I recently had a friend who returned from a beautiful trip to the Provence area of France with a top land tour group. She loved her trip, but mentioned that a lot of the trip was spent on bus travel and frequently changing from one nice hotel to another. I asked her why she hadn’t considered a river cruise on the Rhone and Saone to visit that area of France. She was surprised to hear that was even an option.

River cruising has never been more popular and sought after than NOW! It is truly a marvelous way to travel Europe (also Egypt and Asia). “Wow” is the way I describe it. Since the completion of the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal in 1992 opening, over 3,000-miles of continuous water network in 13 different countries, river cruising is ideal. You might remember that long before roads, rivers were the means for traveling so their banks abound in impressive villages, towns and cities. The boats used for river cruising are beautiful…almost like boutique hotels. Unlike large ocean cruise ships, river boats accommodate only a small number of passengers (mostly 90 to 150) so you never feel crowded. And unlike large cruise ships, you always see gorgeous sights everywhere you look, as the rivers are narrow and you are never far from land, filled with history of old civilizations.

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

What are the itineraries? There are many different ones to choose from, all depending on where you want to go and how long you want to travel. One of the most popular ones is a 15- day cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest (or vice versa), which will take you through five different countries and many ports of call. But there are shorter ones for seven days in many different areas of Switzerland, Germany, north/south and west France, Portugal, Egypt on the Nile and Cambodia and Viet Nam on the Mekong River. And then there are the popular Christmas market sails during November and December, and even celebrating New Year’s Eve in Vienna with a Mozart concert. And there is the famous tulip sail in Holland during spring to see the tulip display in Kufenhoff Gardens.

How is the food? Outstanding…every single meal! Top chefs prepare gourmet menus from fresh ingredients found daily. There is tremendous variety and impressive quality. Most river cruises have open seating, with fancy buffets in the morning plus special entrees. A recent trip I took had dinners equal to food in a five-star French restaurant.

How are the staterooms? Beautiful and in most cases extremely roomy (usually going from 150-square-feet to over 200-square-feet) with Suites offering even more space, most with glass floor to ceiling windows and different balcony configurations. Bathrooms are well-appointed with top-of-the-line amenities. Rooms are made up twice a day, fresh towels are in abundance.

How is the service? Excellent. The staff is trained to accommodate the needs of the small number of people traveling.

What about nighttime entertainment? There is always some evening entertainment depending on the itinerary. It can vary with just a piano player in the salon to local entertainment which comes on board in various ports. Many boats dock in ports in charming towns so you can walk off and enjoy some local bars and restaurants.

What is the main difference between large ocean cruises and river cruises? To me, it is based on the small number of people on board, coupled with the fact that while the river boat is beautiful, the focus of the trip is the itinerary and all the things you do every day off the boat. Frequently the boat stops at several different towns daily, so, you are always exposed to new and different things. For those who might get seasick, river cruising is as smooth as moving on glass.

What are the costs of river cruising? In most river cruises, the price includes all the daily excursions (there might be optional ones), all the meals, complimentary wine/beer at lunch/evening meals, and some even offer butler service. I am a river cruise enthusiast. It would be hard to imagine anyone who would not appreciate such outstanding service, great food and amazing itineraries in a small group setting. Why don’t you join me on an Egypt cruise in February or a Seine River Cruise in September 2023?

Linda Stack is owner of Travelinda LLC, and can be reached at LLStack9597@gmail.com.

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