It Starts with a Sophisticated, Intimate Ambiance
When it comes to overall size, all riverboats are created equal. They have to be narrow enough to fit into the many locks you'll navigate on Europe's rivers. They need to be just the right height to safely pass under bridges centuries old. Today's state-of-the-art designs often include collapsible masts and navigation bridges that can be raised and lowered as needed when water levels rise so that the riverboat can sail on without interruption, weather permitting.
THE SIMILARITIES END THERE.
Riverboats range from comfortable older vessels to new modern-made ships that offer luxurious amenities and impeccable décor. They are much smaller than ocean-cruising vessels and are purposefully built with a fixed width to comply with the European lock system. While cabins and public spaces are not as large as ones found on ocean liners, most, if not all, of the cabins will have outside facing views to take in the passing scenery. Depending on deck location and price category, cabins will have portholes, larger windows, or French balconies. Cabin size varies, from cozy accommodations to spacious elegantly appointed suites with walk-in closets, marble baths, and floor-to-ceiling windows with French balconies.
Today's riverboats are typically equipped with everything you experience at a hotel, with professional housekeeping and dining staffs; dining rooms with open seating for meals; Internet access (albeit intermittent depending on the destination); a lounge / bar; fitness facilities; and a sun deck that may sport a pool, hot tub, a putting green and more while you enjoy 360° views of the passing landscapes. Riverboats cater to smaller passenger groups of like-minded travelers, making it easier to engage with your fellow cruisers. The atmosphere onboard is friendly, casual and relaxed and attuned to ensuring more personal onboard experiences.
WHAT SHOULD FIRST-TIME RIVER CRUISERS CONSIDER WHEN EVALUATING THE ONBOARD EXPERIENCE?
• Décor and design. Thoughtful design and décor count when assessing build quality, as do innovations that make the most of the limited space onboard. If ambiance is important, look for real wood accents, handsomely appointed furnishings and fine fabrics throughout.
• Cabins and suites. You may have a choice of cabins or suites onboard. Cabins are smaller in size (averaging 150 to 225 sq. feet on Tauck's boats) including a private bath with shower; many cabins have large windows to take in the passing scenery. Larger suite accommodations (300 sq. ft. on Tauck's boats) often boast floor-to-ceiling windows with French balconies, seating areas, and more spacious bathrooms.
• Intimate cruise experience. The number of guests onboard impacts comfort, noise and service quality in public spaces, the ease of getting on and off the ship and the cabin sizes on the ship. More intimate spaces mean more opportunities to engage with your fellow guests, making shared connections that enhance your experience.
• Dining options. Onboard dining typically includes regionally inspired, chef-prepared meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. See how many choices you have onboard, if you can enjoy open seating, whether meals are from a set menu, à la carte or buffet, if premium spirits, quality wines, and beers are complimentary and if gratuities and service charges are included. Dining ashore ensures a real taste of local culinary fare; look for river cruises that include meals in restaurants, private homes, wineries, castles and more to enrich your experience.
• Amenities. River cruises typically offer a balance of cruising with time spent ashore and offer amenities that cater to both experiences. Some riverboats include complimentary bicycles for use on shore, a fitness facility, hair salon, Jacuzzi and a putting green.
• Onboard entertainment. Many riverboats feature presentations, tastings, and demonstrations by local experts, folkloric shows, musicians, dancers and more to bring local culture onboard. Shipboard lounges may include a small dance floor, nightly piano music, and an intimate bar.
• Service. All river cruise companies feature hotel and restaurant staff, as their service in cabins and dining rooms plays an important role in overall guest satisfaction. Equally important is the personalized care and attention guests receive onboard as well as ashore. Director-level staff is trained to provide both, combining destination expertise with meticulously planned, seamlessly orchestrated cultural experiences, and peace of mind safeguards that ensure a worry-free vacation.