How long are river cruises?
Vacations To Go sells river cruises that range from 3-night getaways to 30-night vacations that include a land tour and a river cruise. [top]
When is the best time of year to take a river cruise?
If you're thinking about taking a river cruise, it's important to note that prices do not necessarily fall as the departure approaches. In fact, the earlier you book, the better, as air discounts are generally at their peak when each year's brochures are first released. Plus, river cruise companies contract with airlines for specific numbers of seats at good rates and when they are gone, air prices can rise dramatically, especially for summer and early fall travel. September is the most popular time to cruise, but also the most expensive. You'll find lower prices during the months of November, December, March and April. [top]
Are there any theme cruises available?
Yes, theme cruises offer the opportunity to indulge in a favorite hobby and increase your knowledge of a wide variety of subjects -- from gourmet cuisine and fine wine to music, culture and history. Programs may include special guest speakers, performances by noted entertainers, theme-related shore excursions and the chance to interact with experts in a particular field. [top]
Is a river cruise suitable for families with kids?
Most river cruise companies do not offer special arrangements or activities for children onboard. However, some river cruise operators do offer a few sailings per year exclusively tailored for families. To view river cruises designed for families, click here
Are river cruises suitable for single travelers?
Yes, some lines offer cabins designed specifically for single travelers, while others offer a single share program that allows guests to avoid paying a single supplement. To see each company's policy regarding single travelers, along with a list of current specials for singles, click here
What kinds of ships are offered and what can I do onboard?
Riverboats are smaller and more intimate than traditional ocean liners. These floating hotels allow you to mingle and dance in the lounge, enjoy fine cuisine in the elegant dining room or simply relax and watch spectacular scenery drift by from the observation deck. Most staterooms on river cruise ships are outside cabins with at least a partial river view. [top]
How are river cruises rated?
River cruises are rated according to the quality of the vessel and its accommodations, the number of included amenities and activities both on and off the ship, the class of hotels used for land portions of itineraries and the level of service delivered. River cruises are categorized as budget, first class or deluxe on the industry rating scale. [top]
Booking a River Cruise
How do I book a river cruise?
Booking a cruise with us is easy. To find your ideal cruise, use the box at left to search by destination, company, travel dates or trip duration, or for advanced search options, click here
. Once you've narrowed it down, give us a call at 800-510-4002 and one of our river cruise specialists will verify availability, answer all of your questions and help you confirm your booking. [top]
What is included in the price of a river cruise?
The price of your river cruise includes your accommodations on the ship and on land, along with most meals, entertainment, guided sightseeing and more. For most packages, alcoholic beverages are included during dinner. [top]
Is airfare included in my cruise price?
Airfare is not included in the prices displayed on our site, though our river cruise specialists will search for air deals and help you book air tickets -- at the lowest possible price -- in conjunction with your cruise. [top]
Can I use frequent flyer miles to pay for the air portion of my reservation?
You can use air miles only if you book your own air. Most river cruise operators do not accept air miles as payment for the air portion. [top]
How do I pay for my river cruise?
Once you have selected a river cruise, please e-mail or call us and one of our river cruise specialists will take payment. River cruise operators accept payment via MasterCard, Visa, American Express and, in most cases, Discover Card. A cashier's check or money order may also be accepted in some cases. [top]
Can I put down a deposit?
To reserve your stateroom and lock in the price, river cruise companies require that you place a non-refundable deposit ranging from approximately $200 to $500 per person. If you're booking air through the operator, an additional deposit may be required. After the deposit is made, you will be asked to pay the remaining balance of your fare before the final payment due date, which is typically 45 to 90 days before departure (some early payment discounts will require full payment at an earlier date). [top]
What if I have to cancel?
