Five Reasons A River Cruise Should Top Your Travel To-Do List

Experience History: Budapests Chain Bridge, Pariss Notre Dame Cathedral and the Great Wall of China

For seasoned travelers looking for an experience that will challenge the senses and intellect, river cruises hold a timeless allure. These cruises offer a memorable blend of scenic river views with slices of history that reflect some of the most magnificent cultures in the world, according to the cruising experts at The Cruise Authority.

River cruising immerses passengers in their environment in a way that large ship cruising does not, explains Cynthia Boal Janssens. Cruisers can observe the daily life of a country as they sail down its waterways, then get to see famous monuments like the Notre Dame Cathedral when the ship docks in Paris.

Here are five reasons you should make a river cruise your top travel priority:

1. The pace is slower, so the experiences are richer:
River cruise ships move at a relaxed pace, so you will take in and retain more in years to come than you would on a traditional ocean-based cruise. You will have unprecedented flexibility, including the ability to disembark and re-embark at your leisure, throughout the cruise. Dress is casual, no formalwear required. Open seating is generally the rule, so you meet lots of other travelers along the wayoften forging life-long friendships as river cruise ships tend to attract an eclectic crowd. Academics, world explorers and adventurers are drawn to this intimate and extraordinary means of travel.

Lecturers onboard impart intriguing and personal knowledge specific to the areas visited a fascinating way to understand the history and culture of your destinations.

2. Explore regional culture, past and present:
History buffs will thrill to the experience of visiting Paris via the Seine, Budapest via the Danube or London via the Thames. All of these rivers meander through the hearts of these cities. At night, from the river, these views can be breathtaking visualize Budapests Chain Bridge and Pariss Notre Dame Cathedral lit against the night sky. An added bonus: activities on a river cruise ship typically reflect the cruising regions interests, so expect to see unusual cuisine, entertainment, lectures and music that reflect local culture and traditions.

3. River cruise companies are generally small and personal:
Most river cruise companies are small enough that they can really focus on their passengers. Also, many have operated in the same region for a long time, thus they really know their cruising grounds and to offer in-depth shore experiences. For example, AmaWaterways focuses heavily on Europe, particularly the Danube and Rhine rivers. There are several companies sailing on Chinas famed Yangtze River, including Viking River Cruises, Pacific Delight and Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection. Then there are ships like the MS Tosca on the Nile in Egypt that are booked by several different cruise companies.

Because these companies know their areas so well, their shore excursions are very personal as well. For example, AmaWaterways is offering special Jewish Heritage itineraries in August and November 2011 that explore the rich Jewish history and culture of cities such as Vienna, Bratislava, Regensburg and Budapest. Passengers will visit synagogues, historic sites and museums. These shore excursions, like all on the line, are complimentary.

4. In vino veritas:
While the dining and beverage offerings on a river cruise line usually are superb, some vessels also offer guests a chance to experience some of the worlds finest cuisine by offering special dinners on shore. Most cruise lines also offer visits to the many vineyards and wineries that line their rivers.

For example, Uniworld offers sailings on the Rhine and Moselle rivers that visit five countries. On these trips, connoisseurs of food and wine will savor hearty meals, delicate pastries, fine chocolates and full-bodied Rieslings. AmaWaterways and Avalon Waterways offer similar itineraries.

5. Luxuriate in (all-inclusive) amenities:
The appeal of a river cruise is underscored by the fact that most are all-inclusive voyages, offering countless amenities. Many of the newer river ships sailing today include spacious staterooms with hotel-style beds, fine linens and marble-appointed bathrooms with spa-quality toiletries. A ship like AmaWaterways 161-passenger MS AMABELLA features an intimate chefs table restaurant that seats just 24 that has its own private chef, a library with a virtual fireplace and a heated swimming pool. The vessel also features a newly upgraded Infotainment system, offering first-run Hollywood movies, classic films and computing options for those maintaining email contact or even blogging during their holiday. The entire vessel, as with all AmaWaterways vessels on the Danube, Rhine, Main and Mosel rivers, has complimentary Wi-Fi.

Drift through beautiful landscapes and disembark to truly explore the heart of the region. Visit chateaus and cathedrals, tour vineyards and sleepy villages. This is the experience of a river cruise, one that is not to be missed.

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