If you are new to river cruising, the planning process can seem daunting. Which is the best itinerary and cruise line for you? How do you make sure you get to go on your ideal excursions? And what can you expect from the ship experience?

While the best way for me to answer those questions is to schedule a consultation with you (Feel free to reach out any time!), here are some of my top tips for having the best possible river cruise experience.

The top ways to make the most of your river cruise:

Do your research – or use an expert to help you plan!

When planning a river cruise, the first thing you need to decide is where you would like to go. Since you took my River Cruise Quiz you have a good start with that! However, even after you have chosen the location of your river cruise, you will want to ensure your final choice of itinerary fits your allotted vacation time as well as your travel style, and that you understand what’s included. Do the research or use a travel advisor (like me!) who is an expert on river cruises to make sure that you find the trip that is the best fit for you.

Plan ahead for your excursions – but be open to changing your mind!

A couple of months before your trip you will be able to see a full list of the excursions available on your cruise. Most river cruise companies include at least one complimentary excursion in each port, while on some river cruise lines all of the excursions are part of the price. All of this should be clearly explained in your paperwork. As you investigate the excursions available to you, it is helpful to think about which ones you want to do in each location. Still, it is also useful to stay open to all the options, since you may find that your interest is piqued by a different activity or site and you can often choose to change your plan on the fly.

Utilize your Cruise Manager – they are an incredible resource!

Do not be shy about bringing any questions or concerns to the onboard staff. That is what they are there for and they are happy to help. Of all the staff, the person who will have the biggest impact on your experience is the Cruise Manager. They are destination and problem-solving experts, and are a great resource if you have any questions about your trip. They are there to assist you with every facet of your vacation, so be sure to talk to them if you run into any issues.

Extend your stay – there’s so much to see beyond the riverbanks!

While I know that it is not always possible, spending a few extra days before or after your cruise is one of the best ways to make the most of a river cruise vacation. Many cruise lines offer a variety of options for pre and post-cruise stays, but you also have the option to make those plans yourself. If you do make your own plans, just make sure that you understand how you will get between the ship and your next destination, which is something I can help you figure out.

A few more tips!

  • All the ships have laundry facilities, so if you have packed light, don’t worry – you will be able to get any laundry needs taken care of onboard.

  • Most ships also have exercise options so you can keep up with your routine while you travel.

  • If you forget anything (toothpaste, plug converter, eye drops, etc.), ask the staff. They are there to help and they will do their best to find you what you need.

I hope that this was helpful! Please reach out to me if you have any questions, or are ready to choose your river cruise!

Contact Kira

Kira GartnerKira Gartner is the owner of Blue Sky Destinations, a boutique travel agency specializing in river cruises, luxury expedition cruises and customized European vacations. For years she has helped curious travelers plan vacations that allow them to unwind, reconnect, and immerse themselves fully in a destination. Reach out to her for a free consultation - and let her start designing your dream vacation!