This article was sponsored by Escape Travel
Booking a holiday can seem like a welcomed reprieve from the deadlines and demands of everyday life, until suddenly you’re faced with the daunting task of planning it.
These days the modern traveller is inundated with endless options for just about every aspect of a trip. Accommodation, transport, sightseeing, even exchange rate variations can take days of research to get right. And no matter how precisely a holiday is planned, there always seems to be a few things that go awry and get in the way of valuable time away.
It’s no wonder river cruising is an increasingly popular choice – particularly for more experienced travellers who’d rather spend time soaking in the sights and sounds of a country on an all-inclusive curated tour, than thrashing a tricky self-forged path through it.
The European river cruising industry has boomed in the past decade. More than 120 river ships have been launched over the past five years alone, making river cruising the fastest-growing sector of the worldwide cruise market.
This could be attributed to the more intimate nature of the river cruise – the river cruise vessels are restricted by height and width, creating an experience quite different to the endless hallways and jam-packed entertainment program of enormous oceanic cruise liners. That means it takes less time to see more; river cruises can travel through as many as three countries in a week, offering a well-curated line up of culture-rich excursions on shore.
In recent years increasingly interesting itineraries are hitting the market, with tours offered through the many waterways that wind through the heartland of the world’s most imperial countries. Europe is the world’s top river cruising destination, and largest number of cruises can be found on the majestic Rhine river. The Rhine flows through Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany, France and the Netherlands. The Danube carves another popular route, from the Black Forest in Germany to the Black Sea in Romania, passing through Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia and Bulgaria along the way.
Not only are fascinating new itineraries hitting the market each year, the experience of river cruising has never been more stylish and comfortable. As your cruise liner glides along at an easy pace, you’re cocooned in comfort, surrounded by attentive staff at your service and the company of your fellow passengers.
Think of it as a floating luxury hotel – many cruise liners boast multiple restaurants, bars, lounges, leisure facilities including gym and day spas and plenty of outdoor space to soak in the panoramic sights. When choosing your river cruise operator, look out for fleets newer than 2008 – the finishings of modern fleets noticeably surpass the style prior to that year.
The best time to cruise Europe is during the warmer months, which is April to October, though Christmas and New Years tours are an option. With many tours setting off from majestic locations like Paris, Amsterdam and Budapest, many passengers choose to spend time prior to and after their cruise exploring the cities. Airfares are often included in the fare, but travel can typically be at your own pace. On the other hand, companies like Scenic Tours include an airport transfer to your vessel, with a private butler personally escorting you to your room.
Many river cruises operate with all-inclusive tab systems onboard, relieving passengers of handling foreign currency and exchange rates. River cruises typically sell at a single price which can include three chef-prepared meals a day, complimentary wine and beer, and unlimited tea and coffee. In addition the curated itinerary of onshore excursions are typically part of the all-inclusive fare price.
These can range from walking and coach tours of towns and cities along the route to immersive tours of ancient castles, vineyards and food tastings. Scenic Cruises offers inclusive experiences including visiting Ehrenbreitstein Fortress, Melk Abbey or the world-renowned Spanish Riding School. It’s a hassle-free approach to dining, drinking and sightseeing on a holiday.
Winding through waterways lined with ancient medieval castles, rolling natural landscapes and unique villages is sure to keep you entertained, though there are events not to be missed on board too. River cruises include a captain's reception and gala dinner, where passengers can mingle with the liner crew and each other in an elegant setting. It’s an ideal circumstance for meeting interesting people and forging friendships.
When it’s time to retire to bed, accommodation is as luxuriously appointed as you would expect from a boutique hotel. Many cabins offer French balconies and proper walkout verandas, along with stocked mini-bars, suites with butler service and very comfortable four-poster beds. And don’t be surprised if you wake up from a restful night’s sleep with a view of a different country completely.
This article was sponsored by Escape Travel