In this the age of colossal ships that traverse the ocean, some might scoff at the adventure to be had sailing via a riverboat along the banks of some of the world’s most beautiful and romantic waterways. With no disrespect to the floating cities that offer travelers every imaginable opportunity, here is some insight and my ubiquitous list that is sure to make your riverboat travels all the more enjoyable.
Having tried several lines, I prefer the Viking River Cruises with their free WiFi and Aquavit Terrace designed to help all enjoy the beauty of the countries visited even before docking. Torstein Hagen, Chairman of Viking Cruises, has stayed true to his vision, “By focusing on an audience of like-minded travelers, and designing ships and itineraries that help travelers better explore their destinations.” Most exciting is the ability to be truly creative with one’s intact itinerary. So I decided to visit the cities of my ancestors, climbing my family tree with the help of MyHeritage a company,
"Committed to enabling people to discover, share and preserve their family history. Gilad Japhet, MyHeritage Founder and CEO was looking for a technological solution for his own family history research, and when he couldn't find one, he built his own. This led to the creation of MyHeritage, which is now available on the web, desktop and mobile with over 75 million users worldwide who have created 1.5 billion family tree profiles."
Thrilled with the results, I floated down the Danube meeting relatives I never knew I had. In truth, riverboat cruising may not be for everyone. But here are ten very good reasons why it just might be for you.
10. You can get lost in your own itinerary or allow the staff to arrange individual or group excursions as the staff to guest ratio is approximately 2 guest to one staffer.
9. Cruises are destination-centric and designed for experienced traveler with an interest in geography, culture and history.
8. These smaller ships travel into waterways their larger sea-going sisters cannot, offering breath-taking, up-close-and personal sightseeing opportunities; with no lack of technology to visit cities like Amsterdam, Budapest and Paris, which sprang up along the world’s most famous rivers.
7. The focus is on the experience; so while your days are full, the entire ship caters to the joy of exploration, discovery and edutainment rather than large shows, pool parties and the daily-enchanted chaos one comes to expect on the large ocean liners.
6. Conversation is key; not only between guests during meals and in the lobby after hours, but with the staff who learn about each person giving them the ability to act proactively and intuitively catering to what you enjoy often before you even ask.
5. Excursions focus on the culture and history of the region not souvenirs. Therefore, each stop is an opportunity for guided tours, private excursions, and a chance to lose yourself in the reality of the city finding by your own way and creating your own unique memories.
4. Fellow travelers already share similar interest based on the itinerary so making lasting friendships is easy.
3. The chef and staff have the ability to tailor menus to most dietary needs without compromising taste or creativity. Produce is often bought at a local market daily and served truly in what farm to table was meant to be.
2. Mother Nature creates opportunities not obstacles. While life on the ocean ships is rarely impacted by anything other than rough seas, one can come to expect the unexpected on a riverboat. With water levels controlled by a series of locks allowing for travel along the shallow river; itineraries don’t change drastically but you can find yourself unexpectedly spending a few hours in a quaint village exploring while the water level rises or lowers.
1. The world is at your doorstep. Weather permitting and whether from the sundecks or your stateroom balcony, magical destinations are literally only a few hundred yards away. The joy of meandering down the river allows for a lived experience, even if you don’t leave the ship, as you are close enough to interact with those who live on the banks of the Danube and beyond.