It started with the bikes.
AmaWaterways was one of the first river cruise lines to regularly offer bikes onboard, several years back. It was an invigorating development, enabling guests to get off the ship and get the heart rate going while peddling to the backdrop of scenic vineyards and charming central European villages.
The bikes gained in popularity and before we knew it, almost every single river cruise line either made them available for passengers to use or provided guided bike tours (or both). It was the first step in river cruising starting to feel more active and, yes, more fun.
Which isn’t to say it wasn’t fun before. Multi-course, wine-fueled dinners often led to lively conversations, and the dancing scene in the lounge could often get pretty raucous depending on the crowd. But with excursions that mostly entailed a more subdued and history-laden walking or motorcoach tour, river cruises didn’t exactly exude engagement and amusement. Interesting and informative? Yes. Legitimately fun? Er, not always.
But now river cruise lines are kicking it up a notch – or 10. The combination of passengers demanding more active excursions, combined with travelers in general seeking more unique and authentic destination experiences, means that river cruise lines are offering options for travelers to visit ports through an entirely new lens, and in a more healthy way, too.
The result is canoeing the canals of the French city of Strasbourg (from Crystal River Cruises); biking among the windmills of Kinderdijk in the Netherlands (from Viking River Cruises); a running tour of Amsterdam (from Avalon Waterways); kayaking to one of the world’s oldest breweries, located in a German monastery (U by Uniworld); and hiking through the Black Forest (Emerald Waterways).
Even if being more active isn’t necessarily everyone’s thing, the demand is pushing river cruising to get more creative with its offerings both on and off the ships. It’s not just about more active excursions, but also things like a market visit combined with cooking classes, painting and photography workshops, pub crawls and art walks….
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