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  #1  
Old March 4th, 2013, 08:22 PM
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Default I know little to nothing about river cruising!

Hello everyone! I am hoping you will give me some good info and tips regarding European river cruising. We went to a travel marketplace yesterday and picked up several different cruise books. Myself, DH and another couple our dear friends are all early 50's. Friends have been to London, the only experience to Europe amongst us. We have been on NCL and RCCL for ocean cruising.

We are beginning to look at a Viking cruise to France- Paris and Normandy. I would also be interested in any trip involving Amsterdam. Any experience with these? Is Viking a good line?

What type of things should we know? How does the food work? Do they have set time dining or freestyle?

Any help is appreciated!
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Old March 4th, 2013, 09:21 PM
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Hi RI ~ not sure how many of your questions I can answer but I'll try! After some Ocean cruises (all of them good!) last year we decided to take a River Cruise - mainly because of the itinerary - wanted to see Paris and DH enjoys good wine so the Viking Rhone River (Portraits of Southern France) seemed like a natural.

I wasn't sure if I'd enjoy river cruising - was afraid I'd miss the big shows and indoor/outdoor swimming pools and the big balcony and our small personal excursions. But I fell in love with it! enough to book 2 more cruises!!

It's much, much smaller as far as the ship and the number of people, both passengers and staff so it seemed more personal in many ways. And don't get me wrong, the level of service I found was fantastic - even the captain was helping off load luggage the day of departure!

As for food - I thought it very good althought not as over-large portions as ocean cruising. Often during dinner they would come out and serve "seconds". Also at both lunch and dinner wine & beer were included with the cruise. It was the same wine every night which meant that some of our group started bring a bottle bought locally to dinner and there was never a problem and never a corkage fee charged - actually we were saving the ship money not drinking their wine!

With Viking (and I presume all their cruises are the same), breakfast: 6-11am cafe breakfast in lounge (coffee, juice, pastries); 6:30 - 9:3-am buffet or order from menu in dining room. Lunch: (about 12/12:30pm depeding on sailing or tour) restaurant or buffet in lounge; dinner: 7:30pm (sometimes earlier if entertainment or tour was scheduled for evening) served in dining room. There was only one seating for dinner and there were no set tables for any meals - which was good and bad. On our ship there were lots of 4 & 6 top tables but only a few larger. We had 2 women friends we knew on the cruise and, by day 2, had made friends with 2 other couples. So finding a table for all of us meant that one person would go and stand on line until the DR was opened and they could grab a large table.

As for cabins - I was amazed at the room - especially for storage. Our cabin, an "A", wasn't as large as on an ocean ship but we didn't spend much time in it aside from sleeping and dressing. The lounge was so close it was easy to just sit there to chat or go on-line (our ship was an older one and wifi was free but mostly only available in lounge area). Our ship also didn't have balconies - our next trip is in December, Christmas Markets, and we really weren't concerned about a balcony but we did book one for our October 2014 cruise.

Top deck was also a place where people "hung" out when we were sailing - chairs, lounges, even a huge chess set! But again no bar. An, of course, there's no casino aboard.

I think it all depends on just what youe enjoy about cruising - only the ship, only the ports or a combination of both! I do know people who don't even care about the itinerary of the ship and sometimes don't even get off at ports - that's just not DH and I - we usually book the trip more for the itinerary then anythign else. But everyone different and that's fine.

Now for destinations. We didn't do the Paris-Normandy trip since, in 2011, we had been to Normandy for a day as part of on ocean cruise. It was a very touching experience and, even thought I cried all day, I'd hightly recommend it! Paris is fabulous - last year was our first trip there, London is one of our favorite cities and we've been there a few times (at least the language is almost the same!) And from looking at that itinerary (P-N) you actually get to spend some time in Paris on the ship. We actually sailed from Chalon-sur-Saone so we did 4 pre-cruise days in Paris.

Amsterdam is also a favorite city - been on 2 ocean cruises that left from there so we've gotten to enjoy it! Great sity but much. much smaller than Paris!! In 2014 we plan on again spending some days there pre-cruise.

