5 Tips for Finding The Right River Cruise Now for the best vacation! Although I make my way solo around the globe from sub-Sahara Africa to the Middle East, there are remote locations where that just does not work. A case in point: I spent Christmas 2013 upriver in the Brazilian Amazon. There were no roads so access was strictly a quick glimpse overhead in a helicopter or more in-depth by boat. I booked a river cruise for 8 days and saw soaring birds and (leering?) caiman and miles of virtually untouched rainforest. I previously had also explored the Nile and China’s Yangtze on river boats of varying sizes.
5 Tips for Finding The Right River Cruise Now:
Why a river cruise?
River cruises are ideal for solos for a number of reasons:
- Planning is taken care of by the tour operator.
- Pricing is generally all-inclusive, except for extras such as drinks and tips. (Airfare may or may not be included)
- This works as a standalone package or as an extension to a business or leisure trip.
- The boats’ small sizes provide the opportunity for ready-made travel companions or dinner partners and new friends.
- Safety issues are addressed by being part of a group. In addition, in areas of high crime and political unrest, being on a cruise removes security problems created by going back and forth to a hotel in the evening and venturing out solo to dinner.
5 Tips for Finding The Right River Cruise Now: Economics:
1. Consider both the overall cost and a breakdown on a daily basis.
Create an estimate of the following components:
- Average rate for 4-5 star lodging for 6 nights,
- Meals, water/snacks,
- Local transportation,
- Guides and/or entrance fees if touring independently,
- Out-of-pocket expenses and
- Rate of single supplement, absent a roommate option.
Access-As in the Amazon and in China, there was no other way to see the area except by boat. In Europe, other options exist. It is possible to drive or take a bus or train through major river valleys. However, the view is much better at the slower pace of river cruises.
5 Tips for Finding The Right River Cruise Now: The Program:
2. Research the destination(s) to see what sights are included and if it is possible to add side trips. This is really important because the river package will have very specific stops. In each case, I have had a separate land package before and/or after the cruise to address my individual interests. In Brazil, I wanted to see certain large land animals difficult to view in the dense rainforest upriver. To round out the trip, I arrived early and visited wildlife refuges and research centers before joining the river cruise. In Egypt, I followed the same plan by starting in Cairo before meeting the cruise to sail from Luxor to Aswan. In China, I was able to have the Yangtze cruise between days in Beijing and Shanghai.
3. Consider whether the itinerary fits with your desired level of activity. Do you find yourself stir-crazy absent a full agenda? Alternatively, if too rigorous, can you opt out of part of the daily activity?
I see greater value in river cruises that have set stops each day with the opportunity to explore the region. Adventure-oriented river cruises tend to specify whether excursions are moderate or involve more intense hiking.
4. Think ahead as to what is a must for you. For example, is fishing a top priority for you? Are you really excited about swimming with dolphins or strolling through the spring tulip marts? If these activities are not part of the existing program, are there side excursions that fit?
5 Tips for Finding The Right River Cruise Now: The Group:
5. If demographics are a concern, is this a fit for you? If you are looking for a solo trip, do you prefer a women or men’s group, a specific age group? Is this the right trip for you?
In that context, consider what language groups are represented. I once toured Egypt for the day in Spanish because the 2 other travelers did not speak English or Arabic. Having minored in Spanish and lived in Florida, I was very pleased to have this opportunity. This may not always work so consider your options. (Some tour buses include tapes in multiple languages although that can lack some spontaneity.)
Lastly, in comparison with ocean cruises, for solos there are other benefits:
1. They tend to be less couple-oriented/honeymoon-focused.
2. They generally use smaller ships making possible, or required, that groups are formed for meals and day tours providing a team for the solos to join.
3. They may be better priced since few ocean liners have solo cabins.
As in any travel, researching ahead will prevent unexpected surprises that can torpedo your vacation.
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