In Europe, river cruising continues to experience an exceptional boom. Besides the utter increase in the number of boats on the rivers, the experience of a river cruise is changing, with more sophisticated amenities and smart new programs.
Here you can read about some of the new developments.
What’s shifting: Almost every river line offers the occasional buffet meal on its sun deck, typically on a day of cruising. What’s new is that some lines are incorporating alfresco dining into new ship designs. If dining outdoors is important to you, choose your ship carefully. Aside from the above-mentioned special sun deck buffets, lines have limited alfresco options.
Immersive Shore Excursions
What’s shifting: One of the charms of river cruising is that most shore excursions are included in cruise fares. These typically involve city walking tours or motor coach tours to major natural, historic or cultural sites. Increasingly, however, river cruise lines are adding more unique opportunities to their tour menus such as truffle hunting, visiting cognac houses to blend your own bottle and hands-on cooking classes.
What’s shifting: Unlike oceans, rivers can be buggy, and sitting out on your balcony or having your windows open can attract insects. The first ship has now put a screen in place on all balconies. It’s optional; the push of a button opens the balcony’s window with the screen in place — or not.
Cabins Get Bigger
What’s shifting: Some lines are frontrunners when it comes to upping the size of accommodations. Some pioneered the “suite ships” concept, at 200 square feet, about 15 percent larger than standard river cabins, these staterooms have a very different design from that of most riverboats, with walls that are slightly angled to open them up. In addition, floor-length windows peel back to create balcony-like seating areas with tables large enough for dining. Marble bathrooms are especially spacious. Going a step further, some reconfigured the layout of cabins on longships so that two-room suites, with separate sleeping and living areas, are lined up one side, sideways. This ship reduces capacity to increase cabin size. Another cruise cabin innovation is multilevel rooms that give every passenger access to natural light and fresh air. The result is a space that feels airier and more pleasant than previous lower-deck cabins. Furnishing also plays a big role in making cabins seem larger. Furnishings are more modernized on newer vessels to make the rooms feel more spacious. For others, standard balcony cabins were downsized to make room for more suites. Beyond suite accommodations, most river cruise cabins are still smaller than their oceangoing counterparts.