Unfortunately, things do happen and sometimes cancellation cannot be avoided. Please notify your Vacations To Go travel counselor immediately of any cancellations or changes. Please note that refund and cancellation policies vary by river cruise company and penalties generally increase as the departure date approaches. You may be eligible for a partial refund after cancellation only if you cancel within the company's designated time period. To view each company's payment and refund policy, click here
Since river cruise operators do not make exceptions regarding cancellation charges, we recommend that you secure appropriate trip insurance to protect your investment. Click here
for more information on insurance. [top]
When will I receive my cruise tickets?
River cruise operators typically produce cruise tickets two to three weeks prior to departure. Documents vary by company but in general you will receive a travel voucher along with detailed information pertaining to your trip. Your Vacations To Go travel counselor will discuss ticket delivery options with you at the time of booking. [top]
What is a cabin or stateroom category?
A cabin category is the ranking a river cruise company has given a group of cabins based on their size, amenities, deck level and location. These factors also help to determine price. [top]
What is a shipboard credit?
A shipboard credit is a monetary credit applied to your shipboard account. It can be used for onboard purchases like shore excursions, beverages and souvenirs, though some companies occasionally put restrictions on their usage. Your Vacations To Go travel counselor can provide you with the terms of any shipboard credits you may qualify for. [top]
What are transfers?
Transfers refer to motor coach or private transportation provided by the river cruise company between the airport and the cruise pier or the first and last hotels on the itinerary. Transfers are most often arranged prior to your cruise. There is generally a fee for this service, which varies depending on the company and starting and ending cities. Some river cruise companies include complimentary transfers when you purchase an air-inclusive package. Your Vacations To Go travel counselor will provide transfer details and the cost, if applicable. [top]
Can beds in the cabin be apart or put together?
In general, river cruise companies offer cabins with two twin beds that can be pushed together to form a queen bed. [top]
Can we start the cruise halfway through (or disembark early)?
Yes, but typically the river cruise company will still ask you to pay the fare as if you were taking the entire trip, with no discount given for days missed. [top]
Can I travel when I'm pregnant?
River cruise companies typically allow guests to travel before the third trimester of pregnancy. After the third trimester has started, these companies feel they can no longer accommodate the mom-to-be if she should deliver early or need emergency medical treatment. Typically a letter from your physician is required for boarding. Policies vary from one company to another, so please ask your Vacations To Go travel counselor for more details. You should also note that airlines have varying travel policies for expectant mothers. [top]
Are river cruise ships wheelchair accessible?
Unfortunately, there are not many ships that cater to people who use a wheelchair. River cruise companies welcome guests with disabilities but note that challenges will exist onboard and during shore excursions. Some ships have elevators and some do not; some ships have split-level decks and/or significant thresholds that could make movement difficult. Under some circumstances, guests are able to use wheelchairs onboard, but shore excursions may require movement over cobblestone roads or up and down stairs. Accordingly, there may be no shore excursions offered in certain ports due to the terrain or lack of transportation vehicles that can accommodate wheelchairs.
The exception to this is river cruising in the United States. Some lines that operate in the United States, such as American Queen Steamboat Company and American Cruise Lines, offer boarding, staterooms and deck layouts that are wheelchair accessible. [top]
Are pets or service animals allowed?
Most river cruise companies do not allow pets or service animals onboard their ships. [top]
Is there a minimum age requirement for traveling on river cruises?
Yes, most river companies impose a minimum age requirement for all guests, in addition to a minimum age requirement for guests in each cabin. These vary by line and can be verified with your Vacations To Go travel counselor. [top]
Are there any group discounts available?
Some river cruise operators offer group discounts, and they typically apply to bookings of five or more cabins. [top]
Can optional excursions be purchased in advance?
Yes, some river cruise companies allow you to purchase optional excursions in advance. Your Vacations To Go travel counselor can verify each company's policy for you. [top]
Can the river cruise company change my itinerary after booking?
Although an itinerary change is rare, it can happen for a variety of reasons, including weather, water level and safety concerns. Your Vacations To Go travel counselor will notify you if an itinerary change occurs after booking. [top]
The Onboard Experience
How many people are on the ship?
