European river cruises are fast becoming the best way to see Europe and mature travelers love river cruising. I’ll distinguish between river cruises because there are ships that cruise rivers in Europe, United States, China and Vietnam. All very different experiences so for now I’ll focus on my experiences with European River Cruises.
Most of us who watch PBS are familiar with the beautiful river scenes shown by Viking River Cruises. You should know there are several other river cruise lines in European waters such as Avalon, AMA, Uniworld, Tauck, Scenic, Emerald and more. The amenities vary from ship to ship, but all of the cruise lines offer similar experiences.
All of the river cruise ships offer the wonder of sailing on a scenic European waterway, packing and unpacking only once, three meals a day, shore excursions in magnificent and historical cities as well as viewing the passing countryside of small towns and villages.
After several river cruises, I can tell you without reservation this is a great way to see Europe. But as a mobility challenged traveler, there are some very important things to consider. Most importantly, this is not a trip for a wheelchair-bound traveler or a person who uses an electric scooter. Companies that deliver handicapped equipment do not deliver to European river cruise ships.
Some other important information: Elevators do not necessarily go to all floors of the ship; ramps to embark and disembark can be very steep depending on the level of the water; the cobblestones that make the streets in towns so quaint also make it difficult to walk. By the very fact that the river towns are located on a river usually means there is an access road or walkway close to the ship but the town could be located up steep streets or stairways to gain access to the town proper. As soon as local guides discuss the record flooding the town has experienced, you begin to understand the elevation of the riverside towns.
Daily shore excursions are included in the river cruise itinerary and involve walking tours of the villages and towns. Options include a “slow walkers” group for those of us who won’t keep up with the normal walking tour pace. For me, even the slow walkers group at times moved too quickly. Checking with the ship’s Cruise Director, I would see if there were alternatives to see the towns at my own pace. I ended up with suggestions for a sightseeing tram in two cities and a walking tour on my own as way to explore at my own pace. See, it can be done. You need to understand your limitations and have a plan