River cruising is often touted for the fact that passengers can engage with the product as little or as much as they want: They can participate in all of the provided activities and excursions, or they can use the vessel as a floating hotel and do their own thing in each port.

For those who like to explore on their own when it suits them, technology is stepping in to help.

Scenic was probably the frontrunner in this regard. For several years now, the company has been offering passengers a Scenic GPS device in lieu of the wireless headset-based tour guide systems most other river companies use. The touch-screen GPS is slightly larger and thicker than a smartphone and features a menu of options, including the ability to tune into a guided excursion. There is a selection of self-guided city tours with information about points of interest, as well as a follow-along map of the river cruise and commentary about sights along the river.

The idea is to give passengers a technology-based tool that they can carry with them that offers additional information for when they are exploring on their own.

There are more options cropping up. For instance, Avalon Waterways is in the process of developing an AvalonGo app that will provide passengers with the daily itinerary; a list of nearby attractions featuring hours of operation and historical facts; maps and locations of cafes, restaurants, bars; and entertainment options that might prompt further exploration. The app is slated to launch by 2019, if not sooner.

AmaWaterways recently developed an app called AmaCruiser, which is available for free and features a live cruise-tracking map as well as photos and information about each of the destinations and the available shore excursions. The app gives users the opportunity to upload their photos and create a personal cruise album or share images via email or on social media. The daily cruise newsletter is also made available during the sailing, with the daily schedule of events.

A quick search in Apple's App Store revealed that there are other river cruise apps out there.

There is an app, aptly named River Cruise App, that features some audio tours. The app has its own website and is free, but there is a charge for the audio tours. 

Vantage Deluxe World Travel, which has a fleet of five river cruise ships, has an app on which users can select the river cruise they are on and get destination information for each of the port calls.

It's likely we will only see more of these apps being developed, especially as the number of river cruise passengers continues to increase and as the age of the passengers continues to decrease.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that the River Cruise App was developed by the website rivercruiseinfo.com. There is no association between the website and the app.

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