This will vary greatly depending on the ship and cruising region. In Europe, ships carry 150 passengers on average, while ships on China's Yangtze River can carry nearly 400 passengers. [top]
What activities and entertainment are offered onboard?
In addition to viewing lounges and open air decks, riverboats offer libraries, fitness centers, saunas and Jacuzzis. Fine dining is a highlight of most river cruises, and depending on the itinerary, onboard entertainment may include local performers, regional musicians and guest speakers providing in-depth lectures about the regions explored. [top]
Are there any days you are on the river all day?
In general, most itineraries do not spend entire days on the river but you may cruise for a few hours during daylight. Most of the cruising is done at night to give you the maximum amount of time at each port. [top]
Will I have time to explore the great cities we pass on my river cruise?
Definitely, river cruises allow plenty of time to explore great cities at your desired pace. At each port, you can choose an excursion offered by the river cruise company or explore on your own. [top]
What is a shore excursion?
That's a term that refers to anything you do off the ship, in port. At every stop, you'll have the option of exploring the area on your own or as part of a group with a planned itinerary. You might visit a local village in the Amazon, see the Three Gorges Dam on a Yangtze River cruise, sample wines at a vineyard in Europe or enjoy a sightseeing tour. Some optional shore excursions are available for an additional charge. [top]
Is Internet service available onboard?
You can stay connected to friends and family on most ships, and many have wireless network connections allowing the use of your personal laptop in your stateroom or in public areas throughout a ship. Some ships have an Internet center onboard that provides access to computers with an Internet connection. Depending on the company, Internet access may be complimentary or available for a small fee. The connection quality tends to vary and can sometimes be very weak on the river. [top]
Can I use my cell phone onboard?
Cell phone connection will be limited on most ships. Keep in mind that international roaming charges will apply. Contact your cell phone carrier for more details. Some river cruise operators offer cellular phone rentals (from a third party) that roam seamlessly worldwide for an additional charge. [top]
What happens during embarkation?
This is the boarding process all guests must go through at the beginning of the cruise. Each passenger's cruise voucher and passports and visas (if necessary) will be verified at this time. [top]
What happens during disembarkation?
This is the process at the end of the cruise when you leave the ship. [top]
What are the smoking policies onboard?
This varies depending on the cruise company, but most ships allow smoking in designated outside areas but not in staterooms. [top]
Are there set dining times?
Generally, riverboats offer open seating during set meal times. Some ship restaurants accept table reservations. [top]
Can the ship accommodate special dietary needs?
It's important to discuss any special dietary or medical needs you have with your Vacations To Go travel counselor -- before booking -- to ensure you can be properly accommodated by the company you're considering. In most cases, river cruise companies require additional documentation in writing, but usually they can easily accommodate requests for menu items that are low-sodium, low-cholesterol, low-fat or sugar-free. [top]
What type of dress is appropriate on the ship for daytime vs. dinner?
Dress onboard and on shore is casual. Please bring comfortable walking shoes for sightseeing. Dinner attire is also casual, with the exception of the Captain's Welcome and Farewell Dinners which are dressy, but not formal. On some itineraries, you may attend a ballet performance, concert or other dressier event, and for these evenings, you might like to bring semi-formal attire. [top]
What language is used onboard the ship and on shore excursions?
The language onboard most ships is English. All staff, crew and tour guides speak English. All announcements, lectures and commentary will be in English. [top]
What type of currency is accepted on the ship?
The currency onboard will vary depending on the company and region being sailed. Items you purchase onboard, together with any optional excursions you purchase, will be added to your shipboard account, which can be settled with a credit card. [top]
How much should I tip the cruise director, staff, tour guides, etc.?
Most river cruise companies leave the amount of gratuities to your discretion, while there are a few operators that include tips in your upfront price and do not encourage additional tipping once you are onboard. For more information on tipping standards, please ask your Vacations To Go travel counselor. [top]
What happens if the water level on the river is too low or too high and the ship can't sail for a portion of the itinerary?