Any other questions - especially about Viking - I'd be happy to answer, even though we've only had one experience ont he river!!
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  #3  
Old March 4th, 2013, 10:05 PM
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FotoPeg has given a pretty good idea about river cruising. We have been on 3 river cruisers, and the stories and pictures are on our website www.stevekathytravels.com
We have been on a Danube cruise, a Danube-Main-Rhine cruise, and a Burgundy cruise in France.
We are always happy to answer any questions.
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Old March 5th, 2013, 12:56 AM
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We've been on 4 Viking River cruises and they work great for us. You'll find others on Cruise Critic who favor other river cruise lines that work for them. From people I've spoken to and from what I've read, it appears that most river cruise lines are pretty competitive for the most part with subtle differences. That said, we sailed on Viking's Paris and the Heart of Normandy cruise last October and had a great trip. I posted a review with a link to pictures if you would like some idea of what the trip is like.

http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1726061
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  #5  
Old March 5th, 2013, 06:39 AM
caviargal caviargal is online now
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I would search through old threads as there is lots of good info on this forum. Also, read reviews on the various lines. I posted very detailed reviews on my 6 river cruises. We have cruised with Avalon and AMA Waterways and AMA is our favorite.
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  #6  
Old March 5th, 2013, 07:41 AM
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Hi, this will be taking our first river cruise this summer. Some of the info I learned is that wine and beer is included in the price at dinner for most lines. Also, at every port there is at least one "included" tour.

Another thing I discovered is that certain itineraries get booked up very quickly, so if you are considering a popular itinerary, book a year in advance.

My expectations is that the River Cruise will allow you to travel from one small town to the next for your exploration. You will have a pleasant place to sleep and nice meals.
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Old March 5th, 2013, 08:47 AM
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After taking many, many traditional ocean cruises, DH & I decided it was time to experience a river cruise. We took AMA from Amsterdam, along the Rhine last year and had a wonderful time. It was a memorable trip and a cruise style we want to do again. We arranged our own air from BOS and transfers to the boat. At each stop along the river, we did the walking tours [the boat carries a number of bicycles, too] and had fantastic guides. The "cruise directror" was very involved with the pax and modified events throughout the week based on suggestions. We also arranged our own post-cruise hotels, rail and flight back the the states.

Neither of us like large tours or bus trips, and prefer to do our own thing, so our TA suggested we do our own pre and post plans. Our TA was very helpful with the details and gave us numerous suggesitons base on experience. For us, it was significant cost savings and not difficult to do.

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  #8  
Old March 5th, 2013, 09:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Got2Cruise View Post
My expectations is that the River Cruise will allow you to travel from one small town to the next for your exploration. You will have a pleasant place to sleep and nice meals.
Not just small towns but large cities as well. There are many itineraries including Vienna, Budapest, Cologne, etc.
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  #9  
Old March 5th, 2013, 09:31 AM
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We have taken 15 river cruises with #16 coming in June. We have sailed with Cruise West(now gone), GAdventures, Vantage, AMAwaterways, Uniworld and Viking. Multiple trips were on AMAwaterways, Uniworld and Viking. Found that Viking can run hot or cold, The other 2 always gave us a wonderful trip. For us the itinerary is first , then time of year offered, amenities and price. It helps to make a spreadsheet comparing the lines offering what you want. River cruising is a wonderful way to see areas of the world not accessible by ocean liner. We will sail the Gironde in France this June with Road Scholar (think Elderhostel) on a new boat chartered by them from Croisie Europe. Fortunately we found this trip before Viking and Uniworld start offering trips in 2014. Good luck finding the right trip for you. Pat
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Old March 5th, 2013, 04:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Talisker92 View Post
FotoPeg has given a pretty good idea about river cruising. We have been on 3 river cruisers, and the stories and pictures are on our website www.stevekathytravels.com
We have been on a Danube cruise, a Danube-Main-Rhine cruise, and a Burgundy cruise in France.
We are always happy to answer any questions.
I love your reviews, YOUR PG review was one of the ones that got me interested in that cruise! I can see why the cruise lines like CC
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Old March 5th, 2013, 06:26 PM
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I knew that (especially since our cruise leaves from Paris) but I typed the wrong thing. I meant to say you get close to the cities/towns instead of having to be bused an hour or more in either direction as is most often with ocean cruises in European ports.
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Not just small towns but large cities as well. There are many itineraries including Vienna, Budapest, Cologne, etc.
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Old March 6th, 2013, 07:07 AM
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Originally Posted by FotoPeg View Post
Hi RI ~ not sure how many of your questions I can answer but I'll try! After some Ocean cruises (all of them good!) last year we decided to take a River Cruise - mainly because of the itinerary - wanted to see Paris and DH enjoys good wine so the Viking Rhone River (Portraits of Southern France) seemed like a natural.

