River cruising is one of the fastest growing areas of travel, demonstrating annual double-digit growth for more than a decade. It's no wonder when you consider all that a river cruise has to offer. From Egypt to Germany to the Amazon, one can travel the world and view the sights all from the luxury of a world-class cruise ship.
In my experience, river cruising in particular has many benefits that ocean cruises cannot offer. To begin with, river transport is far more wide reaching, as smaller river cruise ships can reach the interiors of countries rather than just the coastlines. In some areas, river may even be the only means of access. This means that we as travelers get to travel directly into the heart of small villages and get an insider's view of exotic locales that are otherwise hard to reach. For example, Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) recently reopened its borders to tourists and is quickly becoming a hot destination due to its rich cultural heritage. One of my favorite experiences was sailing through ruins from the 11th and 12th centuries on the Irrawaddy River and getting an up close look at pagodas and temples still standing upon the river banks. Another well-known river cruise that's not to be missed: the Nile. While Nile river cruises have been popular for some time, the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism recently reopened a section of the Nile previously closed to tourism. Now, river cruises can take passengers from the upper Nile to southern Egypt in ten days, allowing travelers to visit some of the most well preserved historical sights and view the pyramids from the luxury of their ship deck.
This brings us to our next benefit of river cruises, which is possibly the best: relaxation. While most travelers have to work with logistics and figure out how to get from their airline to their hotel to their sights and back again, travelers enjoying a river cruise can enjoy the sights directly from the luxury of their decks.
During my last river cruise on the Danube, I enjoyed views of quaint villages from my own balcony, and later, marveled at the medieval architecture of Regensburg from an on-board restaurant while enjoying traditional fare. I have found nothing to be more relaxing than spending a day on deck in my favorite lounge chair and enjoying the views as the scenery changes. No need to do any planning or even go anywhere, if you don't want. After I've sufficiently relaxed and the mood to do some sightseeing strikes, I've found that river cruises have plenty of tours to offer. During my last Nile river cruise, I was feeling very adventurous and embarked on a hot air balloon ride over Luxor enjoying views of the temples and monuments from a view many never see. The next day, I enjoyed a more relaxing foot tour of Temple of Horus in Edfu, followed by lunch and a nap. Being a world traveler, I'm accustomed to not always receiving the finest accommodations. One of the trade-offs to visiting far off corners of the world is giving up luxury hotels. However, I have found this to not be the case on a river cruise. Not only do passengers receive the benefit of a cruise ship providing new sights at every moment, but most river ships are very nice, if not luxurious. Some even resemble 5-star hotels with pools and sun decks, restaurants and fine dining, lounges, fitness facilities, casinos, and more. No longer are the days of tight cabin spaces; passengers frequently enjoy larger rooms with comfortable bedding, flat screen televisions, and French balconies. Now, not only can I visit secluded areas, but I can do it in comfortable accommodations. Another benefit to traveling to secluded places by ship is that you're not alone. I've made many a few friend and have fond memories of special times on cruise ships. River cruise ships are much smaller than their ocean cruising cousins, meaning fewer passengers aboard. Most ships carry below 200 passengers, and some can even carry fewer than 50. This creates a more intimate atmosphere, giving passengers a better opportunity to become acquainted with their fellow passengers. An added plus to this benefit: no crowds to fight on board.
Whatever your tastes may be, there is certainly a river cruise to suit your style. Whether you'd like to cruise the Danube, China's Yangtze, or Russia's Volga River, there is something for you. You won't be disappointed.