Surprise! (Or, maybe not surprise if you've been following me on Facebook or Instagram recently.)
I'm about to go on my very first river cruise!
I'll admit it: whenever I see those commercials pop up on TV, showing cruise ships sailing past places like Budapest and Santorini, my heart gives a little flutter. Travel by small ship is almost as romantic (to me at least) as train travel. Especially in Europe.
So when I met with AmaWaterways last year at a networking event in Los Angeles, I knew that I was very very interested in what they had to offer. Thankfully, they appreciated my gushing about how much I love Eastern Europe, and offered me the chance to experience one of their river cruises first-hand.
River cruising is at the point right now that ocean cruising was about 15 or 20 years ago — it's beginning to lose some of its stigma as an expensive, just-for-old-people type of vacation. It's not quite as mainstream yet as traditional ocean cruising, but there's no denying that it's rapidly gaining in popularity.
I can't wait to show you what it's all about.
River Cruise vs. Ocean Cruise
I've been on quite a few ocean cruises over the years. My parents really enjoy cruising, and we've discovered that they make great family vacations for us. In the past few years, we've been on two Alaskan cruises and one to Canada and New England (and have been to the Caribbean in the past, too).
Some of the things that I don't love about ocean cruises (like the number of people on board, the priciness of shore excursions, and the fact that you often spend multiple days at sea) don't really exist on most river cruises.
For example, the ship I'll be sailing on only holds about 160 guests. ALL of the shore excursions are included in the price of the cruise. And because there are cities all along Europe's rivers, you're pretty much spending every single day in a new port.
Black Sea Voyage
Elliot and I will be boarding the AmaPrima on Monday for AmaWaterway's Black Sea Voyage, cruising the Danube from Budapest, Hungary to Rousse, Bulgaria.
The weeklong cruise makes stops in Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, and Bulgaria — not your average destinations in Europe, but ones I'm super excited to get to explore.
We'll be doing things like learning about the Yugoslav Civil War, tasting wine, biking around new cities, visiting castles and fortresses, and cruising through the famous Iron Gates (gorges between Serbia and Romania).
Things I want to tell you about
Because this is my first river cruise, there are certain aspects of the experience that I'm really looking forward to learning more about — and then telling YOU about, of course!
The types of people on board — Most people assume that cruising (and especially river cruising) is for an older demographic. I'm curious to see if this is true or not.
What the shore excursion experience is like — Since all of the shore excursions are included in the price of the cruise, I'm interested to see how they work and how good they are. I'll also try to gauge how much you can really do/see when you only have one day in these ports.
The food — I'll be sure to report back on both the variety and quality. I'm sure it will be slightly different than the massive buffets you find on oceanliners.
The ship itself and our room — I've seen these ships sailing on the Danube in Europe before and am really looking forward to seeing the inside of one! I love that nearly all of the rooms have balconies — can't wait to relax on ours as we sail down the Danube.
Things to do on board — Since we're in port nearly every day, I'll be curious to see what kind of things you can do on the ship if you don't go on the shore excursions. And of course I'll let you know what there is to do in the evenings — somehow I can picture us hanging out in the heated pool with swim-up bar at least one or two nights.
Everything that's included — Unlike all the ocean cruises I've been on, nearly everything is included here, from wine at dinner to shore excursions to free wi-fi (!!!). They even have bikes on board that you can reserve if you want to go explore the port cities on your own — we definitely plan to do that at least one day!
What else are you curious about when it comes to river cruising?