I wasn't sure if I'd enjoy river cruising - was afraid I'd miss the big shows and indoor/outdoor swimming pools and the big balcony and our small personal excursions. But I fell in love with it! enough to book 2 more cruises!!

It's much, much smaller as far as the ship and the number of people, both passengers and staff so it seemed more personal in many ways. And don't get me wrong, the level of service I found was fantastic - even the captain was helping off load luggage the day of departure!

As for food - I thought it very good althought not as over-large portions as ocean cruising. Often during dinner they would come out and serve "seconds". Also at both lunch and dinner wine & beer were included with the cruise. It was the same wine every night which meant that some of our group started bring a bottle bought locally to dinner and there was never a problem and never a corkage fee charged - actually we were saving the ship money not drinking their wine!

With Viking (and I presume all their cruises are the same), breakfast: 6-11am cafe breakfast in lounge (coffee, juice, pastries); 6:30 - 9:3-am buffet or order from menu in dining room. Lunch: (about 12/12:30pm depeding on sailing or tour) restaurant or buffet in lounge; dinner: 7:30pm (sometimes earlier if entertainment or tour was scheduled for evening) served in dining room. There was only one seating for dinner and there were no set tables for any meals - which was good and bad. On our ship there were lots of 4 & 6 top tables but only a few larger. We had 2 women friends we knew on the cruise and, by day 2, had made friends with 2 other couples. So finding a table for all of us meant that one person would go and stand on line until the DR was opened and they could grab a large table.

As for cabins - I was amazed at the room - especially for storage. Our cabin, an "A", wasn't as large as on an ocean ship but we didn't spend much time in it aside from sleeping and dressing. The lounge was so close it was easy to just sit there to chat or go on-line (our ship was an older one and wifi was free but mostly only available in lounge area). Our ship also didn't have balconies - our next trip is in December, Christmas Markets, and we really weren't concerned about a balcony but we did book one for our October 2014 cruise.

Top deck was also a place where people "hung" out when we were sailing - chairs, lounges, even a huge chess set! But again no bar. An, of course, there's no casino aboard.

I think it all depends on just what youe enjoy about cruising - only the ship, only the ports or a combination of both! I do know people who don't even care about the itinerary of the ship and sometimes don't even get off at ports - that's just not DH and I - we usually book the trip more for the itinerary then anythign else. But everyone different and that's fine.

Now for destinations. We didn't do the Paris-Normandy trip since, in 2011, we had been to Normandy for a day as part of on ocean cruise. It was a very touching experience and, even thought I cried all day, I'd hightly recommend it! Paris is fabulous - last year was our first trip there, London is one of our favorite cities and we've been there a few times (at least the language is almost the same!) And from looking at that itinerary (P-N) you actually get to spend some time in Paris on the ship. We actually sailed from Chalon-sur-Saone so we did 4 pre-cruise days in Paris.

Amsterdam is also a favorite city - been on 2 ocean cruises that left from there so we've gotten to enjoy it! Great sity but much. much smaller than Paris!! In 2014 we plan on again spending some days there pre-cruise.

Any other questions - especially about Viking - I'd be happy to answer, even though we've only had one experience ont he river!!
Thank you very much for your helpful info. We are beginning to seriously think about booking a river cruise!
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Old March 6th, 2013, 07:08 AM
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Originally Posted by pacmom View Post
We have taken 15 river cruises with #16 coming in June. We have sailed with Cruise West(now gone), GAdventures, Vantage, AMAwaterways, Uniworld and Viking. Multiple trips were on AMAwaterways, Uniworld and Viking. Found that Viking can run hot or cold, The other 2 always gave us a wonderful trip. For us the itinerary is first , then time of year offered, amenities and price. It helps to make a spreadsheet comparing the lines offering what you want. River cruising is a wonderful way to see areas of the world not accessible by ocean liner. We will sail the Gironde in France this June with Road Scholar (think Elderhostel) on a new boat chartered by them from Croisie Europe. Fortunately we found this trip before Viking and Uniworld start offering trips in 2014. Good luck finding the right trip for you. Pat
Thank you, I will check out the other 2 companies too.
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Old March 6th, 2013, 07:36 AM
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Originally Posted by WarEagle76 View Post
We've been on 4 Viking River cruises and they work great for us. You'll find others on Cruise Critic who favor other river cruise lines that work for them. From people I've spoken to and from what I've read, it appears that most river cruise lines are pretty competitive for the most part with subtle differences. That said, we sailed on Viking's Paris and the Heart of Normandy cruise last October and had a great trip. I posted a review with a link to pictures if you would like some idea of what the trip is like.

http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1726061
Excellent pictures, thank you
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Old March 6th, 2013, 07:26 PM
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Hello everyone! I am hoping you will give me some good info and tips regarding European river cruising. We went to a travel marketplace yesterday and picked up several different cruise books. Myself, DH and another couple our dear friends are all early 50's. Friends have been to London, the only experience to Europe amongst us. We have been on NCL and RCCL for ocean cruising.

We are beginning to look at a Viking cruise to France- Paris and Normandy. I would also be interested in any trip involving Amsterdam. Any experience with these? Is Viking a good line?

What type of things should we know? How does the food work? Do they have set time dining or freestyle?

Any help is appreciated!
Re: dining: many of the lines mention "open seating", which, on an ocean liner means there is a period of time (usually 3 to 4 hours) during which time people may show up and be seated. On a river cruise, "open seating" means that you can sit where you wish, but there is one set time for dinner each night. This time is usually based on the shore excursions, but typically starts either at 5, 5:30, or 6 pm. On the Vantage trip I took, there was no food available after dinner, so we hit grocery stores all the way up the Danube for snack food!

On our trip, breakfast and lunch were better than dinner.

Have you been on ocean cruises before?
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Old March 6th, 2013, 07:52 PM
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Re: dining: many of the lines mention "open seating", which, on an ocean liner means there is a period of time (usually 3 to 4 hours) during which time people may show up and be seated. On a river cruise, "open seating" means that you can sit where you wish, but there is one set time for dinner each night. This time is usually based on the shore excursions, but typically starts either at 5, 5:30, or 6 pm. On the Vantage trip I took, there was no food available after dinner, so we hit grocery stores all the way up the Danube for snack food!

On our trip, breakfast and lunch were better than dinner.

Have you been on ocean cruises before?
I am glad you pointed out the wording differences for dinner.
Yes, we went on the NCL Jewel last April, and just got off the NCL Dawn in Feb. We fell in love with cruising! Both very enjoyable. Our friends have one RCCL cruise under their belt. We know this will be a very different type cruise, so we are beginning to research. How far in advance do you book your river cruises?
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Old March 6th, 2013, 08:00 PM
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We are sailing Avalon end of June and my understanding dinner is generally at 7:30 pm and "night fare" served later, around 10:30. I'll be very happy if dinner is actually a little earlier. Dinner the first night is 6:00 pm. We fluked out by booking probably the last, or a cancellation, Panorama Suite only 10 days ago. I thought we'd have to wait until 2014.

