Sometimes travel is best when you delve into the research and find your own way. Other times -- such as when you're spending many thousands of dollars on a experience -- it's best to find an expert. Booking a river cruise? That easily falls into that second category.
"My husband and I have been on several cruises (Caribbean & Alaska). We are interested in a river cruise, and wondered if you might have any suggestions," a reader recently wrote in an e-mail. "We are elderly (74 & 78) but reasonably fit. I know there are many, many choices out there and could use help in narrowing them."
Exactly! So could I.
Early this autumn, I enjoyed a trip on the American Queen, a paddlewheeler that cruises on the Mississippi, Ohio and Tennessee Rivers (the resulting story is at tinyurl.com/cjndozx). And Travel ran a story earlier this year by local writer Kevyn Burger about traveling with her parents on a European river cruise (at tinyurl.com/chos99a).
I also know from Cruisecritic.com (an excellent source for cruise tips and user reviews) that the key players in the river cruise world are Avalon Waterways, AmaWaterways, Viking River Cruises, Uniworld, Grand Circle, Tauck and Scenic Tours.
The stories and cruise website could prove inspirational, but a travel agent who specializes in river cruises could offer something more concrete: a deep understanding of the boats and their staterooms, a grasp of the many itinerary options and, in some cases, firsthand experience of some of the cruise lines.
Send your questions or tips to travel editor Kerri Westenberg at email@example.com, and follow her on twitter @kerriwestenberg.