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River Cruising

Experience the vacation of a lifetime!

The golden age of river cruising is nigh. Every major river-cruise company is building new ships, with Viking River Cruises topping the list at 10 this year alone. Ships now feature more space, more suites, better dining options and luxury hotel-style amenities. In addition, the range of itineraries is expanding, especially on Portugal's Douro River, Spain's Guadalquivir, numerous rivers in France, the Hudson and Mississippi in the US, and the Irrawaddy in Myanmar. Meanwhile, cruises along established rivers are offering more flexible, family-friendly options, themed tours and cruise-land combinations. Needless to say, it only takes one river cruise to get you hooked.

River cruise ships are smaller than ocean-going cruise ships, typically holding 90-240 passengers (though there are ships that take only 5 passengers, and others can carry 1,000 passengers). Due to their smaller size and low draft, river cruise ships can go where ocean cruise ships cannot, and sometimes to where no other transport is practical: rivers are an excellent way to reach some attractions, for example in Russia, China and the Peruvian Amazon.

During river cruises the countryside is usually in view, so they are especially relaxing—and interesting—to those who prefer land nearby. River cruises usually last from 7 to 15 days, although some can last 3 weeks or longer.

Some river ships resemble 5-star hotels, with sun decks, dining rooms, lounges, fitness facilities, swimming pools, casinos and other entertainment. Accommodation, meals onboard, entertainment and special events (holidays, festivals, contests, concerts, etc.) are usually included in the cruise price, while bar expenses, sauna, massage, laundry and cleaning, and phone calls are not.

Most cruises have a variety of onboard and onshore activities. The latter include guided tours to historic and cultural sites, visiting local attractions, museums and galleries, and other points of interest. Guides give a running commentary while sailing.