River Cruising Isn’t Boring – Heres Why, Onboard Activity Guide


If you are considering taking a river cruise you may be wondering if you’ll find the onboard experience boring. I’m 26 and I’ve taken two river cruises to date with another currently booked. During this post we will look at life onboard a river cruise so that you can decide if it’s the right type of vacation for you.

Is Riving Cruising Boring?

Generally speaking no, most people who take river cruises do not find them boring. The experience of a river cruise is very different to that of a land based vacation or an ocean cruise but the majority of people won’t find river cruising boring. 

Whether you’ll find river cruising boring or not really does come down to what you personally want to do when travelling. Some people do report being bored on river cruises but these people are usually the people who booked a river cruise without really knowing what to expect.

River cruises definitely aren’t for everybody. Most river cruise ships only hold around 100 passengers and river cruise ships are much smaller than ocean ships and as a result don’t have as many amenities to offer.

Emerald Waterways Booklet, Passport and Document Holder

Reason #1: Long Days in Port

One reason why I believe that guests don’t get bored on river cruises is that river cruise ships are usually docked for longer than ocean cruise ships. On most rivers you can expect a full day in port almost every day. Of course there are some exceptions to this but the majority of the time the days in port are long.

Included Excursions

Last year I took a river cruise from Arles to Lyon onboard the Emerald Libertie, we were often docked from 8am right up until 10pm or later. We would wander off in the morning to take part in the included excursion, come back for lunch, maybe relax for a little by the pool before heading off again after dinner.

Almost all river cruises include some type of excursion. During my two river cruises these were mostly walking tours with some coach based elements thrown in. Included excursions are just one example of how river cruises are brilliant value for money.

Short Distances Between Ports

The cruise ships are able to stay docked in port longer because, generally speaking, there isn’t normally a a very long distance for the ships to travel between ports. On our Arles to Lyon cruise we actually had one journey between ports which was only 20 miles! The ship sailed very late at night (3amish) so guests were free to enjoy the port late into the evening.

This of course does depend on the river, during my cruise on the Danube we travelled considerably further between each port as we were crossing multiple countries. As a result the days in port was much shorter than that which we had when cruising on the Rhone.

Are River Cruises Boring?

Checking in and Out

On river cruise ships guests are free to come and go as often as they would like when in port.

The first river cruise I took was with Emerald Waterways where guests simply scan their cruise card to leave the ship. The second was with Saga where we had to physically exchange your room key so that the cruise line knew when you were on land.

The ability to be able to get on and off the ship whenever you wanted to was brilliant. Being in port for so long definitely stopped us from ever getting bored. There simply wasn’t enough time to be bored!

Reason #2: River Cruises are Destination Immersive

River cruises really give guests the ability to become immersed in the local culture. We spent a lot of time on our cruises learning about the places that we were visiting and the ways of life of the people who lived there.

On the ship each day there would be a port talk where the cruise host would talk about the port that we would be visiting the next day. We’d learn practical information about the currency that we would need, where we could buy certain things and what were the best things to see and do in the port.

Local Food

Onboard the ship the food in the main dining room would usually reflect the place that we were visiting with certain different themed menus. The food on river cruise ships is locally sourced and as a result there is a lot more variety than that which you would find on an ocean cruise or in a land based resort.

Both of the river cruises that I took also had events onboard related to things like cheese and wine tastings where guests were invited to sample some local delicacies.

Emerald Waterways Main Dining Room Lunch beef pot roast
Beef Pot Roast

Local Entertainment

The entertainment onboard would often feature performers who were from the port that we were visiting.

During my Saga cruise we had a local dance act onboard who were amazing. They danced for us in the small lounge of the cruise ship and we all felt so close to the action, because we were!

The dancing was accompanied by talks about the history of the dance and we learned about what each element represented and meant. I personally really enjoy history and learning about new cultures so it was always interesting to get to see local entertainment.

Reason #3: You’ll Make Friends!

I don’t know what it is about river cruises exactly but the people that you meet on river cruises are so friendly. On an ocean cruise or in land based resort it’s easy to go your whole vacation without talking to anybody. On a river cruise you’re almost guaranteed to make friends, if not with the other guests, you’ll make friends with the staff!

My First River Cruise

Ahead of my first river cruise I’d read lots about making friends on river cruises. I’m not a typical river cruise passenger, I’m 26 and river cruise passengers tend to be quite a bit older so I was a bit nervous about this part of river cruising. I shouldn’t have been though I made so many friends onboard. I’m usually quite reserved when it comes to things like this but everybody made me feel so at ease.

It was really lovely to sit in the lounge or at dinner and have everybody asking each other how their days had been or about which excursion they had been on.

