Riverboat cruising refines big-ship perks for the world traveler
Ocean cruising has its perks. Tropical destinations, all-you-can-eat buffets, water slides, bowling, free booze — it’s a $30 billion dollar business meant to cater to every whim. But sometimes the excessiveness of ocean cruising can overwhelm. What if you want to experience the joys of traveling by sea without thousands of people crammed alongside you? Without paying extra for excursions, or having to adhere to a rigid schedule while visiting increasingly homogenized ports of call?
Riverboat cruising plucks the aspects that make ocean cruising so attractive — the ability to hit multiple destinations without unpacking, the collegial atmosphere on board, an international, knowledgeable staff, a cosmopolitan experience — while being more refined, smaller than their big-white-boat counterparts. As the name implies, riverboat cruising uses smaller vessels that stick mainly to rivers, mostly in Europe but also in Asia and the South Pacific, the Mediterranean and Northern Africa, and even Antarctica.
“Most of our guests are seasoned world travelers for whom the destination is still the main attraction. For them, it’s not about all-night buffets or skating rinks or other novelties you find aboard big cruise ships — it’s about the discovery,” says Kevin Wallace, COO of Vantage Deluxe World Travel, a premiere riverboat cruising company based in Boston. “You unpack once, then sail right into the heart of ports great and small, where sightseeing and intercultural activities are always included.”
With riverboat cruising, you sacrifice water slides for accessibility and a more unique experience. Smaller boats mean you can slip into smaller ports of call — you usually just walk off the boat and into the center of town. But riverboat companies aren’t dumb, nor are they stuffy. They include the perks Americans know and love: full-service cocktail lounges with live entertainment, Internet cafes, excursions, and, yes, even all-you-can-eat breakfast and lunch buffets (as well as a formal sit-down dinner every night).
Wallace is celebrating the launch of their latest addition to their fleet, River Splendor. The new ship, part of a $120 million investment by Vantage, has a busy year ahead: After its March christening in Antwerp, Belgium, it will spend the spring, summer and fall cruising the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers between Amsterdam and the Black Sea as the lead ship on Vantage’s most popular package, the Majestic Rivers of Europe: Castles, Cathedrals and Fairytales (with stops in Vienna, Budapest and the Czech Republic), as well as the Gateway to the Black Sea trip that takes travelers from Budapest along the Danube all the way to the Black Sea resort of Constanta, Romania.
So, with these trips, instead of onboard bowling you’ll just have to enjoy a home-hosted lunch with a family in Croatia instead. In lieu of a Broadway musical at night, you’ll have to settle for an exclusive classical concert at the Kursalon in Vienna.
Sounds like a pretty good trade-off, no?