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8 unexpected facilities of river cruise ships

It’s often expected that river cruise ships don’t have many facilities on-board, and that activities are limited to enjoying a nice meal and admiring the passing scenery. Whilst this used to be the case a few years ago, today’s modern river cruise ships have more and more new and exciting facilities on board.

The relatively small size of river cruise ships, which must be able to traverse narrow waterways and pass under bridges, limits the passenger numbers to between 100 and 200. And with luxury river cruise ships presenting a spacious and airy atmosphere on-board, passengers are often surprised by some of the facilities they find on these small ships.

Electric bikes

Several luxury river cruise lines feature bicycles which passengers can use during their time ashore. On board Scenic River Cruises, for example, you’ll find bikes which passengers can use either to make their own way to excursion destinations, or to cycle alongside the ship to the next port of call. What’s great about Scenic’s ‘e-bikes’ is that they are powered by electricity as well as pedal power, so you don’t need to worry about your legs getting tired! These innovative cycles are also fitted with GPS devices which are pre-programmed with information about points of interest along the route.

Luxury river cruising has become increasingly popular in recent years with many preferring the intimacy of a river cruise ship to the hustle and bustle of an ocean liner

Herb garden

One interesting feature which you’ll find on Viking River Cruises is the organic herb gardens which are located on the sun deck. Not only do these green areas look and smell amazing, but the fresh herbs are used by the chefs in the preparation of their dishes. There’s no better way to enjoy salmon than with a sprig of dill which was picked just moments ago.

Swim-up bar

Several river cruise ships make space for a swimming pool on the sun deck, but what’s even more luxurious about the pools on selected AmaWaterways ships is that they feature a swim-up bar! What better way to enjoy a cocktail than whilst relaxing in the pool? Of course, plastic glasses are used to ensure safety in this area.

Indoor swimming pool

As the weather in Europe can be mild at certain times of the year, indoor pools enable passengers to enjoy a dip even when it’s cold and rainy outside. The swimming pools on board Emerald Waterways star ships have retractable roofs – so they also provide the ideal place to cool off on hot summer days. Plus, with floor-to-ceiling windows surrounding the entire area, passengers can take in the beautiful views while they swim.


Another interesting feature of Emerald Waterways’ swimming pools is that in the evening the pool areas transforms into a cinema! With this clever innovation, the floor of the pool rises to be level with the deck. It is then dried off and a cinema screen is pulled down from the ceiling. Passengers can relax in comfortable chairs and enjoy popcorn and a drink whilst they watch a movie.

Putting green

Several river cruise ships feature small putting greens on the sun-deck. Whilst you shouldn’t expect the full 18, or even nine, holes it’s still fun to spend some time practicing your putting technique. Just take care that your ball doesn’t go out of bounds!

The river cruise industry is fast becoming the home of luxury travel

Deck games

On selected river cruise ships passengers can enjoy a variety of deck games. Rather than being limited to a game or bridge or dominoes as they have been in the past, deck games now tend to be on much larger scale. Popular choices include giant chess, giant noughts and crosses and shuffleboard.

Silent disco

Trendy river cruise line U by Uniworld was the first to incorporate a silent disco on their ships. If you’ve never heard of a silent disco, it involves each person wearing headphones and choosing from a choice of music channels so that everyone is dancing to their own beat. Popular with a new generation of river cruisers, the silent disco concept has also been incorporated on ocean cruise ships such as Celebrity Edge.


Whilst river cruise ships are by their small size, river cruise lines are being increasingly innovative in making use of the space available. With so many interesting facilities on-board the newest ships, passengers will never be short of something to do.

This is a guest post by specialist river cruise travel agent

Image at the very top of the article credit: Myroslava/