7 things to expect on your first river cruise

Everything you need to know if you're new to river cruising.

A river cruise is a travel experience like no other. An intimate and boutique cruising option, it blends smaller ships and less passengers with diverse destinations.

You’ll have plenty of time to sit back, relax, and enjoy the views as you sail some of the world’s most storied waterways. From a cruise along the gentle waters of the Danube to a journey through picturesque French countryside it is such a serene and scenic experience. And what could be better than simply unpacking once and letting the crew take care of the rest?

Get set to explore the rivers of the world with a leisurely river cruise. Here’s what to expect as a first timer.

1. Smaller ships

The type of ship will depend on the destination and route you choose, but river cruise ships are much smaller than ocean cruise ships, and they accommodate fewer passengers. This means a more friendly and social atmosphere on board as the smaller ship size allows you to get to know your fellow passengers more easily.

Choosing a journey onboard a Viking river ship, for example, could see you sail on an elegant Longship – a state-of-the-art Scandinavian designed vessel, specially built to navigate the historic rivers on which they sail.

2. Scenic routes

Cruising is a cost-effective way of having a big adventure as you’ll visit several places during your trip. In fact, you can expect to visit a new destination every day on your river cruise.

River cruises offer stunning views of the countryside, as they navigate through rivers and canals. You’ll often pass by picturesque towns and villages and enjoy beautiful vistas of riverside landscapes and charming towns.

A Viking Longship on the Rhine River, with views of Cologne Cathedral.

3. Inclusive packages

Many river cruises include everything in the upfront cost, such as meals, excursions, transfers, beverages and Wi-Fi. This makes budgeting and planning easier.

4. Culture up close

Unlike a cruise at sea, a river cruise allows you to be immersed in your surroundings as you make your way along your route.

Plus, you can enjoy guided excursions to historical sites and local experiences at each destination. With a Viking river cruise, an excursion is included at every port with local guides who will introduce you to their unique region. You can choose to join a range of included and optional excursions, like hiring an electric bike to cycle a valley, wine tasting in a centuries old winery or just choose to explore a destination on your own.

Experience alfresco dining on the Aquavit Terrace onboard a Viking river cruise.

5. Comfortable accommodations

You’ll find beautiful, modern staterooms with balconies or large windows on your river cruise, so you can enjoy the views from your own room.

6. Smooth sailing

Rivers are generally calmer than open seas, so you’re less likely to experience seasickness on a river cruise.

It’s a smooth ride throughout, even as you pass through the river locks that feature on many European waterways.

Travel with likeminded guests.

7. Onboard luxuries

While river cruise ships are smaller, they still offer amenities such as lounges, fitness centres, and sometimes even pools or hot tubs.

Onboard dining options vary, but you can expect a mix of regional and international cuisine. Dining is often open seating, and you’ll likely have a choice of venues. Plus, if you cruise with Viking, you can dine alfresco on their Aquavit Terrace, the only true outdoor restaurant on the rivers of Europe.

The dress code on a river cruise tends to be more casual dress code compared to ocean cruises. There may be no formal nights, and business casual attire is usually acceptable.

Visit Viking to find out more about river cruises.

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