River cruises might seem expensive. But once you factor in the cost of five-star accommodation, all tours, meals and transport, you realise you're getting a great deal.

You check in once for the length of your tour, and any border controls are taken care of by the crew. There's no constant checking out, checking in and then wondering what to do with your luggage in between. No beds to make, bathrooms to clean or meals to prepare. And you get to meet similar-minded people, relaxed and enjoying the good life as they travel some of the most beautiful waterways in Europe.

This A-Z is based on our experience during a 15-day tour of the Rhine and Moselle waterways with Scenic, one of many different companies offering river cruises in Europe and other parts of the world.

All-inclusive: This is what makes Scenic exceptional. Tour cost includes all meals, drinks, transport and tours. That's great news for knowing your total travel costs. Also, Aussie and Kiwi accents — you tend to hear a lot of these as Scenic is an Australian company owned by Glen Moroney.

Beds, bathrobes and blankets: The bed in our cabin is comfortable and king size, and there are bathrobes and a snuggly blanket.

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Cabins: Our balcony suite has an en suite, is a good size and it's great having the private covered "outdoor" space with slide-down window and two seats.

Disco night: Not to be missed. A DJ comes on board and plays the songs passengers have requested.

E-bikes: For guided biking tours and so you can explore on your own. If you're a cyclist, you never need to ramp up the e-bike from zero but it's handy to have the electric assistance on hills if you don't have seasoned cyclists' legs.

Friends and fun: Go as a small group or make some friends as you cruise the rivers. You already have travel as a common denominator for conversation. Most guests are in the age bracket of 55-75 and tend to be retired or semi-retired.

Gorge, as in Rhine Gorge rather than gorging yourself at the buffet table (which can be hard to resist, especially on the first few days). The Rhine Gorge is where you will marvel at the many medieval castles. It's a magical feeling to float past so much history.

Hear: The tailor-made commentary on portable guides. A GPS system allows you to learn about landmarks along the river, and in the villages and cities.

Itinerary: Ours was Amsterdam to Basel but Scenic has 13 ships operating in Europe on the Seine, Garonne, Dordogne, Rhone and Saone in France; the Douro in Portugal, Russia; and the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers.

Just ask: for room service if you prefer meals or drinks in your cabin.

King and queen: You will be treated like royalty.

Laundry: Complimentary 1kg of washing once during the tour. Otherwise there's a laundry service. For example, wash for jeans or trousers is 4.40 euros ($7.40) or wash and press 7.50 euros. Bed linen is changed twice a week but you can request it more often. You can wash smalls and T-shirts in the wash basin and dry them on the shower's pull-out line.

Moments: to remember, take lots of photos!

News: Printed NZ bulletin available (as well as Aussie, English, Canadian and US).

O

pera: The Scenic Enrich concert night at the Rastatt Residential Palace in the upper Rhine Valley is, for me, the tour's cultural highlight.

Pack: Casual wear and comfortable walking shoes for daytime. Pack dresses or casual open-neck shirts and long pants for evening as shorts are not considered appropriate for dinner.

Quiz night: Another evening highlight. You form teams and try to guess the song after the pianist plays the first few bars. Ten questions interspersed by a dance-off from two members of each team. Hilarious.

Rest and recreation: Sums up the trip in three words.

Sundeck, deck chairs and sitting on the top deck are wonderful places to watch the scenery change as you glide along the river.

Tipping: Not on this cruise, which is a relief.

Umbrellas: Supplied, appreciated. And they're nice and big. Views: Constantly changing night and day, villages, cities, vineyards, castles, bridges ...

Views: Constantly changing night and day, villages, cities, vineyards, castles, bridges ...

Waistline: This will expand, and the cruise is not the time or place to worry about that. The food is delicious, the bar fully stocked. Worry about those extra kg when you get home.

X for eXercise. There's a walking track on top of the boat, a small gym on board and you can walk or cycle when the boat is tied up.

Yes please: Scenic's most popular cruise for New Zealanders is the 15-day Jewels of Europe River Cruise, from Amsterdam to Budapest (or vice versa) through five countries and a mixture of cosmopolitan cities and European villages.

Z for siZe: The boats range in size from 48 cabins (96 guests) to 85 cabins (169 guests).

●Donna McIntyre was a guest of Scenic