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Questions to Ask Before Your First Ever River Cruise

17th May 2017

So you’re ready to embark on your first ever river cruise? Perhaps sailing through Indochina, or the heart of Europe, down the Nile in Egypt or from Moscow to St Petersburg in Russia? Wherever you have your sights set, it’s important to know how river cruise ships, itineraries and inclusions may differ. Here’s a quick guide to what you need to ask before booking.

1. Who are you?

This is the most important thing to think about when choosing a river cruise. Thinking about who you are and what you want from your cruise will greatly influence the experience you have.

Think about what your interests are. Are you into food and wine, so looking for a cruise themed around this? Perhaps you’re travelling with your kids and grandkids? Are you a history enthusiast looking to explore the heritage of destinations along the way? Most river cruise lines, including Uniworld, offer distinctly themed cruises to suit unique interests and groups.

2. How do you like to travel?

This is the second most important question. When booking hotels do you look for minimal fuss and value for money, or do you want all of the bells and whistles with the best service in town? Just as hotel chains do, different river cruise lines offer different levels of luxury. Uniworld might be the equivalent of the Ritz-Carlton, with the best service, ambience and amenities, but that doesn’t mean you don’t get value for money. Onboard Uniworld ships there is a choice of multiple different levels of accommodation, from basic staterooms through to lavish royal suites, so there is something to suit all types of travellers. A top tip is to look at cabins in the next category up and down to see if you can get better value in a bigger space for not much more, or if you can save when space or location doesn’t matter so much.

3. Are inclusions important?

One main drawcard for river cruising is the single payment and forgetting the rest. Many river cruise lines offer all inclusive packages, however what’s included varies between companies. Uniworld offers some of the most sought after inclusions of all river cruise lines; from exclusively curated shore excursions to delicious onboard dining with unlimited premium beverages. There are bicycles for onshore use, signature lectures and onboard entertainment, and of course impeccable service.

4. Do you really need a gym or pool onboard?

Chances are, when travelling through Europe, Asia or Africa on a river cruise, you will be spending most of your time exploring onshore. When on the boat, you’ll be socialising, enjoying a show, or passing through an unmissable stretch of river. So the pool and gym may not be as important as you first thought. That said, if you’re an early riser and can’t miss your daily dose of gym exercise (you’re bound to get plenty on shore excursions though), these things will certainly come in handy.

5. Is there a dress code?

Many river cruises have some sort of dress code, both for special evenings and onboard in general. Be sure to find out exactly what the dress code is in advance, as casual onboard some ships may be shorts and thongs, on others it may mean a polo shirt and loafers.

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Image: Uniworld

6. Do you qualify for any discounts?

If you’re over 60, and hold a current seniors card, you may be eligible for the exclusive Escape Travel Seniors Discount. Contact your local Escape Travel store, or click here for more information. Some river cruise lines also offer discounts for some passengers, so be sure to ask your Escape Travel Tailor Made Holiday Specialist.

7. Can you save money by being flexible with dates?

This is another way to save on your holiday. Aligning with holidays and seasons, some dates can book up quickly, or prices increase on those dates. If you’re flexible with dates however, you may find that a week either side prices improve. 

9. What’s the best cabin in your category?

The difference between cabins isn’t just the cabin categories. Within one category, you may find some cabins are better than others. The main thing that will affect cabin popularity is location, particularly on larger river cruises, where you may have to walk further. The layout of cabins may also vary, so be sure to take a look at how much room you’ll have, and what window or balcony they offer. 


Uniworld river cruises are now on sale. For more information and to book, visit your local Escape Travel store or call 1300 273 482.


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About Vicki Fletcher

An Australian travel writer and photographer, Vicki loves road trips down unknown tracks, following locals to the best food in town and spending long afternoons people watching in city squares. She's obsessed with colours, stops to admire flowers and dreams of one day restoring a chateau in France. Her top travel tip: always look up. Follow Vicki on Instagram at @vickijanefletcher