Insight River Cruise Insight Reclaiming river cruising's intimacy By Michelle Baran / May 10, 2017 Share 1 -- I'm starting to notice it more and more. Whenever I'm on a river cruise and we disembark for an excursion, we aren't alone. Before long, we're playing bumper cars with numerous groups from other river cruise lines that are visiting the same town.It used to happen much less frequently, but with the enormous growth of the river cruise industry over the last several years, it's practically unavoidable now. Part of the charm of river cruising is that it's a small-ship experience — emphasis on small, as in intimate. But if several river cruise ships dock in the same port all at once and cities and towns are suddenly overrun with river cruise passengers all touring simultaneously, well, that isn't very intimate. And I know the river cruise lines are keenly aware of the challenge. I have discussed the issue with them repeatedly over the years. And they all acknowledge that they need to do more to diversify and stagger itineraries to avoid the passenger crush that takes place in port towns. But the problem will likely get worse before it gets better, not least because there are must-see sites along the rivers that no river cruise line is going to want to pass up. It's a dilemma to be sure. And in fairness, for the time being, river cruise passengers don't seem to be overly put out by it. Tour guides have become quite skilled at doing the dance effectively so as not to have their groups physically running into each other too much. But if the industry continues to see steady growth, which appears to be what is on the horizon for the foreseeable future, perhaps more needs to be done to address the issue. Surely there are some additional cities and towns not far from the rivers that can be explored, or sites within the popular ports that are lesser visited. I can't speak for all river cruise passengers, especially for those who have never been to some of these destinations, but it seems to me that perhaps a quieter visit to a hidden-gem museum or off-the-beaten-path neighborhood might ultimately be a more pleasant experience than squeezing in with the masses, especially as the masses gradually become more massive.