River cruising is a style of travel beloved by seniors worldwide for its ease and luxuriousness. Perhaps you’ll be sailing down the Loire, floating from one vineyard to the next or cruising the Rhine, where castles and chocolate box villages vie for your attention from one side of the river to the other. Whatever cruise line or itinerary you choose, expect to be swept up in stunning scenery, 5-star service and a surplus of little luxuries.
So if your flights have been booked and the balance of your trip has been paid for, our tried and tested tips for senior cruisers will ensure a seamless transition to life on the river.
If pre- and post-cruise accommodation isn’t included as part of your cruise package, it’s worthwhile adding a few nights onto your trip. Not only can you get acquainted with your departure and arrival destinations, but a night or two before your cruise will also help you shake off any jet lag in preparation for your cruise.
The luxury of ‘unpacking once’ is a cliché found in almost every cruise brochure or article you read. But it’s for good reason. The benefit of being able to visit multiple places without having to lug around a heavy suitcase more than validates the overused phrase.
Once you have access to your stateroom, set aside half an hour to unpack completely (and store your empty suitcase under your bed) to truly create a home away from home.
You never wear as much as you think you will, and a little forward planning can mean the difference between an edited selection of pieces to create outfits and a jumble of unworn and mismatched items.
One advantage of travelling on a floating hotel is laundry service. All cruise lines can take care of your laundry needs at a cost, or many, like Uniworld, have free facilities where you can wash, dry, fold and iron your clothes as needed.
Not to mention, European shopping is world class, extending beyond high-street labels to local designers selling unique wares in equally unique shopping districts. Pack minimally so there’s enough room in your suitcase for new clothes or souvenir purchases.
First and foremost, once you’ve checked in and unpacked, the crew, led by the captain, will conduct a safety briefing. It’s imperative you don’t miss this session, as it outlines everything you need to know in the rare case of an emergency.
Most cruise lines like APT and Uniworld include a range of daily shore excursions in each destination. Once you’ve received your cruise documents, peruse the itinerary carefully and note any excursions you’d like to do. Trips can book out quickly, so if there are any experiences that pique your interest, register as soon as you’re on board as these can’t be pre-booked with your Escape Travel consultant.
If you’ve missed out on a shore excursion, don’t panic. Often a spot will free up the day before or even the morning of the tour – just ask to be put on the waitlist.
Shore excursions are not compulsory, but they are an informative and interesting way to get to know a destination – especially under the guidance of in-the-know locals.
Sometimes, however, you may prefer to let your curiosity lead the way. There’s as much pleasure in getting lost in a new city as there is on a guided walk. (Just ensure you can get back to the boat well ahead of departure time!)
As you’ll likely be travelling in the European summer, you have plenty of daylight hours at your disposal, which will afford you the opportunity to enjoy both guided and leisurely sightseeing each day.
River ships store a convoy of bicycles for guests to use at their leisure – simply reserve a bicycle the day before you’d like to use it.
There’s no doubt hopping on two wheels means you can cover more ground than if you were to simply stroll through the city. Europe’s riverbanks and riverside cities were made for cycling; however, unless you’re relatively active – and have ridden a bike in the last 20 years – now isn’t really the best time to re-learn this skill.
Cruising and cuisine go together like Aperol Spritzes and sunny afternoons. Spoiled for choice is an understatement when it comes to onboard dining, and it can take a lot of restraint to stop yourself from overindulging in restaurant-quality dishes.
But meals don’t have to be all multi-course menus; each sitting comes with an incredible amount of choice, including simple and low-calorie options, like simple salads, grilled fish and steak.
If you’d rather not skip hearty local specialities, the dessert buffet or cheese platter (it’s your holiday after all), you’ll find an onboard gym to balance out all that wining and dining.
Don’t always feel obliged to eat lunch on the ship, as one of the best aspects about travel is trying local food, among locals. Embrace a European lifestyle and enjoy a leisurely lunch here and there, complete with a glass of wine or two, at a cafe of your choosing.
River Cruising is now on sale. See all of the Great Escape Sale deals here, visit your local Escape Travel store, or call 1300 273 482.