This is sponsored content for Avalon Waterways.
The kids are gone, you've downsized and it's time to set sail and see the great cities of Europe, Asia and beyond from their iconic rivers. But you want very different things from a holiday – let alone a luxury river cruise – than you did when you were single, newly married or had a young family.
You want to travel with relaxation and comfort. That's why river cruises are meeting the demands of premium travellers with affordable, luxury offerings.
The rooms, amenities and activities offered today would be almost unrecognisable to travellers of even a decade ago. No more poky cabins with scratched plastic surfaces and a tired looking ping pong table on deck.
Your room will be your new high-water mark in luxury. Today's river cruise company knows the view from inside is everything, and suites are growing by up to a third again over the traditional size. Wall to wall, floor-to-ceiling windows create open-air balconies, beds are turned to face windows for the sweetest views when you wake up after a night of eating, drinking and playing.
Relaxed luxury is also at play. Wearing a tux to dinner and hoping to be invited to the captain's table are an anachronism of yesteryear. It's a holiday – it should be relaxing – and many modern cruise providers are retooling not just their vessels but their culture to provide that.
Dress codes are looser, the crew and staff are less aloof, the furnishings in your suite or room will radiate breezy tones and fresh air. Your comfort, even if you're a top-flight passenger, will be the top priority of everyone on board.
That also means you won't be stuck with such a proscribed experience. Another new trend is in personalisation. Your menu, programs of activities, port tours and stops, and even the firmness of your pillows can all be tailored to your preferences.
A new depth
The old-school mentality of herding everyone off to take their holiday snaps and bustling them back on board to launch again is no more.
Programs and excursions at port cover a wider range of interests, dig deeper into the local culture and provide an experience (not just a picture for your screensaver) more than ever before, tailored to the kind of holiday you want to have.
First, there's the classic local expertise tour. Your guide will be from the local area and will walk you through the rich history that shaped the city or region into what it is, leaving no stone unturned about the artistic, political and cultural institutions.
Increasingly popular nowadays is the more hands-on discovery of the local culture, where local artisans will school you in the traditional ways of everything from cooking and painting workshops to horticulture and local industry.
And of course the active option is always popular, where energetic excursions will keep you in motion. Sometimes there's no better way to see the sights along your route than jogging, biking, paddling or hiking your way there.
All that means your river cruise holiday in 2019 is going to be about much more than sightseeing, they're going to be about digging in and really experiencing it.
Another of the biggest changes to holidays in the 21st century has been that as we see more of the world, we're doing so through a new prism – sustainability. Now we understand the consequences of our consumption and habits at home on a global basis, we're a lot more attuned to and concerned about the environment footprint of our travels.
River cruise operators are being asked by more and more holidaymakers how they can think globally by acting locally. It can be as simple as ending the use of plastic straws aboard or recycling materials, or it can be engaging with communities in and around stops that are impacted by environmental changes.
Because of the increasing demand for luxury cruise travel, spots are filling up fast. That means that, armed with the knowledge that you can make a difference while seeing the world and relaxing in luxury, you need only take the first step.
Make 2019 the year you indulge in timeless experiences and let Avalon Waterways bring you the world less seen. 2019 river cruise itineraries covering Europe, Asia and South America are available now. PLUS: Book before 19 Feb 2019 to save $4600 per couple.