River Cruise Recess

Whether you’re taking a romantic trip down Europe’s Danube or cruising along the Mekong River in Southeast Asia, relax with these five river cruise tips for your big adventure.

Couples enjoying a wine tasting

Photo: AmaWaterways

The word “cruise” often evokes images of huge ocean liners filled with people sunbathing on the lido deck, visiting tropical islands and attending elaborate shows at night. Not to take anything away from cruising the open sea—I’ve stared, hypnotized, into the ocean’s depths from various vantage points around the globe, and doing so has inspired some of my most profound thoughts.

By cruising the world’s rivers, you take in a range of experiences in a unique way. Day by day, as you move at a leisurely pace, you find yourself becoming more involved in life beyond your stateroom window or balcony, soaking up culture and history wherever you go. During a Nile River cruise in 2007, I saw Egyptians working and playing, laughing and crying. But, most of all, I saw how essential the age-old winding river is—practically and spiritually—to the North African nation.

View from the deck of Queen Isabel

Photo: Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection

River cruises have expanded their reach to six continents. The excursions’ smaller, more easily maneuvered ships are increasingly well appointed, offering passengers many of the same amenities they would enjoy on ocean liners. (Think: pools and opulent spas.)

If you prefer a more intimate voyage (hundreds of guests, rather than thousands), a ship small enough to access quiet and unusual ports, and smaller tour groups with private English-speaking guides, river cruising might be for you.

Take time to enjoy life’s simple pleasures on a river cruise. Make the most of your journey’s relaxing pace with these river cruise tips.

1. Embrace luxury

Treat yourself by choosing a roomy suite with luxurious linens, or wake up each morning to a breathtaking view in a room with a French balcony.

River cruising makes it easy to explore ports by bike

Photo: AmaWaterways

2. Bike in nature

Many lines carry bikes for guests to borrow. You can go on a guided bike tour, breathing in the fresh air and enjoying the local flora and fauna.

3. Go off the beaten path

Tours are usually included in the price of your cruise, and their groups are typically small and intimate, making the destination feel all your own. Often, there is flexibility if you feel like exploring a port or doing some leisurely shopping with your family or travel companion. And some river cruises offer great rates for solo travelers.

Queen Isabel sailing the Douro River in Portugal

Photo: Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection

4. Explore at night

If you’re a night owl lucky enough to have an overnight stay before your cruise or during your itinerary, get out and explore what happens in port after dark. Check out a new restaurant or dance the night away at a local hot spot. Even wandering the ship late at night can be an adventure.

5. Make friends

Learning about a country from someone who lives there is by far the best kind of education. Some of my most enjoyable cruise experiences have included conversations with locals. I’ve found it’s easy enough to chat with approachable neighbors at an outdoor café while I sip a drink and people-watch.

AAA Travel offers river cruises around the world. Call 877-396-7159 or contact a AAA Travel Counselor to plan your next voyage today.

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Marco Ruiz, AAA Travel Counselor, Monterey, Calif.

I love to suggest Italy and Spain because of the culture and the flair of the people–their fashions, language and way of life. They take time to enjoy life's pleasures. When you're there, you feel it, too.

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