There is no doubt that river cruising is a great way to explore a country--or several of them. The small ships and intimate atmosphere are quite different from the large ocean-going vessels that carry three or four thousand passengers. Among the advantages are the constantly changing scenery, more contact with the locals, guided tours usually included and often on-board entertainment with local groups.
However, for those with mobility problems--primarily senior citizens, but others as well---there are certain things to consider before booking a river cruise.
There is quite a bit of walking, and since most of the towns you visit are old the streets are more likely to be cobblestones than evenly paved sidewalks.
Some ships have elevators but some do not, meaning you have to climb steep stairways on the older ships. And even those that do have elevators, they usually do not go to the top deck or the lowest deck, so you will need to climb at least one flight of stairs.
With all this said, don't give up the chance for a river cruise if you can possibly make it.
Just follow a few suggestions to make your experience more enjoyable:
1. Discuss your concerns with the cruise director when you first set sail. He or she will be able to help you plan your activities to avoid problems wherever possible.
2. Some ships have a "slow walkers" group that allows for those who can't keep up the pace. Check with your cruise line to see if that is the case.
3. Accept the fact that there are some times when you will not be able to take part in the shore activities. A day spent on board can often be very enjoyable, and you still get to see the scenery from the ship.
4. Have a back-up plan in case the day's activities become too much. Perhaps you can spend some time at a sidewalk cafe enjoying "people watching" and then take a taxi back to the ship. Your cruise director can probably help you pick the right location.
So now.....book that river cruise! Armed with these few tips you are bound to have a great time.