Travel is exciting, especially when that travel takes you to other parts of the world. New adventures, cultures, languages, architecture, food; it's refreshing, enlightening, and mind-expanding.
Yet, sometimes it can be a little exhausting, especially if you intend to cover lots of ground and see several places. It makes sense. After all, you've already flown thousands of miles to get overseas, so why not take full advantage of being over there and see and do everything you can?
However, there's the side of travel that we travelers don't tend to post pictures about on our Facebook feed.
It's the part where we're lugging heavy suitcases around, checking into and out of hotels, and having to reorient ourselves in each new location.
It's the packing, unpacking, and repacking.
It's spending precious hours traveling from one location to the next via long, crowded bus rides or time-consuming flights. If you're flying, this requires another security check followed by the wait to board, the boarding and disembarkation process, followed possibly by another wait at baggage claim.
As thrilling as it is to get to a new location and settle in, it's not always fun or enjoyable getting from A to B. It's just a part of travel that many of us have learned to accept as part of the deal, which explains why river cruises are becoming so popular with travelers of all ages.
Having backpacked around Europe and stayed in everything from budget hostels to five-star hotels, I was one of those that thought a river cruise might be too slow, perhaps even dull.
But now that I've experienced the effortless ease of a river cruise, I explore new regions of the world on a river cruise every year. Never do I cover more ground, experience and see more things, and return home more relaxed than when I left than when I travel on a river cruise.
It's one of the few times I don't need a vacation after my vacation.
Here are some of the benefits river cruising offers that you can't enjoy any other way.
1. See More, From The Comfort of a Floating Luxury Hotel.
You get to cover a lot of ground, sometimes seeing as many as five countries (as was the case in my recent yoga cruise on the Danube River), in comfort and style.
An ocean cruise
Often, people make the mistake of comparing a river cruise with an ocean cruise, but the two experiences really couldn't be any more different. I like to distinguish between them this way: an ocean cruise is like cruising in a floating city—it's big, there's a lot to do, but it can get a little bit loud and crowded, and there are often long lines for everything. Usually, they're trying to serve as many people as possible in the most efficient manner they can muster.
Versus a river cruise
By contrast, a river cruise is like cruising along in a floating luxury hotel. It's more intimate, and the service is usually better (at least it is on an AMA Waterways cruise, where there is typically one staff member per every three guests—service is a top priority). You rarely (if ever) have to wait in line for anything. It truly is about quality rather than quantity.
AMA Waterways has been named Virtuoso's Cruise Line of the Year, Cruise Critic's Best River Cruise Line Over All, Town & Country's Best Cruise Line Over All, and Berlitz's Ten Top Rated Cruise Ships in Europe. The list goes on—there are just too many to name. Check them out for yourself. Whether you choose to join me on my upcoming Yoga Cruise with AMA Waterways or wish to embark on a journey of your own with them, I can guarantee you the best deal out there (I'm an AMA Waterways River Cruise Specialist).
2. It Truly is ALL-INCLUSIVE.
Everything is taken care of for you, from excursions to meals. Let's take a moment to talk about the food.
AMA Waterways is a member of La Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, a prestigious, international gastronomic society dedicated to fine cuisine. Founded in Paris in 1950, it is the oldest and largest food and wine society in the world, and membership is by invitation only, extended to those possessing world-class culinary acumen.
They do a fantastic job of offering delicious foods indicative of the region you're visiting. So you're rarely tempted to eat off the boat because you know you're going to enjoy a great meal AND experience the local cuisine back on board.
Making the onboard experience even more enjoyable is a knowledgeable cruise director whose sole purpose is to ensure you have the best experience possible. They will educate you on the region and highlight those things you don't want to miss
3. It's The Most Relaxing Way to Travel.
You don't have to pack, unpack, repack, or lug heavy baggage from one location to the next.
You don't have to get in a car, figure out where you're going, or struggle with finding a parking space.
You don't have to wait in line to book your excursions or pay extra for them. And you can be as active or as inactive as you'd like, with options from historical walking tours to hiking and biking trips. Biking along the Danube River was one of my last European River Yoga Cruise highlights, and it will be again in my upcoming Rhone River Yoga Cruise.
Honestly, the most stressful part of my river cruise experience was choosing between excursions.
We found ourselves so active that by the time we enjoyed dinner, the award-winning wines from the region, great conversation with our fellow cruise passengers, and enjoyed the view from our balcony, we fell asleep with a smile on our faces. And each morning, we'd awake eager to see what the next day's adventures would bring.
4. Wine and Beer.
Few people know this about me, but several years ago, I flirted with the idea of becoming a professional sommelier—such is my appreciation for wine. On my recent river cruise, my pallet was pleased by the different bottles of wine at every meal.
There's a particularly memorable Weiss Blaufrankisch from the Burgenland region of Austria. I absently offered my glass to the server to be filled during dinner one evening while deep in conversation with the person next to me, so I was a little unprepared for that very first sip. As soon as I smelled it and tasted it, my eyes flew open, my taste buds woke up, and I knew I had just stumbled upon a new favorite.
I started a diligent search to find out if I could get a case back at home (these were going to become Christmas presents for friends and family, such was my excitement over this wine find). When that search came up with nothing, I thought I'd go right to the source and found the family vineyard's website, emailed them, and asked how I could get a case of this in the states. Sadly, this was their response: "Sorry, but we have no importer in the US. Because of the strict import roles of the US, it is not possible to send wine without an importer."
It wasn't looking good. Some would say, "well, then what good is finding a new favorite wine if you can't even get it back at home?" As the old saying goes, "it's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all."
Yes, I realize we're talking about a bottle of wine here. But you get my point. If not for this cruise, I may never have had the opportunity to experience this and so many other exceptional regional wines.
Rumor has it the beer is excellent, too. But that isn't quite as much my thing. Although my partner, who is much more into beer than I am, never had any complaints.
5. You'll Make New Friends
Unlike an ocean cruise that boasts thousands of people, a river cruise is much smaller and more intimate. You would have to work hard not to make some friends on a river cruise. I remember one night we sat next to another couple and proceeded to laugh through dinner, meandered over to the evening's entertainment with them, and even met up with them again the next day to embark on an excursion together. We had so much fun together!
We made lots of new friends, actually. I'm still in touch with many of them and hopefully will cruise with them again in the future.
But even if you don't enjoy rubbing elbows with strangers, you're bound to make new friends on an AMA Waterways river cruise. It happens every time.
I can't wait for our next AMA Waterways river cruise. This one will be on the Rhone River in Provence. We're also eyeballing the Best of Holland and Belgium cruise, and one of my bucket list items, the Chobe River in Africa.
Are you convinced yet?
Yeah, it sounds good to me, too.
The journey of a lifetime is the one you take within.
Let me be your guide.