1. You can hit up a whirlwind of cities and have zero travel stress.
Few travelers wishing to sample several European cities in a week relish the thought of unpacking and re-packing at every stop. Not to mention the washing and ironing. Once on board a river cruise, you slide your suitcase under the bed and focus on more pressing matters, like whether to choose steak or salmon for dinner, or red wine or white. Any cruise worth its salt will offer a laundry service, daily room cleaning and even fluff your pillow if you ask nicely.
2. You’ll have more freedom than you think.
You might be thinking of cringeworthy guides in garish colorful polo shirts, ushering herds of guests from one place to the next. “C’mon people! Quickly now. We must be in Amsterdam in 30 minutes, chop chop!” Sounds awful. Thankfully, many river cruises differ wildly from this.
During a summer tour along the Rhine River on board the Scenic Opal, I enjoyed lots of time for solo explorations. In Germany, I staggered around Cologne’s oldest brewhouses and freewheeled through Mannheim’s parks on an electric bike. While in Amsterdam, a gaggle of us ventured into the promiscuous alleyways of the city’s red light district, leaving the less adventurous to retreat back on board.
3. Most are environmentally friendly.
In this day and age, it’s essential for means of travel to show its green side, and river cruises are no different. Boats now have reduced diesel engines or low emission powering systems to LED lights and solar panels. Many cruise ships power up on shore grids when docked and others use food only sourced from local farmers markets along the way.
4. You’ll make friends.
Cruising lends itself perfectly to chumming up with a stranger. Whether sipping a gin and tonic in the Jacuzzi, dining with a new group for lunch or joining in the melody of Sweet Caroline at 3.a.m., the chances to socialize on a cruise holds are limitless.
5. You’ll get to know the diverse staff.
Thanks to Europe’s sublime freedom of movement, river cruise ships now consist of an eclectic mix of workers whom you’ll have the chance to befriend in no time. Thanks to this melting pot of nationalities, I could, by the end of my one-week cruise, say ‘cheers’ in Russian, ‘how are you’ in Indonesian Bahasa and imitate a perfect cover drive (a typical cricket shot) thanks to expert tips from our Indian chef.
6. You’ll retrace great journeys of the past.
A group of Scotland-based scientists has this year dismissed, almost completely, the possibility of time travel. Basically, the dream of a Doctor Who-style timehop is, according to the experts, a non-starter. I, however, beg to differ.
While journeying along the Rhine River, I pranced around like a lord in a medieval castle, got tipsy off cool, crisp German beer at 19th-century Cologne brewhouses and, with the aid of virtual reality museum in Volendam, experienced what it would be like to produce cheese in the northwest of the Netherlands.
7. There are no hidden costs (on certain trips).
Choose the right cruise and what you pay is what you get. No need to bring a penny extra, seriously. Scenic cruises, for example, offer the fully inclusive service (and yes, that includes top-shelf alcohol) with even the often uncomfortable tipping quandary taken care of.
8. You’ll save time.
Traveling in Europe, you can find yourself tapping your tootsies in a train station, striding along an airport lounge in anguish, or forlornly holding your thumb up to traffic speeding by. Cruising quashes these inconveniences. Once on board, you just have to enjoy the ride. Factor in the time saved from cooking, cleaning, changing hotels, paying for anything and you’ll feel like the countries are being brought to you.
9. Cruises have never been so varied.
Whether traveling with a partner, a sibling, or flying the flag solo, a cruise exists for you. Many companies offer special single rates as well as the twin and double rooms. There’s also the fully-inclusive, part-inclusive; the alcohol-excluded and the alcohol-fueled. There’s even 100 percent vegan cruises now.