Happy Thursday Hidden Gem Travel community! Did you spend part of last week daydreaming about your next vacation? January is a long, cold month in much of the country so a perfect time to dream and plan for the rest of the year. I’ve been receiving a record number of inquiries for 2022 vacations!
Last weekend, I completed a training program to become a River Cruise Specialist with one of the better lines. Why take the time to get this designation? Because river cruising is becoming more popular than ever as it’s a unique, seamless way to see not only Europe but some incredible parts of our world. You could spend a decade taking an annual river cruise and still not cover all the options. There are some amazing “wave season” promotions for river cruising right now, but they won’t last past the first quarter of 2022.
In today’s newsletter, I’ll share some highlights from my training and explain why anyone from the ages of 13 and older should put river cruising on their travel bucket list. Read on for the scoop on why 2022 should be the year that you try a river cruise (and read onto which river I’ll be cruising in the first half of this year)…
Why River Cruises Are Awesome
First, let me say that not all river cruise lines are the same. Some lines are less well known (don’t advertise on television heavily) but provide superior and unique features. Like everything else, matching the client (you) to the best experience is key.
Here are some compelling features of river cruises:
*River cruise ships are floating boutique hotels where you unpack once. It’s your mode of transportation and a place to keep your baggage rolled into one. Like hotels, the quality of the ship’s interior and inclusions varies by price point.
*The average number of passengers is just over 100 people for many river cruise lines and some ships are even smaller. This factor is a big distinguisher from ocean cruises. The small passenger size encourages socializing with your fellow shipmates and the crew which makes for an enhanced social experience.
*You’re never far from the shore, and the water isn’t rocky. Seasickness or remoteness aren’t concerns.
*You dock right in city/town centers. The convenience can’t be beat.
*The destinations/ports are the main focus of the experience. The ship will offer a range of excursions and activities (often included), and some extra-special, hidden gem experiences.
*The ship’s connection to the locals is intimate. Local food and beverages are brought on board when docked and the menus reflect the local cuisine. Chefs can be seen shopping at the local markets.
*There’s typically a high guest-to-staff ratio which means that the service on board is top-notch. The better river cruise lines have very low turnover with their staff. It’s a family feel.
*Many river cruises offer an all or almost-all inclusive experience – but be sure to compare apples-to-apples to determine the best value. As with ocean cruising, don’t fall for low entry pricing without reading the fine print.
*Bottom line – river cruising is a relatively seamless, relaxing way to travel for a wide range of ages.
OK… Which Rivers?
Historically, rivers served as our roadways so it’s certainly not a new way to travel. Europe offers some incredible river cruise itineraries, and you may be surprised to learn about offerings in more exotic locations. Below isn’t an exhaustive list but will give you an idea of the breadth of options.
The Danube, Rhine, Moselle, and Main Rivers are the most well-known river cruise itineraries where you can visit ports in 13 countries including the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, and Bulgaria. That’s a lot of checkmarks on your travel bucket list!
Francophiles will love cruising the country on the Seine, Rhone, Saone, Garonne, and/or Dordogne rivers next to iconic cities, robust vineyards, and stunning historical sites.
Explore northern Italy on the Venice Lagoon and Po River. I’ll be on this cruise this year and expect it to a new way to experience the countryside and culture of Northern Italy. Of course, you’ll read all about it 😊
The hottest European river to cruise right now is the Douro in Portugal. Availability is tight for 2022 so look at your 2023 calendar for your exploration of this UNESCO World Heritage site.
The hidden gem itinerary in Europe is the Volga in Russia. It’s Europe’s longest river and takes you through Moscow and St. Petersburg. Half of Russia’s population lives near Mother Volga.
One of the hottest river cruise destinations that is considered an “exotic” is on the Nile River in Egypt. Yes, that’s firmly on my travel bucket list! The idea of seeing the pyramids while floating on the Nile is the stuff of dreams.
Other exotic river cruises are available in Asia and South America. For example, cruise the Amazon River (combined with a Machu Picchu excursion), the Mekong River through Vietnam and Cambodia, the Yangtze – China’s aquatic highway for centuries, and the Ganges – India’s holiest river.
Did you know that you can take a river cruise on the Mississippi River or the Pacific Northwest’s Snake and Columbia Rivers? Interest in these itineraries has exploded in the last two years.
Is River Cruising Right For Us?
River cruising has wide appeal and is growing. The convenience combined with a quality experience can be a no-brainer when evaluated against other travel styles.
Demographics: do you travel as a family with teens or adult children, as a solo traveler, as a couple (or group of couples), or with friends? I bet you weren’t aware that there’s a river cruise line for young adults ages 18-30 that’s designed to cater to their needs and interests. What a great birthday gift for the young adults in your family!
Also, river cruise guests:
*Are culturally curious with a keen desire for quality local experiences.
*Like to leave the navigating when traveling to someone else and focus on the fun.
*Like to be active or are sporty – walking, hiking, biking, exploring; avid cyclists or hikers can select itineraries with others that share their passion and fitness level. Same for golfers!
*Can be foodies and/or wine lovers – you can cruise with acclaimed chefs and certified wine experts.
*Love a good theme! For example, in 2022, you can experience Floriade which is an international exhibition and garden festival held every 10 years in the Netherlands. Or how about the always popular Christmas Markets of Europe?
💎 Hidden Gem Tip: Wondering how to navigate a river cruise experience? Reply to this email, and I’ll talk you through it.
Extended Families Welcome
Multi-generational travel is popular right now. Ocean cruises have always been big draws for vacations with extended families. Now, some of the river cruise lines are offering sailings for all ages and families. For example, one program called Generations offers family river cruises during the summer and school breaks. Two family hosts (one for kids under 13 and one for the teens) are onboard to coordinate family activities. Kid-friendly ship tours with the captain, a game room, kid’s menus and dinner tables, and cooking classes with the chef are super popular offerings onboard. In port, the excursions appeal to all ages. How about gondola rowing and kayaking in Venice? Or visiting the dinosaur museum in Frankfurt on a Christmas cruise?
Inspired? If you’re thinking about a river cruise in 2022 or 2023, here’s the link to schedule a chat with me www.hiddengemtravelconsulting.com/contact
Wishing you and your family continued good health,