Tips For Small-Ship Cruising

As a small-ship cruising novice, I was fortunate enough to be invited on a Rhine River cruise last May with Avalon Waterways through work. I had no idea what to expect. I knew that small ships have access to quainter, less-frequented and sometimes more remote ports and rivers, and the combination of these factors with a 100- or 200-passenger makeup pretty much defies the universal preconceptions about cruising. Ah, but how? Well, for one huge departure, vessel facilities are few, but more luxurious and boutique. I’ve listed out some important things small-ship passengers should be prepared for, but will follow up with a series of posts about pricing and my personal experience on the Rhine.


1. Splurge for the higher category cabin with a nice window; no portholes please. Since small-ship

The view from the wall-to-wall stateroom windows, a la French balcony.

cruising is usually somewhat more expensive anyway, I really suggest making the most of seeing what you came for, which is the exotic and romantic sailing landscape. Some days will be spent plying the waters and popping a bottle of bubbly in your room with a passing-vineyard view is quite relaxing.

2. Plan to spend some time in your arrival and departure cities. It’s a really economical way to check out a new travel destination, especially since port cities historically have the best pick of shopping and museums and fantastic food.


1. Reading material (book, iPad, Kindle, etc.), a laptop, cards and/or other distractions. Facilities on these petite vessels stop short at a bar, gym, a game room and cappuccino machine. Boy, I spent a lot of time at that cappuccino machine.

2. Gym clothes, if there is a gym on board. Just in case.

3. One piece of warmer outerwear and an umbrella. Travel is unpredictable and these two should be packed in your suitcase on any trip.

4.  Walking shoes. If the itinerary indicates walking tours, museum visits, etc., as is the case with most European river cruises, you’ll need at least two pairs, with a bit of traction and tread, if possible, for slippery cobblestones (excursions do not get cancelled due to light rain).

5. A notepad and pen; you might want to write down city and famous castle or monument names.

6. Your alcohol tolerance. You and your fellow shipmates will get to know the bartender very well.

While you’re there..

1. Try to get some shuteye – excursions start early.

2. You’ll be eating meals on a schedule, and you might be seated with fellow shipmates.

3. Get your camera ready for beautiful shots from your stateroom window.

4. WiFi, as always, will be spotty.

5. You may pass through a lock, an awe-striking invention that mitigates the passing of ships through areas with significantly higher or lower water levels, and you definitely want to be front and center for this cool experience.

9. Save a midnight snack from other meals in case you get hungry as most facilities will be shut down for the night.

10. Buy drinks off the boat, if possible, and store them in your room (works great if you have a minifridge); cocktails are usually good and strong, but your closing tab will thank you for being frugal a few times.

A sneak preview of the graceful Avalon Panorama.

4 Responses to “Tips For Small-Ship Cruising”
  1. Liz says:

    The packing tips are really on point- as well as keeping snacks for late night shenanigans and buying drinks off the ship.

  2. Malou says:

    Nice post! Some years ago, my husband and I went on a camping holiday along the Rhine and the Moesel rivers. We really enjoyed it a lot and I always look forward to my glass of cold riesling at lunch time. 😉

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] few days ago, I posted my Tips for Small-Ship Cruising, where I mentioned the mechanically awesome man-made phenomenon that is the river lock. Today, I […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: