Originally Posted by SouthernGal4
My husband & I are planning our first river cruise on the Danube for summer 2014. All that I've read on this site so far seems to suggest that using a TA with experience in European river cruises is preferable to DIY booking. I'd love to have more tips on locating a good TA & how to determine which cruise line to select for the Prague to Budapest route.
Welcome to Cruise Critic!! We are a small but loyal group over here....
I book all travel through a TA - but use a generalist. When we booked our 1st river cruise (booked in 2007 for 2008) we were the 1st river cruise she had booked... so we learned together. We are leaving for #6 next month, with #7 and #8 booked for later this year and next.
It sounds like you already know what itinerary you want... so that is a great first step!! And - you know when you want to travel... Another great step!!
I don't think you can make a "bad" choice here.. and the differences are subtle. My suggestion for the next step is to narrow down your choices. If you are pretty firm with your dates, then I suggest looking for cruise lines that offer sailings that fit within your time frame. If you have some flexibility, then look at all of the major players.
If you already have a TA, ask him/her to get you brochures for 2014 --> or go on line and request them for yourself. You can also view them on line for that "immediate" result.
The, sit down and review all of the offerings. You and your DH should spend a bit of time talking about what is really important for you to see. Do you like classical music? If so, do you want to attend a concert in Vienna? Do you have an interest in WWII history? If so, are the included excursions giving you what you want? Or, are there optionals available that are important to you?
Are you the DIY types? If so, then perhaps you don't need a cruise with everything arranged. If you want the "pampering" that is available on some cruises - then look for a line that is all inclusive.
If a large stateroom is important to you, look closely at the brochures to see how large the cabins actually are. If a balcony is important, decide if you need a "real" balcony, or if the French balcony will do.
Look closely at the stops once you short list the options. Is there something on one that is missing on the other? For example, it was important for my DH to see Bratislava as his grandparents were Slovak. We ruled out any of the cruises that did NOT stop there.
If you have specific questions, please feel free to post --> but many things are quite subjective. Food is probably the biggest "subjective" on any river cruise, and you do not have any control over the chef or the galley crew. I am not a "foodie" - nor a wine connoisseur - so I am not the best person to ask about that. I know I have never starved on a river cruise...
Not sure if this has been of any help. Good luck with your planning!!