River cruising continues to gain popularity, drawing in fans of ocean cruises for a distinctly different travel experience. Gone are casinos, top deck attractions, a wide variety of dining options and other parts of cruising that travelers like about ocean cruises. A standard river cruise features more of an efficient learning experience, fueled by history, geography and culture. There are a variety of sources to consider for details about itineraries, places that might be visited, dining ashore and other parts of a river cruise. Not so easy to find are some European river cruise features that might not be the most positive part of the experience but are common to international travel, regardless of how we do it.
Let’s just get the most unsavory item on the list out of the way first. Toilets are a totally different animal in European countries as compared to North American destinations. It commonly takes €0.50 to use one, paid to an attendant or machine and having a supply of €0.50 coins is a good idea. In restaurants and bars, buy something and there is no charge. Hotels might charge, might not. Then there is France and their public squat toilets, which are used squatting rather than sitting.
This is probably one of the most distinct culture differences first time international travelers will experience along the way. Also called an Indian, Asian or Turkish toilet these things may use a water and technically be a flush toilet, or not and be a dry toilet which is not much more than a fancy hole in the ground. More shocking to comparatively shy North Americans, they may not be in stalls but open for all to see. On a river cruise, you will be on a motorcoach and will be at tourist destination long enough to for the need of personal relief to be a reality.
The Long Walk To Bag Claim
I have never had the occasion to ask questions of an airport planner but one such question would be to clarify the reason for the long walk from the plane after entering the United States. I suspect that security, customs and immigration authorities are watching us on the way to the first point of contact, but that’s just a guess. Whatever the reason, when entering the United States from most countries in the world, the walk to first contact is a long one. Long enough that those who have difficulty walking long distances should request assistance, even if they did not need it on the front end of that travel plan.
Stacked River Cruise Ships
When docked, river cruise ships commonly tie up to each other, sometimes 4 or more deep. That causes some passengers to walk through other ships to get to theirs. At ground level, river cruise ships can look the same, making finding your ship a bit of a puzzle. Compounding that mystery, while you were on tour the ships may have moved. One might have sailed off to somewhere else while a new one took its place. A very good idea: take a photo of the exterior of your ship, where the ship’s name is. As far as we know, that part does not change.
The Itinerary Is More Fluid
On an ocean cruise, it takes a weather-related issue or mechanical problem to modify the itinerary. Otherwise, ships go from place to place on schedule with that time in port advertised in advance. River cruises don’t list times in port because you might not be delivered to those places by ship at all. River water levels, number of ships going through the many locks passed through along the way and other factors come into play.
Security Seems Lax
Compared to ocean cruise ships, the world of river cruising is comparatively lax. There basically is no apparent security at all. Passengers come and go as they please any time of the day or night. But security is not really as lax as it seems for one very big reason that is also one of the most distinct differences between ocean and river cruises: the number of people on board. While they don’t take your picture before boarding, they know who y0u are because there are usually less than 200 passengers along for the ride. Proof of that can be found by the end of the first day when everyone knows your name.
While there are differences, there are similarities too. Shared with their ocean-going counterparts is a very good travel value, perhaps better than an all-inclusive Caribbean resort. Try pricing visiting 8 different European cities vs seeing the same places on a river cruise. The price of hotel rooms, dining, transportation and more that is included in the price of the river cruise stacks up very nicely. That’s probably one of the very best European river cruise features.
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