Fill your time
“Itineraries on adventure cruises are very much destination-driven,” says Adam Coulter. “River cruise passengers can enjoy excursions led by naturalists, historians and other experts, while there will usually be more immersive activities on expedition voyages, such as kayaking, hiking and whalewatching.”
In your free time, get to know the local wildlife better, advises David. Most boats will have an expert birder on hand to get information from, and you can also sharpen your photography skills by snapping them. Lecturers and speakers are also a good source of anecdotes, and many will have time for a coffee while out at sea.
Depending on the weather and what you do, it can be tricky to know what (and how much) to pack. Your choice of clothes is often governed by the temperature outside. On expedition cruises, for example, you’re likely to be venturing into areas with extreme weather, like the Antarctic or Arctic, but most (if not all) operators will supply you with thick, warm coats for outside use. Most people will pack warm clothes for the freezing conditions, but pack light clothes as well, as the temperature on board will be a lot more comfortable.
There is no shortage of options, especially when it comes to river cruising. In Europe, Gary recommends the Danube as a classic route, pit-stopping at history-laden cities such as Budapest and Vienna. The Po and its tributaries give you watery access to Venice, Padua and Bologna in Italy, while you can also cruise Germany’s magical Black Forest along the Rhine.
Further afield, South-East Asia is another hotspot for river trips. Spy temples, floating markets and villages along the Mekong in Vietnam and bookend visits to Bagan and Mandalay with jungle-clad riverbanks and gorges along Burma’s Irrawaddy.
If you fancy something more intrepid, expedition cruises offer unparallelled access to the world’s remaining wildernesses, from Antarctica’s calving icebergs and Greenland’s tundra to the Arctic islands north of Russia and the otherworldly wildlife of the Galapagos. Your choices are endless. And now you know what lies in store, there’s nothing to stop you. Welcome aboard!