Fortunately, this situation rarely occurs. If the river is too high or low and cruising on the vessel is not possible, the itinerary may be continued on land using a motor coach and hotels. Most excursions still take place and the cruise company might add to the itinerary as compensation for not traveling by river. [top]
Preparing For Your Cruise
What are the essential items to pack?
You'll want to bring comfortable, casual clothing. Most river cruises do not have formal nights, although some guests choose dressier clothing for Captain's Dinners. Other items you'll probably want to bring include a pair of comfortable walking shoes and dressier shoes, a collapsible umbrella or lightweight rain gear, a lightweight jacket or sweater, sunglasses, a hat or sun visor, toiletries, electric converter and/or adapter and any needed medications. Consider the region's weather when packing. Remember to dress respectfully when visiting places of worship and other religious sites where you may be denied entry if you are wearing clothing considered to be inappropriate.
You should also bring copies of any key travel documents and carry them separately in case you lose the originals. Other optional items you may want to bring include camera gear, extra memory cards and batteries, a small calculator for foreign exchange calculations, binoculars, anti-bacterial wipes, hand sanitizer and a travel journal. [top]
How much luggage can I bring?
This depends on whether or not you're flying. The airlines have stricter requirements than any of the cruise companies, so you'll want to check with them first to make sure you travel within their guidelines. Your Vacations To Go travel counselor can verify any cruise company's luggage policy at the time of booking. [top]
Will I need a passport to take a river cruise?
A passport is required in almost all cases, with the only exception being US citizens traveling on a river cruise in the US. For more information about passport requirements, click here
How long does it take to get a passport?
Usually it takes 4 to 6 weeks to obtain a passport, although processing times can vary. You can rush passport processing and delivery for a fee. [top]
Will I need a visa?
Depending on your country of citizenship and your destination, you may need a visa along with your passport. Please verifying visa requirements with consular officials for every country visited during their trip, including countries visited via connecting flights. [top]
Are any inoculations required?
Usually not, but yellow fever shots may be required for travelers visiting certain regions of South America and Africa. For cruises on the Amazon, Mekong or Chobe Rivers, or travel to other exotic destinations, you should talk with your doctor or travel medicine specialist one to two months before your trip to discuss medical issues related to your travel destination. Your doctor can advise you of the latest health precautions, as vaccination requirements are subject to change. [top]
Can I bring my own hairdryer?
Some ships have dual 220v/110v-120v outlets in every cabin which will accommodate US-built hairdryers and electric shavers. Most ships provide hairdryers as well. [top]
Can I bring my own iron?
No, river cruise companies do not allow irons in cabins due to the fire hazard they pose onboard. Laundry or dry-cleaning services are usually available. [top]
Do I need an electricity converter or plug adapter?
In general, it's a good idea to bring electrical converters when traveling internationally, as many ships and hotels will not have outlets that work for 120v appliances (US standard is 120v). Staterooms on some ships, but not all, have a dual 220v/110-120v outlet. [top]
Can I bring alcohol, bottled water or soda onboard?
Most river cruise companies do not allow alcohol, or any other beverages or coolers, to be brought onboard ships. Some lines do allow individual guests to bring one bottle of wine or champagne onboard, which can be opened at dinner by your waiter for a corkage fee. Any bottles of wine or liquor purchased in duty-free shops in port or onboard the ship will be stored onboard until the conclusion of your cruise. [top]
How early should I arrive for boarding?
We strongly recommend that you arrive at the pier at least two hours before the scheduled departure of your cruise so you will have ample time to check in and board. [top]
What happens if I miss the ship?
If you miss the ship, please contact us to let us know whether you plan to meet the ship in the next port-of-call. Since river cruise companies do not make exceptions regarding cancellation charges, we strongly recommend that passengers secure appropriate travel insurance to protect your investment. For more information on travel insurance, click here