample delicious street food

Another way to save a bit of cash is by opting for the smaller street food vendors as opposed to lavish meals. Every stop on a river cruise can be a gastronomic adventure that doesn't cost the earth.

Why not hop off the boat in Germany and indulge in some currywurst for as little as €3 (£2.10) or a bowl of goulash in Budapest or even a delicious slice of apfelstrudel on the streets of Vienna? All of this glorious fare can be purchased for very little and can keep you fuelled throughout a busy day of sightseeing.

Having something on the go can mean you don't have to slow down your holiday or potentially be hit by an unexpected charge at a restaurant. If you have booked an all-inclusive river cruise you will be able to grab something whilst back on the boat.

Walk, walk, walk


couple walking in Italy

One major expenditure that any tourist can be caught out by is transport around a city. If your ship has docked for a couple of days you will be able to explore a little more but you need to be aware of how much public transport and, especially, taxis might cost.

With river cruising you can save on transport costs by exploring on foot because you can always expect to dock in a central location. Walking is an ideal way of navigating around a foreign city and you are more likely to discover some real hidden gems that you otherwise may have missed.


Browse our River Cruises, Duoro, Egypt, Mekong

Browse and book your next river cruise from our top 10 river cruises.

Single cruiser? Take a look at our single river cruise deals with low or no single supplement.

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