(BPT) - An international trip is the experience of a lifetime. If you’re looking for a travel option that offers up-close interactions with a cross section of countries — but without the hassle of planning and executing that level of detail yourself — a river cruise may be the option you’re seeking.

Unlike an ocean cruise, which typically docks farther away, the size of a river ship allows guests the opportunity to port in small, lesser-known towns and sail into the heart of iconic cities, such as Budapest and Amsterdam. Each destination offers extensive time to absorb and experience landmarks, cuisine and cultural offerings.

Whether exploring castles along Europe’s Danube River appeals to your wanderlust or making your way through the rich and complex history of France’s Bordeaux wine region is more your speed, river cruising offers the perfect opportunity for those with a hunger to expand their minds and deepen their cultural enrichment.

Before you plan, here are some of the most important features and benefits of an international river cruise.

* Less hassle, less stress: A river cruise offers a greatly simplified mode of travel. Once you step aboard your river cruise ship, you unpack once and spend the rest of your trip focused only on enjoying the journey. Some cruise lines feature inclusive pricing, so things like your meals, Wi-Fi and lodging are already settled.

* Craft your own journey: Many river cruise packages offer flexible options to help you design the journey you’ve always imagined. You can select from a variety of port excursions, putting you in charge of your perfect day out. While land excursions are an additional cost in most cases, Viking’s river cruise itineraries offer one free shore excursion in each port along with additional optional excursions to book based on your specific interests with knowledgeable local guides. Also, pre- and post-excursion stays at the start and end points of your voyage let you explore the area for a few extra days.

* Ample time to engage and explore: River cruising lets you spend a lot of time in many towns and cities along the river. Typically, each day of the journey begins in a different port. Just step off the ship, join your chosen excursion and start learning and experiencing.

* A rich, cultural sampler: If you’re eyeing grand destinations like Central Europe and France for your travels, you’re probably the kind of person who is hungry to learn about the art, cuisine, history, daily living and other fascinating aspects of culture. Viking has not only developed engaging and culturally immersive excursions, but also created programs onboard the ship to deepen your knowledge and appreciation of the places you visit, from home visits to Privileged Access excursions exclusive to the cruise line. Before you embark, be sure to avail yourself of the many online resources available through Viking. From online videos, to reading and film lists, you’ll find plenty of enriching content to help you feel prepared and excited for your journey.

* Enjoy the riches of the river life: Of course, a host of pleasures await that only a cruise down the river can bring. On your journey, expect scenic views of cities, landscapes and architectural features not easily seen while taking a traditional land tour, as well as alfresco dining and relaxing on the deck.

Once you experience a river cruise in a new country, you’ll discover what an enriching experience a vacation can be. To learn more about the destinations and offerings from Viking, visit vikingcruises.com.

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