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Amenities take a quantum leap on river cruisers

I have mentioned on more than one occasion that river cruising is growing faster than ocean cruising. Growing faster on a percentage basis, that is.

I have mentioned on more than one occasion that river cruising is growing faster than ocean cruising.

Growing faster on a percentage basis, that is. When you compare the two types of cruising one ocean-going ship equals at least 15 river cruise ships in capacity.

That's not the point. The point is that river cruising is not what it was. If your last river cruise was prior to 2007, you will notice many changes when you step on board a river cruise ship launched in the past four years.

The French balconies are still there but you now have full balconies, some of which can be covered during inclement weather.

Lounge areas and dining rooms have a modern look created by well-known designers and staterooms offer many of the amenities you find on ocean ships.

Many of you have asked: What are those differences?

Let's look first at who is cruising on the river.

Baby boomers and boomers-plus for the most part make up the majority of the passengers.

Most are already seasoned travellers who want to experience the various towns and cities in depth.

According to Patrick Clark, the CEO of Avalon Waterways, more than 85 per cent of the people on his ships have had ocean cruise experience - not a lot of newbie cruisers here.

Most river cruise lines offer more than you will find on the mass-market ships.

Internet is usually included, plus wine with dinner, free tours offered at many ports - although you pay for more elaborate tours. Scenic Tours as an example are going fully inclusive next year.

Entertainment: I hope you like piano and guitar stylings and reading - really. From time to time if the cruiser is docked in a city in the evening, you might find local entertainers coming on board.

Dining: While there is a main restaurant and possibly one or two more small ones, generally everyone eats dinner at the same seating. However, if you do like to dine as a couple you will find tables for two.

Ports: You're going to have experiences you will not find on an ocean-going ship - docks that are in the heart of some great European cities such as Paris, Budapest and Vienna.

Remember, the rivers of Europe served as the highways in earlier times.

Friendships: On an ocean ship, you often make new friends. I believe you will make more and probably find friendships are more lasting on a river cruiser.

With the closer environment, you see each other every day.

If you want to be reclusive, it's hard to do on a river cruiser. I suppose you could pick a corner on the top deck at either the bow or the stern and hope that no one says hello.

Europe has the most popular rivers today: the Rhine, the Rhone, the Seine and the Danube. Asia is growing and most river cruise lines are not sparing any resources to develop those markets. The Yangtze River in China has been on cruisers radar for sometime, but now you can add the Mekong Delta in Vietnam and Cambodia. Clark says Asia is river cruising's fastest-growing market.

This unique travel style means instead of looking down on the world from deck 12, you're looking up at the great cities and, in most cases, disembarking right in the heart of them.

Finally, here's my favourite difference: When you arrive from Canada on an overnight flight feeling tired and a bit grimy, the last thing you want is to hang out waiting for your cabin and your luggage. On a river cruise, you're usually in your cabin by around noon and your luggage is following you down the hall.

Vive la difference!

Visit for daily updates on the latest cruise news, best deals and behind-the-scenes stories from the industry. You can also sign up for an email newsletter on the site for even more cruise information. Phil can be contacted directly at portsandbows@

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