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Things to consider about a river cruise??

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A cousin and I are considering a European river cruise for 2015 or 2016. I have only done a brief Caribbean cruise so have no real experience. She has never done a cruise.

I have used Gate 1 for air and land only reservations and have been happy with their service, but no experience with any of the others offering river cruises.

I think my biggest concern is that I don't want to just float by interesting sights, I want to get out and see them, spend time in the cities, shop, explore, etc. I'm having a hard time figuring out how much of these things we'd get to do. I might enjoy the boat and relaxing a bit, but I would not be happy if most of the daytime was spent looking out a window.

I've read some discussions about cabin location and amenities, and know for sure I would want an outside cabin with a decent window that would open. Other than that, I have no idea what the cabin would be like or what would be a good location.

All advice is welcome, as we're basically starting from almost zero experience with this. We have not even settled on what route we'd prefer, but we do think 8 days is about the limit of being on a boat. We would add a day or two on one end, possibly both ends, to see more of the departure or arrival city, or both.

Thanks!

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