So you have decided to make your next dream vacation a river cruise but you are undecided about which class of stateroom to book. Like this writer, some of you may have ocean cruised before or perhaps this is your very first cruise of any type. Either way,you no doubt have questions regarding your stateroom: what is the best location on the ship? Should we book an inside stateroom, an oceanview or a balcony? Are there upgrades available? What about size?
Let’s begin with the class of staterooms. Unlike ocean cruise ships, there are really only three types of staterooms on a river ship: the riverview, the balcony, and the suites. Stateroom size varies from 150 square feet for an older Riverview to 250 square feet for a Suite. Most ships are designed with the staterooms in rows on port and starboard on either side of a central hallway that runs the length of the ship. For this reason you probably won’t find a windowless inside room. Staterooms are also arranged by decks beginning at the waterline and rising, usually two decks with the most uppermost decks having the premium staterooms. River ships are defined by the locks through which they pass so they must be long, narrow and not too high (bridges).
Location of your stateroom and the amenities within such as balcony, French balcony or suite are primarily what drives the pricing. For my part, this writer believes there really is not a “bad” stateroom on a river cruise because you spend so little time in your room. Having said that, there are a few things to consider when you are making your selection. The first is your deck. Most advertised pricing on river cruises is for a riverview stateroom which will be located at the waterline with a fixed window for viewing. The rooms are certainly adequate be you need to be aware that, although motion is not much of a factor on river ships, you may hear some noise from water slapping against the hull at night as the ship travels to its next destination.
Another aspect to consider is location forward, midship , or aft. Forward cabins will experience more wake noise and aft cabins ( no matter what deck) can be subject to vibrations emanating from the engine room and propellers. Some cruise lines design their ships to have smaller public rooms aft to prevent this. For the best experience, I would recommend choosing a stateroom midships, and on the middle or upper decks depending on your budget.
As to room amenities, most of the newer ships offer both balcony and French balcony rooms. A French balcony is a full length sliding door ( think patio door) which when opened, reveals a railing directly outside. You can lean out but not go out. The true balconies allow you to sit outside; however, they are quite small, about half the size of an ocean ship balcony in many cases. No matter what stateroom you choose, you will find it well equipped, and because of the size restrictions, the cruise lines put a lot of effort into the finer touches such as linens,internet stations, and dazzling bathrooms, especially on the newer ships.
My final piece of advice in choosing a stateroom is to buy as much stateroom as your budget can afford. When it comes to river cruise ships, it is always worthwhile to stretch that extra 200 or 300 dollars to be located on an upper deck with a balcony. Don’t book a lower deck expecting that you can get a free upgrade or purchase an upgrade at sailing. These ships sail at 100% capacity about 99% of the time so this is not a good bet.
Of course, I always recommend availing yourself of the services of your trusted travel professional when booking your river cruise. Their knowledge of ships, cruise lines, and itineraries will ensure your investment in a dream vacation is well spent.