Cruising down an old European River

Now that the European Union is firmly in place and any dispute between Eastern Europe and Western Europe have long been resolved, one of the benefits of having a united Europe is that travelling between countries has become easier.

The ease of crossing borders has meant that cruising Europe’s many waterways has become popular too as there is not the constant interruption of having to regularly pass between Customs and Immigration posts. Nowadays, you just check in, get escorted to your cabin, unpack, and enjoy the journey.

Whilst big ship cruising on open oceans and seas is still extraordinarily popular, river cruising is also gaining fans and, in my humble opinion, there are some distinct advantages in choosing a river cruise over an ocean cruise.

Firstly, there is the size of the vessels. Ocean-going ships are getting bigger, in fact, some are just massive, catering to thousands of passengers and there really are floating cities.

River vessels, particularly those which ply the rivers of Europe need to be much smaller in size, because they need to be able to negotiate narrow channels, locks and fit under low bridges, so they tend to cater for just a few hundred passengers each. Which means that they are more intimate? Also onboard service is more personal; and you get to know both the staff and your fellow passengers much better.

One other issue is that, when you are at sea you really don’t need an outside cabin as you see mostly water on even the best days, but with river cruising there is always something to see as life continues both on the river and in the countryside that you pass, and some of those views can be utterly spectacular.

Now, I admit that I have a low boredom threshold, so one of the attractions that river cruising has for me over ocean cruising is that every day there are excursions on land. And that the river ship is often small enough to pull up at a wharf that is generally centrally located in a city or town, so that disembarkation is quick and easy.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not opposed to Ocean Cruising, indeed I am about to embark on one shortly, but shore excursions can be a problem on a large ship, particularly if the ship berths offshore and you have to be ferried to the port on small tenders. It is possible for the sudden arrival of several thousand sightseers to disrupt a small port, whereas the arrival of just a few hundred sightseers in an established river city is barely noticeable.

Generally speaking though, on board food and entertainment is similar on both types of vessels, and maritime traditions remain the same.

It really is a matter of personal choice, and cost is a factor too, in that ocean cruises tend to cost less per night than river cruises simply because the bigger size of ocean ships allows for a reduction of costs.

But, as with all things, you can simply judge for yourself by trying both forms of cruising, and I reckon that is the ideal solution – why settle for one, when you can experience the advantages of both.

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