Ten reasons to try river cruising

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TRISH TAKES FIVE: By Trish Burgess

Last summer I was commissioned by Cruise International Magazine to write an article about a European river cruise with Emerald Waterways. I wasn’t sure what to expect and was curious as to how it might differ from an ocean cruise. A week on the Rhine and Main rivers, travelling from Amsterdam to Nuremberg, proved to be one of the most enjoyable holidays I have ever experienced.

Here are some reasons why river cruising is worth a look.

1. It’s a great way to see a number of towns and cities on one holiday, without having to pack and unpack as you travel.

2. Unlike ocean cruises, there is always something to see as you sail. The scenery on our trip included the fairytale castles along the Rhine Gorge, the vibrant cityscape of Frankfurt and the chocolate-box towns of Bavaria.

3. Many river cruise operators have introduced new ships to their fleet, creating contemporary, stylish vessels which resemble luxury boutique hotels.

4. The small size of the boats, usually less than 200 passengers, makes for a more intimate, friendly atmosphere: it took no time at all to feel at home.

5. Food is excellent, often reflecting the local cuisine. On our Emerald cruise we could sit anywhere in the restaurant, either sharing a table with other passengers or choosing to sit on our own at the plentiful tables for two. Dress is usually informal but service is top notch.

6. Onshore activities are optional: join the guided tours or make your own plans. You could ring the changes by taking one of the bikes kept on board for guests.

7. If you think tours consist of a large group of passengers following a vociferous guide with an umbrella, think again. Our guides spoke quietly into a microphone and each of us had our own individual audio system to listen to the information. We could wander off and take photographs at our leisure without missing out on the content.

8. You might be surprised at the facilities on board. On our ship we had a gorgeous swimming pool at one end of the ship. In the evenings the pool was cleverly covered by the retractable floor to turn the area into a cinema room, complete with comfy sofas and popcorn.

9. Cruise companies offer special deals to make the holiday more affordable. It’s worth doing plenty of research to find your preferred itinerary at the right price.

10. For many years river cruising has been seen as a holiday for retired people. I think that’s changing and younger passengers, as well as those young at heart, are realising that this is a brilliant way to travel.

You can follow Trish on Twitter @mumsgoneto and read her blog at www.mumsgoneto.blogspot.com