One of AmaWaterways river ships, the AmaLyra, docks in Bratislava, Slovakia. (AmaWaterways photo)

Explore the Riverways of Europe, Asia, Africa

River cruises are quickly becoming a top trend in the travel industry. Allow John Sturm of Lindstrom Travel to explain why this intimate, all-inclusive cruise should be your next big trip.

One of AmaWaterways river ships, the AmaLyra, docks in Bratislava, Slovakia. (AmaWaterways photo)
One of AmaWaterways river ships, the AmaLyra, docks in Bratislava, Slovakia. (AmaWaterways photo)

In today’s tourism industry, one of the oldest ways of sightseeing is making a popular comeback. Ocean cruises might be a well-known standard in the industry, but river cruises are gaining speed as a more intimate, hands-on alternative.
“I’ve spent hundreds of days touring Europe on a motorcoach, but to tour Europe from my own hotel room on a river cruise is phenomenal,” says John Sturm, president of Lindstrom Travel, an 88-year-old travel agency in Rockford. “When you’re going along the river, you’re continuously exposed to gorgeous new scenery along the way. There’s nothing like it.”
Of Lindstrom Travel’s five trusted river cruise lines, AmaWaterways is one that offers a premium, authentic experience on the popular waterways of Europe, Africa, Vietnam and Cambodia. These trips take passengers along peaceful and scenic routes to some of the area’s most historical cities, from hidden gems to major ports. AmaWaterways has been refining its 20-plus itineraires since it was founded in 2002, guaranteeing an immersive journey built on the history, culture and natural beauty of the land.
“Ocean cruises typically have 2,000 to 5,000 passengers, but these river cruises have a capacity limit at 164 passengers,” says Sturm. “It’s a much more intimate experience.”
The most popular options at AmaWaterways include trips along Europe’s Danube, Rhine, Seine and Moselle rivers, ranging from seven- to 14-day cruises. These trips combine the ease of water travel – such as unpacking once and watching the passing shore right from your stateroom – with the immediate access of a smaller vessel and group size. River ships dock more quickly and at new cities every day along the journey, as opposed to an ocean cruise’s one-to-two days at sea. River ships often stay at ports longer, too – sometimes overnight. Passengers have more freedom to independently explore the local nightlife at the heart of these cities, mere steps away from their docked ship. When ports are only 15 to 20 miles apart, passengers are even able to bike ahead of the ship on the ship’s included bicycles and rejoin the group at the next stop.
“There’s so much history in these places,” says Sturm. “The rivers were the highways back in the day, so all these towns have been situated on the river for 600 to 700 years.
“Excursions are included at every port of the trip, and many have walking city tours. Some excursions are more focused, such as ones relating to World War II or medieval experiences. But more than anything, it’s all about learning about the history and what’s going on in that area.”
One of the most popular excursions is a full-day trip, for an extra charge, to Salzburg for those interested in “The Sound of Music.” AmaWaterways also offers specially themed cruises, including ones designed around beer, wine, cheese or art.
On the ship, passengers have plenty to do throughout the three deck levels, with their state-of-the-art lounges with panoramic window views, dining and drink venues and authentic onboard entertainment every night. A massage, beauty and hair salon allows passengers to be pampered in between stops. All meals and Internet access are included in the package, along with unlimited wine, beer and sodas at lunch and dinner.
“I recommend booking at least nine to 12 months in advance, just to be able to get exactly what you want, especially for September and May, the two busiest months,” says Sturm. “Once you do it, you’ll want to go again and again.”