10th November 2017: River cruising has seen a dramatic increase in popularity over the past few years and with it, we’ve seen the expansion of river cruising in Asia. Just like river cruising in Europe, Asia river cruising offers holidaymakers a relaxing way to explore some of the region’s most breath taking locations, while also immersing yourself in completely different sights, sounds and senses as you discover more about the local cultures.
So what are the differences between river cruising in Europe and Asia? Which is right for you? The Mekong or the Danube? The Yangtze or the Rhine? Take a look at our guide below…
In Europe, the majority of river cruising takes place on the Danube, Rhine and Rhone in Northern Europe and the Douro in Portugal. These routes enable you to take in highlights such as the Wachau Valley on the Danube or the Vinhateiro wine growing region in Portugal.
In Asia, you have a choice of the Yangtze in China, the Irrawaddy in Burma, the Mekong in Vietnam and Cambodia and the Ganges in India. Your cruise on the Irrawaddy could include a hot air balloon flight over the temples of Bagan, or you could experience the Silver Pagoda in Phnom Penh along the Mekong.
One of the main differences between Europe and Asia river cruising is that while on a European river cruise your entire holiday is on the river, an Asia river cruise involves a mixture of hotel stays as well as time on board a river vessel so it would be worthwhile keeping this in mind when choosing your ideal river cruise.
Which Cruise Line?
There are many questions you might ask before choosing a river cruise… Which river cruise lines cover Europe and which ones cover Asia? Are there some that do both? Is there a difference in standards?
While there’s no definitive answer, there’s a range of river cruise lines available, some of which specialise in Europe, some specialise in Asia, however the majority cover both continents. So, if you’ve enjoyed a Viking River Cruise on the Rhine, you’re more than likely to also enjoy a cruise on the Yangtze and the Mekong with them too.
Many of our customers who have previously experienced an escorted tour through us with companies such as Titan Travel or Riviera Travel, have naturally chosen to take the next step into river cruising with them too. Travelling with a familiar company gives you that extra bit of confidence and can often be one of the main attractions when asking your travel agent about booking a river cruise for the first time.
River cruising can be experienced no matter what your budget, however when travelling with a luxury cruise line such as Uniworld and Scenic (which all cruise both European and Asian waterways), features such as home-to-airport private transfers can at times be included in the price.
While popular river cruise provider Tauck doesn’t yet offer holidaymakers luxury river cruising in Asia, they’re well established in Europe.
Shearings, another popular river cruise provider, may appeal to customers for their local pick up service in the South West which is perfect for those taking one of their European river cruises.
Ships and Cabins
So is there a difference in what you can expect from the individual ships and cabins in Asia and Europe? As a general rule, river cruise ships in Asia are taller, generally 4-5 decks compared to 3-4 on a European vessel. This is due to some of the very low bridges that the European ships need to navigate under, sometimes with just millimetres to spare!
Sail on board Viking River Cruises' Viking Emerald along the Yangtze and you can expect hotel style beds and a veranda with sliding glass doors in each room as well as free internet on board and a state-of-the-art kitchen which expertly prepares both Asian and European dishes.
Not only this, the Viking Emerald’s large sun deck offers sensational panoramic views of your surrounding landscape, this may be particularly impressive as you cruise along the Yangtze and travel through the Wu Gorge, renowned for its magnificent scenery.
Often, on a European river cruise excursion you can look forward to exciting new experiences such as wine tasting, city tours or biking/hiking in the local countryside. Compare this to a river cruise along for example, the Yangtze, river cruisers can look forward to fully immersing themselves in the local cultures.
Just a handful of exciting excursions include taking a sampan boat ride (a relatively flat bottomed Chinese wooden boat), local school and village visits, historical/cultural landmark visits such as Cu Chi Tunnels and the tranquil Yuyuan Garden, as well as city tours and museum visits in larger cities.
An example of the type of excursion you can expect along the Mekong with Avalon Waterways is extremely varied, on one day you’ll visit a local workshop and see how rice paper is made, another you’ll take part in a traditional water blessing by local monks and the next you’ll ride through the countryside on a bicycle before visiting some of the region’s most glorious palaces and museums.
Find Out More...
Are you considering a river cruise to Europe or Asia? If you’d like to know more, my staff are always more than happy to talk river cruise. They can advise you on the right river, ship and cruise line to suit you and many of them have experienced a number of river cruise lines first hand themselves. Just call your local shop to find out more. As 'the home of river cruise' we’re delighted to be able to bring you the most extensive range of European and Asian river cruising in the South West and South Wales.