River cruises and roundtrip tours leave from the main docks, which run for around a mile along the Rhine at the edge of the Old Town, close to the distinctive Hohenzollern bridge.

A river cruise shows you more than gorgeous landscapes or historic places. It sends you on a journey through a nation’s beating heart.

Like an ocean cruise on the Caribbean, the Mediterranean or the Pacific Ocean, a river cruise has you spending X-number of days aboard a boat sailing on water. You have a cabin, on-board meals and you stop at various ports.

The similarities between ocean and river cruising pretty much end there. Whether you’ve done only one ocean cruise in your life or dozens, a river cruise is a very different experience. Much more limited in some ways, much more intimate — and adventuresome — in others.

Start with scale. The world’s largest river cruiser, the Victoria Sabrina, carries nearly 700 passengers. The world’s largest ocean cruiser, Royal Caribbean’s brand new Wonder of the Seas, carries up to 7,000.

This 2018 Rhine River cruise we did will give you an idea of what you can expect – and not expect.

For the most part, river cruising is a grown-folks — some would say old folks – cruise. No zip lines or rock climbing walls. No basketball courts, giant water slides or sound stages. No bars that move up and and down between decks or have robot bartenders making your drinks. And few facilities, if any, for entertaining/occupying/distracting little kids or teenagers.

The river itself — and the countries and cultures through which they flow — are your main entertainment.

Virtually every day, you’re in a different port, a different town. And unlike ocean cruises, you can usually walk off the deck and straight into your sightseeing. No tour guide or tour bus (unless you just want one).

Want to get a taste of what a river cruise is like without actually doing one? Here’s how:

  1. Take a Caribbean cruise out of New Orleans.
  2. Get a cabin with a balcony on as low a deck as possible.
  3. Check out the view that first afternoon and evening

To reach the Caribbean, ocean cruisers from Carnival, Norwegian and Disney have to sail 100 miles down the Mississippi River to reach the Gulf of Mexico. The passage takes about eight hours. On the way, you’ll pass fishing boats, small towns, historic sites and freighters and oil tankers — some of which will appear to be close enough to reach over the rail and high-five their crew (don’t try that, though!).

And speaking of the Mississippi River, the world’s largest river cruise company is set to begin regularly scheduled cruises on America’s greatest river later this summer, with a brand-new river cruise ship built specifically for that purpose. For more than that, click here.

If you’d like to dip your toe nto the river cruise, let us help you decide when, where and which river cruise specialist to try.


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