Describing a typical day on a river cruise is helpful to someone that’s never taken a river cruise. But it’s difficult because every day is different – a different port, activity or excursion. However, we can generalize to help paint a picture for life aboard a river cruise. Let’s pretend we’re on board an AmaWaterways ship sailing the Moselle.
Many times excursions will start around 8:30 or 9 AM. So we’ll typically wake up around 7 AM and find ourselves at breakfast by 7:30. Breakfast is a buffet, though you can always order Eggs Benedict or other made to order items. Maybe we’ll have an omelet, maybe some smoked fish, some fruit. Tea and coffee are always served in abundance. We’ll be done within an hour, depending how much talking we do.
On our way out of breakfast we’ll stop off at the front desk to pick up our excursion tickets (colored tags to identify which group we’re in). Back at our room we’ll brush our teeth and pack up for the day – get the camera ready, pack the back pack with rain gear or sweater if appropriate and our audio system. If there’s anything that represents a typical day, it’s breakfast. Excellent food, attentive service and lots of choices.
Once off the ship, we’ll find our group (by color) and turn on our audio devices. The audio system automatically synchronizes with the tour guide so we can hear him/her in our ear piece. The range is about 50 ft so there’s no need to all huddle around during the tour. Many times the morning will be a walking tour of whatever little city we are in so once our group is gathered off we go. Sometimes there’s a short bus ride, depending on the port.
So maybe the tour will last an hour or two. Typically we’ll have a another hour or so to explore on our own. It depends a lot on which town or city we’re in since many times we’ll have most of the afternoon as well. It gives you time to grab a coffee, explore some new streets, go shopping or go into a cathedral that we didn’t have time to explore on the tour. Sometimes we’re there long enough to have lunch in town on our own. Food is a great way of understanding cultures. A typical day for us will be at least one local bite to eat – a snack or cafe if not a real meal. Even if it means a pretzel in Germany or a croissant in France (and definitely a gelato in Italy)
A moving experience
So sometimes the ship will move in the afternoon while we’re on our tour. If so, we’ll meet a bus at a designated location. Sometimes lunch is served back on the ship and we all get back on the ship for an afternoon sail. sometimes we’ll stop for a second excursion (with tour) and sometimes we’ll just sail. In any case, you’re constantly moving (walking, on a bus, on the ship) And of course there’s some bicycle excursions so that’s another moving experience.
There’s always choices during the day. So you’ll see maybe 10 – 15 people from the ship during the day – the rest of the ship will be off doing something else.
Back on board
You’ll get back from the excursion du jour by 5 pm typically. We’ll head off and shower, check emails (One of our clients is always traveling it seems), unpack our backpack, plug in our audio devices and if we have time, head out to the lounge and read. typically the cruise manager will be in the lounge at 6 pm to discuss the next day’s agenda and any sign ups required. dinner will be served by 7 pm.
Dinner and a show
Well, let’s start with dinner. Seating is entirely open. Many times we’ll just want to eat ourselves and there’s lots of tables for two. But there’s lots of times we either make arrangements in advance to sit with people we’ve met or we’ll sit with some new folks to meet them. River cruisers are a pretty friendly group in general and so dinner is usually filled with a lot of discussions. It’s a great place to compare what everyone did that day.
The word “stingy” is clearly not in the vocabulary of the people that serve the wine so everyone is usually feeling pretty good by dinner’s end. There’s always deserts and a cheese tray to end dinner – many times we won’t leave dinner till around 9 pm. Is there a show? sometimes. Sometimes there’s a piano player in the Lounge but other times there will be local talent including singers or a string quartet. By 10 pm we’re typically done and will retire to our rooms.
This description really does reflect a typical day. Some dinners may be more extravagant or have a wine pairing description. Some dinners might be at the Chef’s table restaurant while others are in the main dining room. But generally this is what you’ll do in a typical day on the river cruise.
Ready to retire
Many times we’ll clock between 5 and 10 miles a day of walking during the day so we try to get a good nights sleep. On our beds are will be the itinerary for the next day and of course the room ahs been cleaned and straightened. (twice a day typically).
Generally speaking – a typical day
So that’s how a typical day goes. But it’s hard to generalize since there’s so many deviations. Sometimes we sail in the morning and have excursions in the afternoon and evening. Sometimes the excursion will involve a significant bus ride to and from the ship. But in general, activities are during the day and we sail during the night. The exception to this is the Douro river in Portugal which does not allow sailing at night.
In this post we focused on the logistics of daily life. Maybe is sounds boring to you? It really isn’t -it’s engaging, active and every day there’s just so much to take in. Need more convincing? check out this blog called Are river cruises boring? And then you might want to read our detail trip reports here. You can really get a sense of what a real river cruise is like.