If you were a super-fan (like moi) of the show “Downton Abbey,” then inevitably you caught the advertisement just before the episode started, which showed lots of well-accessorized old people sipping white wine on a Viking River Cruise while sailing past the Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest. For a time, river cruise lines’ focus on the old-folks demographic made sense, since retired people with money were the only ones with the time and the cash handy to afford a river cruise.
But hallelujah(!) the times are a-changing and river cruising is becoming more affordable and generally more attractive to a wider audience! Yaaaay!
Why Does River Cruising Tend to Cost More??
Unlike the standard ocean cruise, most river cruises are truly all-inclusive with your cruise fare covering room, meals, drinks (including booze!), and daily excursions (although a few super luxe ocean cruises are truly all-inclusive, the more generally recognized brands tend to nickel-and-dime the crap out of you, which is one of the many reasons why I can’t stand them).
River cruises are also MUCH smaller with one hundred guests or less—barge cruises are even smaller with 20–30 people or less. That means a much more hands-on customer service experience and more personal attention.
So, yes, they cost more, but you’re getting WAY more value and bang for the buck! As I always like to say when I’ve dropped a ton of cash on a gorgeous sale—it’s not what I spent but what I saved!
River Cruising IS for Families!
For families looking for a slower paced vacation that focuses on culture and history, then a river cruise is gorgeous option! You just need to know which ones to take.
Several of the major European river cruise lines have family-focused cruise itineraries that add in more kid-friendly activities while also providing an upscale and experiential time for moms, dads, and grandparents. A multi-generational river cruise is also fabulous way to treat the whole family during a school break or over the summer.
To make it more budget friendly, the family-focused itineraries typically discount the children’s cruise fare down to as much as 50% of the adult fare. Importantly, because river cruises are so completely all-inclusive, you pay for almost everything in advance with U.S. dollars, which allows you to take the guess work out of foreign exchange rates.
One thing to note: the typical river cruise cabin is made for only two people, so a family of 4 will be split into two cabins, which is why children are often so heavily discounted on family-focused cruises.
River Cruising IS for Younger Folks!
The average river cruising adult is 45+. But, not only is that average coming down as river cruises gain in popularity and there is more competition, river cruises are starting to specifically target the age 21-40ish crowd.
This year, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises launched U by Uniworld, which caters to this younger demographic. The price point is lower and the schedule is more forgiving by starting excursions later in the day and with more evening events/excursions. There are fewer overall inclusions (for example, booze are pay-as-you-go), but there’s still a lot on offer, including a daily excursion or tour, which make it worthwhile and still a better value and experience than an ocean cruise.
Now, I’m going to be painfully honest with you, while I adore and applaud U by Uniworld’s concept, there are some aspects to “U” that seem as though they were never focus-grouped by actual younger people; instead, they feel more like some board room persona just Googled “what do millennials like to do?” That being said, “U” is a concept with great potential and the upsides vastly outweigh any hokeyness.
Whatcha waiting for gurlina? It’s time for a river cruise!