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Are River Cruises Boring? Some People Say Yes – I Don’t! Here’s Why.

If you are considering taking a river cruise you may be wondering if you’ll find the onboard experience boring.

I’m in my twenties and I’ve taken three river cruises to date and have another currently booked.

During this post, we will look at life onboard a river cruise so that you can decide if it’s the right type of vacation for you.

Is Riving Cruising Boring?

Most people who take river cruises do not find them boring.

A river cruise is usually more relaxing than an ocean cruise but those looking for a more active river cruise are able to find cruise lines to cater to this. 

The experience of a river cruise is very different from that of a land-based vacation or an ocean cruise – but the majority of people won’t find river cruising boring.

Whether you’ll find river cruising boring or not really does come down to what you personally want to do when travelling.

Some people do report being bored on river cruises but these people are usually the people who booked a river cruise without really knowing what to expect.

River cruises definitely aren’t for everybody.

Find out all about my cruise on Tui Skyla below – we went to some wonderful places – and *spoiler alert* it was anything but boring!

Most river cruise ships only hold around 100 passengers. River cruise ships are much smaller than ocean ships and as a result, don’t have as many amenities to offer.

Reason #1: Long Days in Port

One reason why I believe that guests don’t get bored on river cruises is that river cruise ships are usually docked for longer than ocean cruise ships.

On most rivers, you can expect a full day in port almost every day. Of course, there are some exceptions to this but the majority of the time the days in port are long.

Included Excursions

Last year I took a river cruise from Arles to Lyon onboard the Emerald Liberte, we were often docked from 8 am right up until 10 pm or later.

We would wander off in the morning to take part in the included excursion, come back for lunch, and maybe relax for a little by the pool before heading off again after dinner.

Emerald Waterways Star Ships Liberte Swimming Pool

Many river cruises include some type of excursion. Often these are walking tours, but some have coach tours.

When I cruised with the budget river cruise line Tui, they didn’t include excursions as standard. They did however give you £140/$175 credit to spend on excursions.

This enabled us to pick the excursions that suited us best.

Tui excursion, beer tasting on a formal salt barge
Tui excursions, beer tasting on a former salt barge in Germany.

Included excursions are just one example of how river cruises are brilliant value for money.

Short Distances Between Ports

Cruise ships are often able to stay docked in port longer because, generally speaking, there isn’t normally a very long distance for the ships to travel between ports.

On our Arles to Lyon cruise, we actually had one journey between ports which was only 20 miles!

The ship sailed very late at night (3am-ish) so guests were free to enjoy the port late into the evening.

This, of course, does depend on the river, during my cruise on the Danube we travelled considerably further between each port as we were crossing multiple countries.

As a result, the days in port were much shorter than that which we had when cruising on the Rhone.

Are River Cruises Boring?

Checking In and Out

On river cruise, ships guests are free to come and go as often as they would like when in port.

The first river cruise I took was with Emerald Waterways, guests simply scanned their cruise cards to leave the ship.

The second was with Saga where we had to physically exchange your room key so that the cruise line knew when you were on land.

On Tui, you needed to hand in your key to reception as you went out. This was so easy to do, there was never a queue at the Reception desk.

The ability to be able to get on and off the ship whenever you wanted to was brilliant.

Being in port for so long definitely stopped us from ever getting bored. There simply wasn’t enough time to be bored

Reason #2: River Cruises are Destination Immersive

River cruises really give guests the ability to become immersed in the local culture.

We spent a lot of time on our cruises learning about the places that we were visiting and the ways of life of the people who lived there.

There are often port talks where the cruise host will talk about the port you will be visiting the next day.

You learn practical information about the currency that we would need, where you could buy certain things, and what were the best things to see and do in the port.

Local Food

Onboard the ship the food in the main dining room would usually reflect the place that we were visiting with different themed menus.

The food on river cruise ships is locally sourced and as a result, there is a lot more variety than that on an ocean cruise or in a land-based resort.

Emerald Waterways Main Dining Room Lunch beef pot roast
Beef Pot Roast

Local Entertainment

The entertainment onboard would often feature performers who were from the port that we were visiting.

During my Saga cruise, we had a local dance act onboard who were amazing. They danced for us in the small lounge of the cruise ship and we all felt so close to the action – because we were!

The dancing was accompanied by talks about the history of the dance and we learned about what each element represented and meant.

