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Foreign River Cruises Are the Big Travel Hit of 2014, But Whether They're For You is an Open Question

River cruises are the big success of the current travel season:  as amazing as it may seem, no fewer than 53 new river cruiseships will be
joining an already-large number this year and in early 2015.  One company--Viking--will alone be adding some 24 spectacular and luxurious "longboats" to its fleet.  And so heavy are advance bookings for these 130-passenger vessels that rarely will you find discounts to their
prices, in sharp contrast to the frantic bargaining in the ocean cruiseship business.
     So is a river cruise something you should consider?
     Not if you're a solo traveler. The people booking these
ships are almost always couples or groups of two and more
persons traveling together.  One river cruiseship company
(Tauck) recently caused a sensation by announcing that
exactly four of the cabins on one of their newest river
boats would be designed for use by singles traveling
     Nor should you consider a river cruise if you are a family
with young (or even teenage) children.  I, for one, have never
seen a child aboard a river cruise, and am certain that
children would be miserable aboard one.  Nor have I
ever heard of a river cruiseship company maintaining
special recreational programs for children in the way that
the ocean cruiseliners do.  Whereas the ocean vessels are
now deliberately increasing their appeal to families with children, the
river cruiseships have apparently never heard that such
groupings of human beings exist. 
     Next, the determined, cost-conscious, budget
traveler will not want to book a river cruise; they are usually
rather costly.  Only for the less popular winter cruises do you
often find prices starting at $200 a day; generally, the average
cabin aboard a river cruiseship will charge you north of
$250, $280 or $300 a day for the usual cruise--and much more than that on the more exotic sailings in Asia or on the Amazon.
     Finally, it is unlikely that you'll find fellow passengers
below the age of 50 on a river cruise.  Though a sprinkling'
of such "youngsters" will occasionally be spotted, the
overwhelming number of river cruisers are in their 50s,
60s, 70s and up.  When a cruiseship proceeds at a speed
of four-or-so miles an hour, as most river cruiseships do,
the atmosphere is not one for swingers.  Most
river cruisers enjoy the relaxation and calm of a slow-moving
boat, and the enjoyment of a quiet
passage along the great rivers of the world;
     Europe, of course, is the main area of most river cruises,
and people cruise up and down the famous rivers of France,
Germany and Austria in particular.  The European content
of most river cruises also means that the staff aboard ship
is usually European or eastern European.  This pays big
dividends at mealtime:  since European chefs are chosen
for most river cruises, the level of your meals is often
quite high.  You'll value those banquets--the frequent caviar,
the wonderful wines, the pate de foie gras, the superb
desserts--above virtually every other feature of the cruise.
     But most of all, you'll value the luxurious amenities that
most river cruise companies are placing aboard their newer
ships, most of which feature balconies for cabins, heated swimming
pools, putting greens, first-run Hollywood movies in cabins,
every conceivable type of entertainment.  Many of them also
serve some meals "al fresco", in open-air dining decks,
and bring aboard entertainers to sing and cavort for your
     It's an experience that can only be called "sybaritic"; it
relegates the act of seeing a foreign land to second
place.  The idea that you are traveling, witnessing other cultures and
landscapes, encountering lifestyles different from
yours, is all subordinated to the luxury of lolling for a week or two in luxurious surroundings, being waited upon hand
and foot, and fooling yourself into believing that you are                     
seeing a succession of foreign countries.  Your contact with those countries is minimal.