15 reasons why river cruises are perfect for retirees

Your elegantly appointed stateroom with full sliding doors opening to a French balcony with an ever-changing panoramic slideshow is your home for the next 7, 10, 14 days or more. First, you’re bound to open the slider and enjoy your view – even if it’s from the dock side – imagining all the scenic landscapes you’ll encounter along your journey.

You unpack the suitcase that has magically appeared in your cabin, organizing the clothes in drawers and tidy cupboards in every nook and cranny. By reading the daily logbook full of activities, you already know why river cruises are perfect for retirees.

1. Unpack once

Nobody likes to live in a suitcase; it quickly becomes boring. Also, space is limited in a cabin – no room for a bulky suitcase. Take a few minutes to unpack and store your luggage. Your cabin will stay tidy and comfortable, your clothes will be neatly folded or hung up, and you can focus on more important things like having the best time of your life.

2. Eliminate transportation hassles

When you book your airfare and airport transfers as part of the cruise package, the cruise line becomes responsible for any mishaps. Traveling always comes with a bit of the unknown, and it’s comforting to know that you have a team to solve any problems that arise.

Once on the ship, your booked excursions include transportation. If you are booking with an outside supplier, you will need to ensure that you are back in time for the onboard call.

Cologne Cathedral at night

Photo credit: Freedom100m / Shutterstock.com

3. Excursions for all levels

Most cruise lines offer excursions with a variety of effort levels. They still offer the guided bus tour where you only get off for pictures and maybe a short walk. However, many now include cycle tours, hikes and outings suitable for a more athletic traveller.

For example, on Viking’s Grand European Tour, excursions in Cologne include a Cologne Walking Tour (moderate), Cologne by Bike (active) and Cologne’s Beer Culture & Dinner (easy). This variety of activity levels allows you to go at your own pace and provides appropriate options for all clients. Most ports of call offer at least one excursion for the leisurely traveler.

4. Local guided tours

Cruise lines love loyal customers and word of mouth is their best marketing tool. So they hire the best local tour guides to lead their excursions. Local guides bring a personal perspective on local culture, history and traditions.

When you’re only spending a short time in a place, a guided tour with a local guide is the best way to soak up the highlights of the area. Local guides are also great reference resources when you have time to explore on your own.

Jota, a sauerkraut and bean stew with potatoes, white beans and sausage

Jota, a sauerkraut and bean stew with potatoes, white beans and sausage

Photo credit: SingerGM / Shutterstock.com

5. Enjoy regional cuisine

Cruising and delicious food go hand in hand. The main dining room usually offers one or two dishes inspired by local cuisine. While browsing Regensburg, Germany, you might find traditional German sausages and sauerkraut on the menu. This allows you to enjoy regional dishes without having to search for the perfect restaurant.

If you’re a foodie, be sure to check out the onboard cooking classes and food-focused excursions offered during your trip.

6. Fun activities on board

On a river cruise, you generally don’t have too many days ‘at sea’; there is usually a port of call each day. However, while sailing you will find plenty of activities to keep you busy. Of course, there’s the pool, gym, and ubiquitous bar. But there are also intellectual talks, demonstrations, wine tastings, card games and the casino.

You can always find a comfortable chair with a view and just watch the world go by.

Wine cruise with AmaWaterways

Wine cruise with AmaWaterways

Photo credit: Sandi Barrett

7. Taste a variety of cruises

There is a river cruise for everyone. The variety of type of cruise can be just as important as the location of the cruise. Theme cruises like history, art, wine, knitting, cycling and Christmas markets are just a few. Learn about your favorite retirement hobby or dive into a new adventure.

Retirees flock to river cruises to enjoy amenities, port calls, cultural immersion, and meet new friends with like interests. This is the perfect getaway for seniors.

8. Score Last-Minute Deals

As retirees, we have a lot of free time. Last-minute cruise deals are budget-friendly. If you have a trusted travel agent and should use one to book your cruise, it’s a good source for last-minute deals. Plus, when you sign up for the cruise line newsletter, they will flood you with cruise information, including last-minute deals.

Jumping on an all-inclusive cruise at the last minute requires little to no planning. Just book and show up – it’s the best way to travel.

Medieval well at Prague Castle

Medieval well at Prague Castle

Photo credit: Sandi Barrett

9. Reserved Adventures

You can book a getaway extension on the front and/or back of your cruise in the cities offered by the cruise line. They will take care of your transport, your hotel and often a “city tour to get to know each other”. Plus, a cruise director is on hand at the hotel to guide and assist you. It’s like having your own concierge.

Many cruise lines offer different cities for pre- and post-boarding stops for cruises on the same itinerary. For example, Prague is a pre/post Danube cruise stay and requires a good bus ride to the embarkation city. Pre/post stays are a good way to explore destinations in more depth.

10. Smooth Navigation

River cruise passengers are less likely to suffer from seasickness. Rivers are calmer than high seas, so the ship pitches less. Most of the sailing is done at night and the gentle rocking has more of a calming effect than the rocking of choppy waters.

11. Small ships = personalized service

Guest-to-staff ratios on river cruises tend to be almost one guest to one staff member or two guests to one staff member, although this varies by cruise line. The ratio is conducive to small crowds and is more favorable than larger cruise ships. With more staff looking after guests and a low seating capacity (about 250 passengers), river cruises offer a more personalized service.

You become very familiar with your cabin steward, server and cruise director. They get to know you quickly and can respond to any specific needs or requests you may have.

Hungarian Parliament in Budapest

Hungarian Parliament in Budapest

Photo credit: Sandi Barrett

12. The ports are close to the city

Cruise ships are small and can dock near the city center. They fit into port slips much more easily than large cruise ships which may have to dock out of port. This allows guests access to the port city or excursion transportation. It is very rare for a river cruise to require tenders for disembarkation.

A small boat moored along the Danube in Budapest

A small boat moored along the Danube in Budapest

Photo credit: Henrietta Puskas / Shutterstock.com

13. Easy mobility access

Smaller ships, fewer people and personalized service facilitate access for passengers with reduced mobility. Ships are smaller to navigate, usually dock in the harbor or old port area, and customer services are more tailored to the needs of a particular customer.

You will encounter many guests requiring different levels of access.

14. Friendly Solo Travel

Solo travel is becoming extremely popular. Long gone are the days when singles had to find a travel companion before embarking on an adventurous journey.

Many cruise lines offer discounted single supplements, with some charging no additional fee. You’ll find singles dating and plenty of guests going on solo excursions, even if they’re traveling with a companion. As a solo traveler, you can spend as much or as little time alone as you like.

15. Linguistic Immersion

If you are looking for a unique language experience, book a trip on one of the cruise lines offered in a language other than English. French Waterways offers luxurious cruises where the staff speaks French and English. Immerse yourself in the country you’re visiting – the landscape, the food and the language – for a cultural experience you won’t soon forget.

Best River Cruise Companies

Below is the Travel Awaits Best Of Travel 2022 list of favorite river cruise lines. Recommendations from other river cruisers are always a good place to start.

Sacher Torte at Hotel Sacher in Salzburg, Austria

Sacher Torte at Hotel Sacher in Salzburg, Austria

Photo credit: Sandi Barrett

River cruises are a wonderful travel option

River cruises are one of my favorite ways to travel. Waking up to magnificent fjords, ancient port towns and bustling harbor views starts the day full of promise with a glimpse of what lies ahead. As retirees, we have the luxury of time; river cruising is one of the best ways to enjoy a relaxed trip. Have a good trip!

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