Last edited by bobandjo; March 6th, 2013 at 08:02 PM.
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Old March 6th, 2013, 08:18 PM
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I am glad you pointed out the wording differences for dinner.
Yes, we went on the NCL Jewel last April, and just got off the NCL Dawn in Feb. We fell in love with cruising! Both very enjoyable. Our friends have one RCCL cruise under their belt. We know this will be a very different type cruise, so we are beginning to research. How far in advance do you book your river cruises?
I've only been on one river cruise. It was on Vantage. I didn't particularly enjoy it. By continuing to read these boards, I have concluded it MAY have been more because of the line than river cruising in general. Still, I think we will probably stick with ocean liners for the time being.

I'll be glad to answer any questions about my cruise, but I thought I should let you know my background. :-)
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Old March 6th, 2013, 11:42 PM
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Re: dining: many of the lines mention "open seating", which, on an ocean liner means there is a period of time (usually 3 to 4 hours) during which time people may show up and be seated. On a river cruise, "open seating" means that you can sit where you wish, but there is one set time for dinner each night. This time is usually based on the shore excursions, but typically starts either at 5, 5:30, or 6 pm. On the Vantage trip I took, there was no food available after dinner, so we hit grocery stores all the way up the Danube for snack food! On our trip, breakfast and lunch were better than dinner.
On our river cruises, dinner has usually been @ 7 pm. The only differences were if there was an included excursion (ie: the ballet in St. Petersburg) that required an earlier meal. WhansaMi is correct that "open seating" just means that your seating is not assigned.

On all of the cruises that we have taken, there has been a high end coffee machine in the lounge - and usually there are some cookies or fruit close by. And, most of our cruises have had some type of of "snack" placed out between 10:30 and 11 pm. But, you can always buy your own snacks along the way.

I have not travelled with Vantage, but the others we have travelled with (Uniworld, AMA and Scenic) always have an "alternate" main choice at dinner, so I have never found that lunch was better than dinner. But, food is quite subjective....

Fran
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Old March 7th, 2013, 12:19 AM
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On our river cruises, dinner has usually been @ 7 pm. The only differences were if there was an included excursion (ie: the ballet in St. Petersburg) that required an earlier meal. WhansaMi is correct that "open seating" just means that your seating is not assigned.

On all of the cruises that we have taken, there has been a high end coffee machine in the lounge - and usually there are some cookies or fruit close by. And, most of our cruises have had some type of of "snack" placed out between 10:30 and 11 pm. But, you can always buy your own snacks along the way.

I have not travelled with Vantage, but the others we have travelled with (Uniworld, AMA and Scenic) always have an "alternate" main choice at dinner, so I have never found that lunch was better than dinner. But, food is quite subjective....

Fran
The River Odyssey had no late night snacks at all. Believe me, I looked. ;-) Usually before dinner there was an assortment of Pepperidge Farms cookies, and sometimes a bowl of apples and oranges was available. One of the things I recommended to them was that they consider having a pot of soup and crackers always available, for those people who wanted a snack between meals.

Dinners on Vantage were very early. We tend to eat later, so it was usually too early for us. I couldn't understand why that was.... we were often still docked at the port until after dinner, so those people who did want to eat on the ship had to return early from their time in town.

I guess I felt that breakfast and lunch were better because of the types of food that were served at those times. For breakfast, an assortment of breads, cereals and fruits, along with an omelet station, are all I need. Lunch always had a salad bar, and any cold soups that were served were done during that time.
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2013, RCL Enchantment of the Seas, Bahamas
2012, Carnival Pride, the cruise that Hurricane Sandy cancelled :-(
2012, River Odyssey, Danube cruise
2011, Carnival Pride, Bermuda
2010, HAL Prinsendam, Bordeaux and Beyond
2009, Carnival Pride: Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay and Freeport
2008, HAL Rotterdam: Northern Europe and Scandinavia
2006, Carnival Legend: Belize, Costa Rica, Panama
2005, Carnival Conquest: Western Carribbean, round trip from New Orleans, three weeks ahead of Katrina
2004, Carnival Spirit: Alaska
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