'My husband and I went on our first river cruise. Here are our honest thoughts.'

My husband and I have done eight ocean cruises (between 2016 and 2019) on our own, with our kids and with extended family groups. We had never done a river cruise before. We realised once we were on the cruise that we had not given the cruise itself much thought. To all the naysayers who had said to us smirking, "You're a bit young for a river cruise", we had replied smugly, “Who cares?” 

Turns out we did care.

Our cruise was with Viking - The Grand European. Two weeks in July from Budapest to Amsterdam via the Danube, Main and Rhine Rivers, it was our treat to ourselves for our 30th wedding anniversary.

Watch: Mamamia's hot tips for your next vacation. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

The cruise was the last part of a seven plus week trip to Europe. We were very much looking forward to unpacking properly and once after being on the go for five weeks. We were also looking forward to some luxury. We were rewarded with all of this although we did have to pack and unpack once mid journey as we swapped from the Viking Gefjon to the Viking Ve. This was because the water level in the Main Danube canal was too low. Who knew that this happened? We didn't, but it was actually the third trip in a row for the Gefjon where this had happened. It was a small inconvenience, and the logistics were handled expertly by Viking.


The cruise stopped in the grand cities of Budapest, Vienna, Cologne and Amsterdam but our highlight were the story book towns in between that we had never before visited. Each town had a different story: whether it was bombed to smithereens or spared, reconstructed as it was pre-WWII or not.

What did we like/love about this trip (in no particular order).

  • Included locally guided walking tours of 1-2 hours at each destination. We learnt so much more than if we had just relied on Google.
  • Local wine and beer Included with lunch and dinner. There was champagne with breakfast too although I never sampled it. Wine at lunch and dinner was more than enough for me!
  • Meeting other passengers and hearing their life and travel stories.
  • The multi-generational groups. There were several groups of adult children with their elderly parents. A few groups had grandchildren as well. It was heart-warming to see.
  • The onboard service – nothing was too much. The staff were friendly and enthusiastic. The staff ratio to passengers seemed very high.
  • The lack of motion on the boat – we glided without any swell. The only jolting or "wiggling" was connected with the locks we passed through and that was kind of cool. There were 68 locks along the way!

Viking boats rafted together in Budapest. Ours was the Gefion. Image: Supplied.

  • The Sundeck which was the entire top deck. Some was shaded too.
  • The fact that nowhere on the boat was far. Contrast with an ocean ship where you can be walking 15 minutes and many flights of stairs (or waiting an age for a lift) to get to where you want to go.
  • Food on board – buffet and a la carte options for breakfast, a la carte for lunch and dinner. Also, there are self-serve cookies or muffins all day together with two coffee machines, tea-making, still and sparkling water.

Lunch on the Aquavit Terrace on the boat. Image: Supplied.

  • The rooms are really well-designed and soundproof. The shower, in particular, was far superior (i.e. bigger) than any we have had on an ocean cruise.
  • The large lounge area – there was plenty of room for people to chat, read, play cards, doze, listen to the live piano or just sightsee out the windows on both sides.
  • The bathroom toiletries ("Freya") were lovely and generous in quantity.

Would we river cruise again?

Yes, 100 per cent. The positives outweighed the negatives. It was "freeing" (as we have always felt with cruising), it was educational and it was inspiring. Inspiring insofar as what we learnt from our daily locally guided tours, in what we learnt from the other passengers we met and in seeing people well into their 80s travelling - #goals.

So, am I too young to do a river cruise at 55?

Yes, probably although it would be an ideal trip with our parents. It would also be more fun with a group of friends so that you weren't eating with strangers every night. 

River cruise views. Image: Supplied.


We buddied up with a lovely English couple in their late 70s - Dirk and Val. Dirk had a shared passion for cricket with my husband and both were intelligent and well-travelled. As we said our farewells at the final dinner, Val hugged me and sincerely said, "Enjoy your life." It touched me and, even as I write this, I feel emotional remembering the genuineness of her words. That is what life is about isn't it? Enjoyment. A River Cruise, even at 55, ticks that box well and truly.

Feature Image: Supplied.

Do you have any Streaming Video Services in your household? e.g. Netflix, Binge, etc. We want to hear from you! Take our survey now to go in the running to win a $50 gift voucher.