Emerald Liberte sun deck noughts and crosses

Open Mic

On my Saga river cruise we table shared with 4 other lovely ladies and we became such good friends that by the end of the cruise we actually took part in the open mic night together singing Delilah by Tom Jones! I NEVER thought I’d be doing something like that at the start of the cruise but everybody was so friendly that we really relaxed and had a lot of fun.

River Cruise Crew

The crew onboard river cruises are also incredible friendly. River cruise ships tend to only have around 100 passengers or so, this means that the crew are really able to get to know their passengers. On all Emerald Waterways river cruises there is an activities manager who looks after the activities for the guests. Ours was a lovely man called Drazen who I will never forget, he made sure that we, and all other guests had the best vacation ever, and we did!

Reason #4: Onboard Activities!

The number of onboard activities does depend heavily on the cruise line which you decide on. Some will have busy schedules and some will be more relaxing. The river that you choose will also affect this since some river cruises will have ‘river days’ without any ports.

Emerald Waterways

Our Emerald Waterways river cruise had a very busy schedule and if you are somebody who likes to be active I’d strongly recommend you take an Emerald Waterways river cruise. Some of the activities which we took part in on our river cruise included:

– Gameshows
– Trivia
– Cinema Movie Nights
– Aqua Aerobics
– Yoga
– Port Talks
– Live Music

Emerald Waterways Trivia Gameshow Onboard Activities

I particularly enjoyed the gameshows and trivia which were put on daily for guests. Every evening there would be some form of entertainment in the main lounge and there would also be the option to watch a film in the cinema at the back of the ship. The cinema and the pool were actually the same room. When it was time to show a film the floor would simply rise up above the pool and chairs would be moved into position. It was VERY cool.

One of my favourite gameshows onboard was one where the crew took part in the show. They had to try to explain the meanings of foreign words to the audience, every member would describe the same word with a different answer and the audience would have to try and guess which who was telling the truth. It was very funny.

Emerald Waterways Star Ships Liberte Swimming Pool

Saga

Our Saga river cruise was a little more relaxed when it came to the daily schedule. Saga are a 50+ cruise line so this is to be expected. Some activities which we took part in were:

– Live Music
– Trivia
– Zumba
– Port Talks

I particularly enjoyed the Zumba which happened a few times during our cruise. When the weather was good we did Zumba on the top deck and when it wasn’t we did Zumba in the lounge. It was quite a workout! There was also a stretching class which was very popular and it was really nice to be able to wake up and stretch out before getting off for the day.

I also really enjoyed the live music and local acts who came onboard to play for us during the cruise.

Reason #5: River Days Start Earlier!

On a river cruise the day tends to start quite early as guests disembark for their included excursions. We often left the ship at 8 or 9am. This is quite the contrast to ocean cruises and land resorts where many guests chose to stay up late and sleep away the morning.

In the morning there will usually be an included excursion. Attendance to these isn’t mandatory of but most guests do get up and go on the excursions. On my Emerald Waterways river cruise there were often other excursions in the afternoons like a guided hike up a mountain or a walk into town. We took part in these as much as we could.

Quieter Evenings

Due to the fact that guests are up early and usually worn out by the early evening there simply isn’t the need for so much late evening entertainment. That said, on our Saga river cruise the live music did go on until midnight on a few nights! The karaoke night was particularly popular with guests.

Emerald Waterways Evening Entertainment

Will I be Bored on a River Cruise?

The answer to this question depends completely on what you want to do on your vacations. By picking the right cruise line and the right river you can make the cruise as busy or as relaxing as you’d like.

If you’re somebody who wants to be hiking up mountains in the afternoon and enjoying a BBQ on deck for dinner there is a river cruise line to suit you. If you’re somebody who would prefer to sit by the pool with a good book, there are river cruise lines for you too.

If you are new to river cruising and would like to learn what a river cruise is actually like in reality. Check out my daily diaries from the cruises mentioned in this article, in the diaries you’ll see everything that we ate, everything we did and everywhere we went:

Emerald Waterways – Cruise Review & Daily Diary 2019

Saga River Cruises: 7 Things You Need To Know Before Booking

Where To Next?

There is not a lot that I love more than going on a cruise, meeting new friends and realising that I paid considerably less that everybody else for the exact same cruise.

Finding and booking a cruise is no easy task. I’ve been able to cruise for as little as $50 per night and I regularly save over 75% compared to advertised brochure prices. You can do it too!

Start Today.

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Emma Le Teace

Hey! I'm Emma. A cruise blogger, YouTuber and founder of the 'Cruising Isn't Just For Old People' Facebook community and website. You can learn more here: About Me.

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