Updated 06/07/2023

River cruises offer one of the best ways to see the inner cities and cultural wonders of towns and countries. From the comfort of your small ship, explore countries local life and immerse yourself in each destination you pass.

Enjoy an unforgettable sailing along some of the world’s most unique waterways, experiencing an intimate travel experience as you go. Life on-board a river cruise is very different to ocean cruising, with smaller ships, guest capacities reaching only a few hundred and routes which pass the very depths of ports, rather than their cruise terminals.

Here are some of the popular questions we come across at RiverVoyages to help see if river cruising is for you.


How will I know what is planned for each day?

Daily programmes are placed in your room and displayed in the reception area, featuring places which will be visited and a timetable for the day, including meal times.

Couple dining on a river cruise

Is there a dress code on-board?

Each cruise lines differs, but generally allow informal dress for the duration of the cruise. Certain restaurants may incur additional rules such as smart dress or no jeans, but this depends on the cruise line.

How can I pay for things on-board?

Much like ocean cruising, once you have boarded your river cruise ship you are given a card which allows you to pay for items on-board. When you come to the end of your cruise, you can pay your outstanding balance either in cash or by card.

Man checking emails while cruising

How do I stay connected while on-board?

Most cruise lines offer Wi-Fi, whether this is complimentary or offered at an additional rate. This allows you to keep in touch with family and friends at home, access your emails and browse the web while on-board.

Will I get seasick on-board?

When compared to ocean cruising, river cruises only sail at night and remain on the waterways rather than open waters. River cruise ships aren’t exposed to waves in the same way, so turbulence and rocky motions are avoided.

Viking alfresco dining at Aquavit Terrace

What amenities are there on river cruise ships?

Amenities do vary depending on which ship you sail on but the below are standard on most ships:

  • Restaurant
  • Bar
  • Lounge
  • Sky deck
  • Fitness centre
  • Sauna and steam room
  • Hair salon
  • Elevator from bottom deck to top deck (not sun deck)

What are the cabins like?

Cabins are spacious and luxurious to make your time on-board that extra bit special, boasting twin or queen beds and en-suite bathrooms. The two main cabin grades are:

Riverview Stateroom

These rooms are usually the same size as the other cabins on the ship and can be found on the bottom deck. Each cabin comes with all the standard amenities, with the added touch of a shoulder height, non-opening window giving you the chance to view the idyllic scenery as you sail past.

French Balcony Stateroom

These are the most popular cabins booked on a river cruise. You’ll benefit from full length sliding French windows without the added price tag of a full balcony. Although you can’t walk out onto the balcony, you can take in the fresh air, whilst lounging in your cabin at your leisure. Some cruise lines will also feature full Balconies and Suite grades, however these are limited and they often sell out fast.

Balcony room on-board Emerald Waterways

Will there be a pool?

Most ships will have a whirlpool or Jacuzzi. Some of the newer river ships will have a plunge pool on the top deck or on the back of the ship.

What is there to do on a river cruise?

River cruising consists of three main activities: touring, dining and cruising. The majority of your cruising is done during the day, so guests can enjoy the stunning scenery passing by. You can also enjoy free time in your port of call, allowing you to sight-see at your own leisure, join other guests on a walking or bike tour or enjoy a guided tour of your destination.

Couple on a river cruise excursion

Are river cruises wheelchair friendly?

Some river cruises do offer accessible cruising, with cabin size, bathrooms and elevators modified to help those struggling with mobility. Some excursions are suited to wheelchair users, but it may be best to ring the cruise line when booking to see if they can fulfil your needs when on-board.

What’s included in the price?

It really does depend on the cruise line you choose to sail with. When you see a price it more often than not includes:

  • Return transport from the UK
  • All meals on-board
  • Excursions in every destination you visit
  • Drinks – depending on the cruise line

Amadeus ship sailing on the Rhone

River cruising is very different to ocean cruising, offering you the chance to get closer to ports from the comfort of your stateroom. Explore our latest deals at RiverVoyages.com, with exclusive offers and unforgettable itineraries, perfect for river cruising whether it’s your first or twenty-first sailing!

Do you have any questions that you would like answering about river cruising? Call our Cruise Concierge team on 0800 197 0854 and they will be happy to help with any questions you have about sailing along the rivers of the world.

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About Emma Smith

Emma has more than seven years' experience as a writer and has been in the travel industry for nearly five years. She loves learning about new places and cruise ships coming to market, as well as discovering fun and exciting activities to do while you sail. She has cruised with Princess Cruises, Cunard, Celebrity Cruises, Virgin Voyages, Avalon Waterways and Royal Caribbean and is looking to get something in her diary for 2024! Her favourite things to see on a ship include excellent entertainment, a delicious cocktail menu and extraordinary dining venues.

2 Responses to “An introduction to river cruising – Life on-board”

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      Emma Smith

      Hi Andrew, river cruising is ideal for solo travellers! The ships have great places to relax and meet people on-board, and excursions are all guided so it’s safe to explore. There is also a selection of solo staterooms, specifically designed for those travelling alone. You can find all of our solo traveller deals here, if you would like to know more, call our Cruise Concierge team on 0800 197 0854 and they will be happy to help! Thanks, Emma.


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