Cruising down a river is a time-honored tradition that dates to the 1800s. Once, fabulous men and women wore their fancy hats and gowns to ride along on paddle-wheel boats. Today's accommodations are far more luxurious, and they don’t require huge wheels anymore. Tour one of the great rivers of the world to see breathtaking architecture and stop at fantastic ports you won't get to visit when you're on an ocean liner. Here's why you should take a river cruise this summer.

The Basics

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In the cruise game, it's the ocean voyages that get all the glory. But river cruises can be just as luxurious and truly amazing. Just imagine moving along the smooth waters of the Danube, seeing castles along the Rhine, exploring ancient history on the Nile or visiting Europe as you go down the Volga. Rivers have sights you won't see cruising along the world's oceans.

River cruise ships can hold hundreds of guests and take you to many different ports. After all, the first civilizations in history developed along the rivers. Before there were railroads, even before there were roads, rivers were the main source of transit for all civilizations. That's why some of the oldest and most impressive sights can still be found along the world's rivers.

What's the Difference?

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River cruise ships are often smaller than ocean liners. This means there are fewer guests, usually no more than 300, so you can get to know the staff and the passengers. You also won't sail for days on end without stopping. There are multiple ports along many rivers, giving you the chance to see something new every day. On some days, you might even visit multiple ports.

And then, of course, there's the scenery. Instead of ocean as far as the eye can see, you can gaze at breathtaking sights all along the river. Ancient castles, beautiful natural wonders, cities and towns of all sorts dot the world's major rivers.

Where You Can Go

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River cruises are available all around the world. Tour one of the rivers of the U.S., Canada, Europe, Asia, South America or Egypt from a fabulous river cruise ship. On some cruises, you'll get the chance to visit multiple countries in a span of a few days. And like any other cruise ship, river cruise ships are filled with entertainment, eating and shopping options, so while you're traveling you can take a break from sightseeing whenever you please.