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River Cruises take you to places ocean cruising can’t!

In recent blogs I have highlighted ocean cruise experiences, comparing big ships carrying thousands of passengers to those much smaller vessels that have, for the most part, positioned themselves in the luxury category.

Today we will examine what factors explain the rapid growth and interest in river cruising. River cruising has been acknowledged as the fastest growing sector of the entire travel industry.

Why is that? Talk to someone who has taken a river cruise and they will extol its virtues in a very different manner than the way in which they may describe their ocean voyages. They don’t seem to be any more or less enthusiastic about them, but they express their satisfaction differently.

It was not until I took my first river cruise on the majestic Rhine that I understood why.

To compare a river cruise to an ocean cruise is like comparing Toronto to Tokyo, a NASCAR race to a 100 yard dash, or downhill to cross country skiing.

The comparisons can be made, but to do so in each example is an injustice to both.

River cruising is by nature a highly social experience. Most river cruise vessels will carry only about two hundred guests. With only one large dining room in an open seating environment clients find themselves with different table mates at almost every meal. By the middle of the journey, guests tend to pick friends and start gravitating to the same tables for many of the dinners.

A single lounge and entertainment area serves as the congregation area between tours and meals. Accordingly, sociability spills over from dinner into the evening as guests intermingle in a come and go fashion, depending upon their interest in partying, or in the performances being presented.

Scenery on a river cruise is a kaleidoscope of constant change; and it frequently represents a documentary of current and past history that is unfolding before you.

While river cruising creates its own definition, the closest comparison to this style of travel may be motor coach touring. The similarity ends when you realize you don’t to go through the ritual of daily packing and unpacking, as most coach tours will drop you off at a different hotel property almost every night.

There are now cruise options on most major rivers around the world, like the Amazon, the Yangtze and the Danube. River cruise itineraries can take you through some of the most popular countries and regions in the world, including China, Egypt, Russia, and South America.

What is dramatically different that ocean cruising is the nature of the itineraries.

Many of these rivers start inland and meander through the centre of the nations where cities have been built along their banks. Cruise ships have no opportunity to enter deeply into most river waters.

Occasionally these rivers are the borders between nations, with different cultures to experience on each side of the river bank. Rivers often wind through the heart of countries, making travelling along them such a unique experience.

In most cases these waterways are still important avenues for commerce with loads of traffic going back and forth on passage ways that range from very wide to narrow.

River cruise boats must traverse under the lowest bridges on the river between and in major cities. As a result, these vessels are much smaller and decidedly narrower than ocean cruise ships. They are sharing river space with commercial barges which use the waterways as a major transportation route between the cities and countries which lay claim to the waters which pass by them.

With the necessity for smaller size, come more compact cabins that can’t match what the other forms of cruise travel are able to offer. Nevertheless the designers have used every inch of space to create as much room and comfort as possible. While balconies did not exist in the first wave of river cruise ships, French balconies allow clients to relax in their cabins with the windows open and watch scenery float by them during every daylight hour. It’s a feature not available on larger ships that move from island to island or country to country over vast bodies of ocean.

The new ship entrants to the river cruise market have accommodated passenger wishes for more space with suite options in cabins that can be well over 400 square feet.

There really is no end to the variety of river cruise options. Each cruise can be as short or long as your time and pocketbook allows. In Europe, the Rhine winds its way through 1320 kilometres, while the Danube is more than double that at 2850 kms.

The Yangtze River is twice as long as the Danube at 6380 kilometres, with the Amazon slightly longer than even the Danube at 6437 kms.

Just these four rivers alone create dozens of itineraries, through places we often only dream of seeing.

River Cruising shows no signs of slowing down its growth. As unique as river cruising is, in the end it is the destinations visited that create lasting memories. And by travelling through the centre of many countries voyageurs are able to visit cities and regions not accessible by ocean cruises.

To book your river cruise call us at 1 800 859-6354 Consider joining my wife Rae and me on our smaller ship Seabourn Sojorn South American Patagonia 15 day cruise leaving January 19, 2013 from Santiago Chili to Buenos Aires Argentina.

See our brochure at http://www.renaissancetravel.ca/content.aspx?id=42230

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