Vanessa Lee

Are you a passionate river cruising fan or is a river cruise on your bucket list?

 You’re not alone! The last ten years have seen a steadily growing interest in river cruising with new companies entering the market and many well-known cruise brands adding wonderfully innovative new river vessels every year. In fact, the fascination with river cruising is such that we’ve decided that this issue of Cruise and Travel Lifestyles should offer an in-depth look at three ships, sailing on different rivers in North America and Europe. Each has a unique style and each offers special features all its own. 

The immense popularity of river ships is having a halo effect on other small ship, ocean-going cruise lines. When guests discover the joys of cruising with just 130 to 150 others and experience the onboard social camaraderie, they begin to look for similarly-sized vessels for their ocean cruises too. The onboard experience is very different – and very welcoming.

The joys of open-seating dining are undeniable. Dine with whomever you please, at any table you like. You can’t help but connect with your fellow cruisers – who will likely be people who share your interests. The main lounge will become your living room and the gathering spot throughout the day – a place to mingle in a relaxed atmosphere. Many lines are now all-inclusive or semi-inclusive, with beer and wine served at some meals, enhancing the convivial on-board atmosphere. Shore excursions in the major towns and cities along the rivers encourage interaction and camaraderie as many are walking tours with everyone spending time together.

I have been lucky enough to enjoy ten river cruises on rivers such as the Rhine, the Danube, the Moselle, the Rhône and the Saône in France. Just recently, I cruised on Uniworld’s River Royale round-trip from Bordeaux to the French wine region on the Gironne, Dordogne and Gironde Rivers. Portugal’s Douro River is on my radar for next spring and later this year I will jet off to Myanmar for a cruise on Avalon Waterways’ newest, very small ship, the Avalon Myanmar on the famed Irrawaddy River. The Mekong River is another that piques my interest - a popular and emerging destination, with more ships plying its waters every day.

Up-scale, luxury cruise lines are building smaller ships or absorbing existing vessels into their fleets, many of which accommodate 200 to 450 guests – a really lovely size. Small ships can sail into intimate ports and harbors and reach some of the most beautiful places in the world but are still large enough to offer all the amenities one could wish for and venture into such exciting and hard to reach destinations as Antarctica and the more exotic parts of South-east Asia.

After experiencing almost 160 cruises of every size and variety, I have emerged with one firm belief: there is a ship and a destination for every taste and style. Whether you dream of floating gently down a river, checking out an adventurous expedition cruise, or sailing on a beautiful modern ship on the various oceans and seas of the world, there is something waiting that’s exactly right for you. 

Bon voyage,

Vanessa Lee
Publisher, Cruise & Travel Lifestyles

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