River Cruising: Are You Too Young to Take a River Cruise?

If you aren’t a certain age, are you too young for a river cruise? Demographically speaking and referring to overnight itineraries, the average river cruise passenger is 55+ years old. The funny thing about demographics is that they can make you feel like you don’t belong or you won’t fit in with the crowd. Not so fast, though. If it’s something you’ve thought about doing but thought you were too young, you could be missing out on an awesome travel experience.

Is river cruising for you? It depends what you like to do. River cruises are more cultural, experiential, educational and scenic. Enjoy the ride, take in the surroundings, learn about cultures, and experience the destinations in a thoughtful way.

If you like adventure travel, you’re not likely to find it on a traditional river cruise. Although, you can experience travel in a jungle-like setting in Borneo, Malaysia, on the Tarcole River in Costa Rica and on the Amazon River in South America. If you like adventure rafting, Costa Rica has some of those, too.

cruise ships on the moselle river near cochem germany

Cruise Ships on the Moselle River Near Cochem, Germany

What’s a river cruise ship experience like? Well, if you’ve been on an ocean cruise, you’ll at least have some familiarity with traveling along the water on a cruise ship – just a smaller version. Ocean cruise ships are generally much larger in terms of both ship size and passenger capacity.

River cruise ships carry 100 to 200 passengers for most European river cruises.  Russia and Ukraine carry between 200 and 225. Cruises on the Yangtze have a passenger capacity of about 400 on some itineraries, but that’s about as big as they get. The point? You probably won’t get lost in the crowd and should have a chance to interact with most people on the cruise ship.

On a river cruise, you won’t have as many choices with restaurants and onboard activities; but the scenery should make up for it. You’ll be traveling close enough to land to take in the spectacular scenery in some locations and to view the bustling or quiet towns as you sail by.

At each port, you’ll have a chance to visit the city. Shore excursions are included in river cruise packages. If you’re interested in anything UNESCO, many river cruise itineraries feature visits to these sites.

Traveling with kids? River cruising might not be the best venue unless you choose a package designed for families. This is mainly because the cruise lines don’t have special accommodations or programs set up for children. Most will allow children who are at least eight years old – some even younger. The youngest recommended age is eight, though.

Tauck offers river cruise packages designed for families with children at least three years old. And Uniworld offers multi-generational cruises for families with children at least eight years old.

If the thought of barge cruising or sailing on a very small vessel appeals to you, some Amazon River cruises allow young children. You can also charter a barge river cruise in France for you and your family. No age restrictions there.

Whether or not you have children doesn’t really matter. River cruising is a unique experience that should be an option for every traveler. Does age really matter if it’s something you might enjoy? Not really. And the demographics can’t change unless they do change.

Younger than 55 years old? Enjoy the wisdom and listening to the travel stories from some of your fellow passengers. They don’t care if you’re younger than they are. They’ll enjoy your company anyway. Jump onboard sometime. It’s something you might really enjoy.

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Lauri Wakefield is a travel writer who specializes in  river cruises in Europe and the U.S. Connect with her on Twitter and Google+.

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