An Exciting Adventure - River Cruises for Young Adults
Updated: Apr 14
Are you thinking of a European Getaway? For us in our 30's or even 40's river cruising might not come right to mind as a travel option for our age group. I remember a few years back when I still had cable TV, seeing Viking River Cruise commercials ALL-THE-TIME! They featured white-haired and well-dressed seniors sipping on nice wines while following their guides through museums and monasteries. Not my ideal European adventure.
The marketing was not geared to people in their 30's and 40's, so no wonder river cruising didn't seem like an option.
Fast forward a few years to when I was completing the travel agent training for Avalon Waterways when I noticed the narrative changing. Suddenly there were choices. Excursions were no longer classic sightseeing only, but instead offered the choice of Active and Discovery options. I was intrigued. Could river cruising work for people in their 30' and 40's?
So naturally, I had to find out and booked myself, the hubster and our close friends on a river cruise on the Danube.
Here is what I learned...
#1 River cruising is NOT too formal
The cruise could be as formal or informal as you would like. For meal times, we often wore the same clothes for breakfast and lunch that we toured in during the day. At dinner, we would change into "slightly" nicer clothes like a simple dress or button-down shirt - certainly nothing overly fancy. Glancing around the dining room you could find all sorts. Ladies in cocktail dresses with nice up-dos and ladies in clean clothes. There was no air of judgment.
The staff was also very well trained and the service was top notch, but never felt stuffy. I like to have fun with the staff, joking around and getting to know them. It was clear that they were encouraged to let their personalities shine through in their work and were not handcuffed to formalities. Stella, the bartender, wasn't afraid to cast judgment on my husband's poor choice of drinks and Ahmed, our server, made sure we had extra coffee in the morning to cure us from the previous night's indulgences.
#2 The choices are endless
Want to tour European castles, churches and monasteries in the classic walking tour - no problem. Want to bike long stretches along European rivers - no problem. Want to taste the food and wine of the region - no problem. River cruising is full of choices and you also have the choice to do nothing at all (mental image of Flanders, anyone?).
On our river cruise I biked over 50 km both independently and with our Activity Director, I hiked to a castle in Bratislava and I joined in on a food/culture tour of Vienna. All of this and I also had lots of time to tour each city independently during the day and sometimes in the evening after dinner.
#3 There is NO wasted time
The thing I found THE BEST about river cruising through Europe was there was ZERO and I mean ZERO wasted time. Once onboard the ship, we unpacked once and we were done. The ship became our Floating Boutique Hotel which transported us from city to city. And the timing was perfect! Cruising was often done during dinner time, providing amazing views as we ate our delicious meals. At other times, we departed ports at 11 pm, allowing for lots of time to explore cities in the evening. All in all, we visited 4 countries in 6 days and only unpacked once!
#4 You might not be as young as you think!
No, we were not the youngest people on the ship. And yes, we were all very shocked by the demographics! We had all prepared ourselves for a river cruise alongside Grammy and Grampy, and for months we had endured the comments from friends and families about our age. Remember all the commercials of grandma and grandpa exploring Europe with Viking! But this was not the case AT ALL. Our ship had more people in their 30’s 40’s and 50’s than octogenarians. What we did find was a lot of early retirees taking dream trips. Guests onboard seemed to share a common interest in experiencing Europe, not just seeing it. Spirits were high (and fuelled by bottomless wine) and genuine connections were easily made with fellow guests. Not once did I feel like our age was an issue.
#5 River cruising offers great value
I have been planning a lot of custom trips to Europe for my clients and it is not unheard of for budgets to exceed $10,000 - $15,000 + for a 10-day trip for two. Europe is not cheap! These trips would include accommodations, breakfast, transportation and tours. Not included are lunch, dinner and drinks!
Yes, a river cruise will set you back $10,000 + as well, but EVERYTHING is included. Once we boarded our ship, we had very few expenses except the odd gelato or pastry when exploring a town. We ate all our meals on board, beer and wine included during meals and our glasses were always full! It truly is an all-inclusive way to travel Europe.
#6 By no means is river cruising in your 30's boring
If you are on a river cruise and are bored, then I hate to break it to you, but you must be a boring person. There is so much to do and see, so many people to meet and talk to. The multiple lounges, the sundeck and onboard entertainment and the fact you are in Europe all lend themselves to great times all around.
All that being said a river cruise is not for you if…
You want to party. If you want to be social and have fun, then yes. If you still want to boom boom dance party the night away, then no.
You want a pool or beach. If you want to relax with a nice lounger, book and drink, then yes. If you want to swim, then no.
One other thing to note...
I am pretty confident that most people (even the most sensitive) should not be worried about seasickness on a river cruise. The only time I felt the ship move was when another river cruise passed us, and it was VERY minimal.
River cruising should be a strong contender for anyone looking to travel to Europe, regardless of your age.
Interested in learning more about river cruising? Check out these articles.