I personally really enjoy history and learning about new cultures so it was always interesting to get to see local entertainment.

Reason #3: You’ll Make Friends!

I don’t know what it is about river cruises exactly but the people that you meet are so friendly.

On an ocean cruise or in a land-based resort it’s easy to go your whole vacation without talking to anybody.

On a river cruise, you’re almost guaranteed to make friends, if not with the other guests, you’ll make friends with the staff!

You will see the same people every day, because there are so few passengers onboard, compared to Ocean cruise ships.

My First River Cruise

Ahead of my first river cruise, I’d read lots about making friends on river cruises.

I’m not a typical river cruise passenger, I’m in my 20s and river cruise passengers tend to be quite a bit older. I was a bit nervous about this.

I shouldn’t have been though I made so many friends on board. I’m usually quite reserved when it comes to things like this but everybody made me feel so at ease.

Emerald Liberte sun deck noughts and crosses

Open Mic

On my Saga River cruise, we table-shared with 4 other lovely ladies and we became such good friends that by the end of the cruise we actually took part in the open mic night together singing “Delilah” by Tom Jones!

I NEVER thought I’d be doing something like that at the start of the cruise but everybody was so friendly that we really relaxed and had a lot of fun.

River Cruise Crew

The crew onboard river cruises are also incredibly friendly. River cruise ships tend to only have around 100 passengers or so, this means that the crew is really able to get to know their passengers.

On Emerald Waterways river cruises, there was an activities manager who looks after the activities for the guests.

On our Saga river cruise, the entertainment manager offered to walk guests into the centre of the town, so they didn’t get lost. He also offered to come back and find them if they ever did get lost! I thought that was going above and beyond.

Reason #4: Onboard Activities

The number of onboard activities does depend heavily on the cruise line you choose. Some will have busy schedules and some will be more relaxing.

The river that you choose will also affect this since some river cruises will have ‘river days’ without any ports.

Activities Onboard

Many ships have a variety of entertainment onboard to keep you occupied. This could include:

– Gameshows
– Trivia
– Cinema Movie Nights
– Aqua Aerobics
– Yoga
– Port Talks
– Live Music

Emerald Waterways Trivia Gameshow Onboard Activities

Reason #5: River Days Start Earlier!

On a river cruise, the day tends to start quite early as guests disembark for their included excursions. We often left the ship at 8 or 9 am.

This is quite the contrast to ocean cruises and land resorts where many guests choose to stay up late and sleep away the morning.

In the morning there may be an included excursion. Attendance to these isn’t mandatory but most guests do get up and go on the excursions.

On my Emerald Waterways river cruise, there were often other excursions in the afternoons – like a guided hike up a mountain or a walk into town. We took part in these as much as we could.

Quieter Evenings

Due to the fact that guests are up early and usually worn out by the early evening there simply isn’t the need for so much late evening entertainment.

That said, on our Saga river cruise the live music did go on until midnight on a few nights! The karaoke night was particularly popular with guests.

Emerald Waterways Evening Entertainment

Will I be Bored on a River Cruise?

The answer to this question depends completely on what you want to do on your vacation.

By picking the right cruise line and the right river you can make the cruise as busy or as relaxing as you’d like.

If you’re somebody who wants to be hiking up mountains in the afternoon or enjoying a BBQ on the deck for dinner – there is a river cruise line to suit you. If you’re somebody who would prefer to sit by the pool with a good book, there are river cruise lines for you too.

Other Things To Think about

There are some other important things to think about if you are considering a river cruise:

  • If you have reduced mobility a river cruise may not be for you. There aren’t usually any elevators and you may have to walk across multipleother ships to get to your own.
  • Itineraries may be changed if river water levels are reduced, sometimes you may end up travelling by coach instead!
  • You may be disturbed at night when the ship passes through locks.

Find out more about this in the video below:

Before You Go

Find out why river cruises are expensive compared to Ocean cruises in the post below:

Why Are River Cruises EXPENSIVE? – The Truth Behind The Price

Find out all about the river cruise I took with the 50+ cruise line Saga. I was invited along by the company and was easily the youngest guest onboard – by decades! We had a fantastic trip…

Saga River Cruise – Review and Guide (Food, Entertainment, Ships, and More)

Taking a Cruise: Recommendations and Resources

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