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Top Tips for River Cruising and Tours

Many of these tips apply equally to river cruising and to touring so give yourself a few extra minutes to read both.

Top Tips for River cruising

River cruising is hot. From the Amazon to the Zambezi, there’s a river cruise for every taste, style and budget.

Rivers & Roads can organise river cruises to every part of the globe, but the biggest destination is Europe, so let’s use that as a good example of what to expect. While cruise ships only touch the edges of continents, river boats take you into the very heart of magnificent cities and ancient towns. Quietly glide past hillside vineyards, medieval castles and historic monuments. Disembark and walk right into town for lunch. Stroll along the pier or borrow one of the river boat’s bicycles to explore further.

Here are a few tips to help you on your way!

1. Pack light. Not just for the airline requirements but for convenience.  At most, the dress code is best described as country club casual/business casual – no need for a tie. A sport jacket might be handy however a pair of nice jeans or khakis and a polo shirt or similar would be perfectly acceptable for dinner.

2. Acknowledge your physical limitations. Cobblestone streets, walkways and stairs can be a bit tricky to navigate if you are unsteady on your feet. Allow for your physical limitations and just pace yourself. Some excursions might offer an easy-walk option. It’s becoming rarer, but not all river boats have elevators, so let us know if this is essential so we can ensure you are on the right vessel for your needs.

3.  Wine and dine. Unlike cruise ships, river boats have “open seating.” Breakfast and lunch will be casual and leisurely, however dinner is a bit more disciplined as the more sophisticated menu may require more punctual arrival. Dinner times can vary based on the timing of the shore excursions, so check your daily planner.

4. When in “Rome…” Nothing garners a warm welcome quicker than saying hello in the local language. Learn to say “hello,” “thank you” and  “excuse me” in as many of the countries’ languages as possible. “Where’s the toilet please” might also come in handy! Write it on a cheat sheet and put it in your pocket. Chances are that the local shopkeeper, upon hearing your broken German or Romanian will immediately speak to you in English. But you’ve made the effort and it won’t go unrewarded.
5. Spending money: Mostly you’ll need Euros, but if you are cruising through non-Euro destinations you’ll general get the best exchange rate before you leave home. For Russia river cruises, the easiest currency option may be US dollars. Check with your bank or currency exchange.
6. Weather: Chances are the weather predictions will be wrong, or at least variable. That nerdy plastic poncho and a folding umbrella might end up being your best friends.

7. Electricity: Those multi conversion plugs are great and you can usually grab one at the airport, or even from your airline’s inflight duty free.

8. TOP TIP! Bring a power board so you can plug multiple re-chargers into the one socket.

9. Stop and smell the roses. At least once on your river cruise, get up and outside just before sunrise. A fog-like mist rises from the river, birds slowly begin to chirp and the river looks like liquid silver. It’s a not-to-be-missed experience.

10. Pre and Post stays: Spend extra time in your starting city and the one at the end for a nice leisurely extension to your river cruise.
11. Consider a River & Roads Exclusive package: These bring together extra experiences, some of which are excusive to Rivers & Roads. For example our Battlefields and Beauty package combines a beautiful Seine cruise from Paris to Normandy where your can choose to take an excursion to the D-Day beaches before returning to Paris and then on to a short private or group tour of the Western Front with Australia’s Mat McLachlan Battlefield Tours.

Top Tips for Touring

Coach tours are an efficient way to see Europe. A typical tour includes a professional, multilingual guide, a comfy coach, decent hotels and some meals, and are great value. And with someone else doing the driving and an expert guide, it’s a stress-free way to get the most out of your holiday. And you’ll experience things you would never have discovered on your won.

Here are a few tips to help you get the most from your tour.

1. Early starts – we hate them! The days of “Today is Tuesday so this must be Belgium” are far behind us, thank goodness. Look for more leisurely itineraries that include multiple nights in major cities. Everyone deserves a sleep-in occasionally.

2. Look for well- located hotels: This doesn’t mean they have to be in the heart of the city but they should have easy access to the city centre. In some cases, hotels that are handy to a city rail service might be a great choice, especially since many of the central hotels are older.

 3. Check the list of included sights, check that they the ones you have come all this way to see, or at least can be visited if not included.

4. Optional excursions. Some tour companies have more inclusions than others so may appear more expensive though they are actually better value. On the other hand, optional excursions mean you can adjust your spending and also skip any outing if that doesn’t appeal to you.

5. Take advantage of free time: A good guidebook and map are your keys to travel freedom. If your hotel is outside the city, ask your hotelier how to take public transportation downtown. Taxis can be affordable if you split the cost with other tour members.

6. Seek out your own experiences and connect with people.  Spending an evening with 40 others at the most touristy beer hall in Munich might be fun, but if you make the effort to track down a local drinking spot it won’t be long before you’re clinking mugs with friendly locals.

7. Most of all, don’t hesitate to ask your friendly Rivers & Roads consultant about any aspects of your trip that concern you. They are the experts – and helping our customers plan their dream holiday is what they do all day long. Lucky things!  And our close long-term relationship with all major operators means that when needed we have ready access to their senior management.

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