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Down the Lazy River – the Resergence of European River Cruising

November 2, 2010

Photo by Vickie Rust

Few European travel experiences evoke the spirit of relaxation and romance like a lazy, leisurely cruise on a scenic river, winding past quaint postcard village scenes and historic cities.  River cruising has experienced a dramatic increase in interest in the last few years, and rightly so.  As the mass-market cruise industry focuses on building ever bigger and better, the river cruise market segment is slowly morphing into an enticing alternative to the traditional cruise ship experience by offering small and intimate luxury vessels and unique itineraries. 

Photo by Vickie Rust

Point-of-fact:  River cruise companies are filling their ships to capacity, and are building new ships as we speak to fill the demand for more berths. This is an exact opposite trend with the cruise industry in general, where monstrous ships are built not due to capacity needs, but for the sake of adding new bells and whistles, and to tout the fact that they’re now the biggest.  Enter the genteel river vessel, long and sleek, quiet and purposed, a veritable haven from the throng of cruise addicts on their way to the next buffet.  Most river cruise lines offer a plethora of amenities with their ships, like included shore excursions, European wine with your Five-Star dinner, complimentary use of bicycles at a port call, et cetera. 

Photo by Vickie Rust

Each river has its own unique personality and key selling points.  Is your passion fine wine? There are river cruises that focus on the wine regions in Europe.  Do you have a “green thumb” and love flowers?  Perhaps a Spring-time cruise from Amsterdam through tulip country will satisfy your desires. Are you a history buff?  Try a river trip in Russia on the “Waterways of the Czars”.  All of the major river cruise lines have something to shout about in marketing their product.  Viking River Cruises touts their line as having “the world’s largest fleet of deluxe vessels built specifically for river travel” while Avalon Waterways (marketed through Globus Tours) boasts “the youngest fleet on the European waterways today – an impressive fleet whose ships average just two years in age.”  Uniworld, a key player in the European river cruise market, claims to have the world’s only “Boutique” hotels afloat, in conjunction with the Red Carnation Hotel Collection.  Elegantly appointed staterooms feature hand-crafted beds with fine linens, marble bathrooms with top quality bath products, and spacious suites with French balconies, and some newer vessels will be equipped with spectacular full, open-air private balconies. 

With many different river cruise lines offering a mind-boggling array of enticing itineraries, it’s best to have a qualified travel agent sort it all out for you. Whatever your pleasure, a river cruise will surely satisfy the traveler looking for a slower pace, luxury, and a lovely stroll down a lazy river.

Barbi Partlow, CTC


Barbi Partlow, CTC has been a Travel Consultant for 19 years, and specializes in leisure vacation planning. Her passions include the Hawaiian Islands, Tahiti, and Fiji.  In her spare time, Barbi enjoys acting in community theatre in her home town of Richmond, VA.




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