a train traveling down tracks next to a body of water

What To Expect On A River Cruise

The Perks and Pleasures of River Cruising

There’s a reason why so many river cruise travelers are repeat customers. The experience is a unique and authentic way to discover and interact with the cultures and landscapes of many alluring destinations. But if you’ve never taken a river cruise, you likely have questions about what you can expect. You may even wonder if a river cruise is right for you. What follows is a guide to river cruising aimed at the prospective traveler, with an emphasis on the features, amenities, and approaches that distinguish and elevate a Scenic cruise from other river cruises on the market.

A Different Kind Of Cruise

The idea of cruising means different things to different people. The very definition of the word “cruise” suggests casual, relaxed travel; however, thanks to the massive ships and packed itineraries that have come to define the majority of ocean cruise experiences, some people have come to associate only those characteristics with the idea of what a cruise can be. River cruises, on the other hand, deliver the best of both worlds. They encourage guests to relax and unwind, albeit on a ship outfitted with all of the amenities and features that an entertainment-seeking traveler could want. Additionally, river cruises allow travelers to see numerous cities, countries, and places of interest easily and without the need to constantly pack or unpack or check into numerous hotels.

Rhine Sea Cruise boat

It All Starts With The Ship 

The unforgettable memories and experiences that define a Scenic river cruise start with the ships, which are noteworthy for the fact that all of their guest accommodations are suites. That means every stateroom is comfortably arranged to be a relaxing home away from home. What’s more, every suite includes a balcony that can convert into a sun lounge, allowing guests to enjoy breathtaking views of stunning landscapes in total privacy. Elsewhere on board, Scenic’s riverboats feature fitness centers—for those who enjoy an occasional workout on their vacation—wellness centers equipped with hair salons and massage facilities, and sundecks enhanced with hot tubs. They are also home to a handful of restaurants, cafes, and lounges, all of which allow guests to enjoy distinct meals each day of their journey.

When it comes to dining onboard a river cruise ship, especially one of Scenic’s custom-built Space Ships, guests can enjoy a diverse selection of dishes and cuisine that is served in equally diverse and distinctive locales. The main restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner—including regional specialties that change regularly with the ship’s location—while luxurious, fine-dining venues serve upscale French, Italian, or Portuguese dinners to guests seated in intimate and cozy dining rooms. A private, 10-guest dining room is also open each night, serving six-course meals that are further enhanced by complementary wine pairings.

A More Intimate Cruising Experience

If you’re a regular ocean cruiser—or even if you’ve only taken one ocean cruise in your life—you will quickly discover the ways in which a river cruise is familiar but altogether unique. For starters, the size of the ship and its capacity means that guests will often form friendships during their travels with members of the crew (Scenic cruise ships average about 400 feet in length and accommodate no more than 169 guests). “I loved the smaller size of the ship,” one Scenic guest exclaimed shortly after her European river cruise, “and I loved that the crew knew you by name when you got on or off the ship.” Also, during sailing hours guests are encouraged to spend time on the sundeck, their own balconies, or other sightseeing spots on board to enjoy the view. As one Scenic guest recently surmised, unlike on ocean cruises—where a guest’s attention is focused in and on the ship—on a river cruise, “it was all about the beauty of what’s outside your window while you’re cruising.”

a bridge over a body of water

Local Immersion

At each stop along a river cruise journey, guests can choose to participate in a number of “freechoice” activities, or they can venture out to explore the area on their own. A handful of freechoice activities are scheduled each day, many of which are guided tours that take a specific perspective or focus on a particular subject to introduce a city or region to travelers. Some may emphasize local cuisine, bringing guests into establishments that show them how regional specialties are made. Others might guide travelers through wineries or breweries, while some will focus on key events of history or provide an insider’s tour of significant buildings or world heritage sites.

If cruisers prefer to explore an area or city on their own, they can do so walking or they can take advantage of Scenic’s fleet of electric bicycles. Whether they choose to embark on a self-guided tour using two wheels or their own two feet, guests also have access to audio programs that utilize GPS and will notify them of noteworthy buildings, monuments, and attractions in the area and will explain their significance and importance.

Scenic also differentiates itself through a collection of once-in-a-life experiences that the company organizes for its guests. These “Enrich” activities include medieval feasts set in castles that have remained unchanged since the Middle Ages, private classical concerts played in Europe’s most ornate and awe-inspiring palaces, and Scenic’s interpretation of revered European festivals. Not only are all of these experiences included in every guest’s itinerary, but the all-inclusive nature of Scenic’s cruises means travelers can enjoy every aspect of their trip—from snacks and beverages to guided tours—without factoring in any additional costs.