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  #1  
Old September 2nd, 2013, 07:14 PM
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Default Not sure about a river cruise

We are thinking of booking a river cruise for next year, so I'm in search of information. We've been on many ocean cruises, and we love them. We thought the river cruise would different, and the itineraries look great, but I'm not sure I'm convinced yet.

The thing that has me on the fence is the tours. When we cruise, we never do ship's excursions; I always line up a private driver and/or guide for our own group - usually anywhere from two to twelve of us traveling together. If we don't line up a driver, we explore the port on our own. The thought of exploring on a bus tour is just not in the slightest bit appealing. By booking our own guides, we can beat the crowds, avoid the busses, and have flexibility in what we do. In looking at the web sites for the river cruises, however, it seems that most, if not all, of the excursions are included and there may be a fair amount of schlepping on busses or in bigger groups. I've looked at Viking, Avalon, AMA, and Uniworld. They all look great, but it seems that they are pretty structured.

Any input would be appreciated.

Thanks!
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  #2  
Old September 2nd, 2013, 08:40 PM
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We have just completed our first River Cruise, Avalon - Basel to Amsterdam in July. We both hate bus tours and also have usually done most touring in a group of 4 or 6 and private guides.
Most days when in port you can freely walk into towns your self and do your own thing, which we did once, other days we started with the free tour and then broke away when we wanted to, no problems, they provided maps and details how to get back. A couple of days there was short bus trips to towns and once again you could either join their guided tour or do you own and they advise where the bus would be to take you back to the ship.
In other words it is very flexible and you can be totally part of tour groups every day or do it all by yourself. Not sure if all cruise lines offer this flexibility.
We were VERY impressed with Avalon and have already booked another cruise with them for July 2014.
Also note and read all the issues people have had with Viking, Scenic and other when there was issues with water levels, closed locks etc.
Avalon were one of the better performers in this situation. Also their newer ships are all suites at 200sqft with fully opening glass wall, they were wonderful (but smaller the cruise liners)
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  #3  
Old September 2nd, 2013, 09:43 PM
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We were on Uniworld a couple of years ago and are leaving on another cruise with them in a little over a month. The "excursions" on river cruises are totally different from ocean cruises. First of all, your ship only holds only 100 - 200 people. You tend to dock in smaller towns. When we were on the Rhine I think we had busses take us into town in 2 towns Nuremburg and I think Bamberg because we didn't dock right in town, as well as Prague... well because the river didn't go all the way to Prague. You were free to do a tour, wander around on your own (as long as you met the bus for the ship) or several people did get cabs on their own. I also know we bussed to a palace or residence too (like for wine tastings). For the excursion it's generally a tour of the area, some of the guides were excellent, others so-so. Sometimes we were docked earlier in the day, sometimes we had time to explore on our own. When we were in tour groups, it was normally a not-full bus-load per group. But it never felt like a "bus tour". It's not like the bus is driving you around to see the sights (well, except for a bit of Nuremburg and parts of Prague). Depending on the cruise you're looking at, some of the stops are really not "tourist" areas.

In all honesty, I get bored on ocean cruises and don't really enjoy them as much. I thoroughly enjoyed our Uniworld cruise because of the stops and towns we visited. Part of the appeal of the river cruise is not to have to worry about making arrangements, but just seeing parts of the world I wouldn't normally get to see.
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  #4  
Old September 3rd, 2013, 01:18 AM
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You don't have to do the Viking tour. You can go off on your own.
Ask what time the ship is sailing so you get back in time.
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  #5  
Old September 3rd, 2013, 06:48 AM
caviargal caviargal is online now
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We are very independent as well and only participate in the included excursions less than half the time, preferring to explore on our own or with a private guide than can tailor what we want to see at the pace we prefer.
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Old September 3rd, 2013, 11:16 AM
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Thanks for all the info! It sounds like there is lots of flexibility, which we like. Part of the fun of a trip like this for me is in the planning and researching the various places. We definitely don't like being schlepped around on a bus all day where you can only go as fast as the slowest person on the bus If the tours aren't like that, then it might be okay. Of course we can go off on our own, which I'm sure we would, but then I'd feel like we would be spending more money on our own guides when we've already paid for the cost of the "included" tours.

I'll definitely look more closely at these lines. All the itineraries look great on all of them, but thus far I'm liking Avalon and AMA the best.
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  #7  
Old September 3rd, 2013, 04:13 PM
coolerchick coolerchick is offline
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We are going on our first river cruise next year.

I don't like ocean cruises and I also despise bus tours (I am not a good tourist) To my understanding a river cruise is NOTHING like an ocean cruise.

However, like you mention the cruises have the tours included in the price and I want to really take advantage of that. So if it means going on a bus (oh dear God, help me!) then so be it.

Also, I think it's best to do a lot of research and ask on here about the tours and then figure out which is worth it and which place to tour on your own.

I've got a year to go so I'll be back on here to ask the same thing.

Last edited by coolerchick; September 3rd, 2013 at 04:13 PM.
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  #8  
Old September 3rd, 2013, 06:06 PM
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We have done over 50 ocean cruises and decided it's time to get to the interior, on the river, of Europe. We would not fly over for a 7 day cruise so chose the 15 day Grand European cruise on Viking to be our first river cruise. Their new long ships appeal to us. For most ports, we will likely do their included tours followed by some time wandering on our own. They also offer optional tours but we only expect to take one of those - to get to Rothenburg in Germany.

For ocean cruises, 90% of the time, we have booked private tour guides or just researched and used public transportation or walked in the town where the ship is docked. We have always booked our own pre and post hotel stays and will do that for our Budapest to Amsterdam Viking river cruise.

After a couple of days in Amsterdam, and a night in Southampton, we will board the Emerald Princess for an 11 day Canary Islands cruise, followed by 14 days transatlantic to Ft. Lauderdale.

The more I read about river cruising, the more convinced I am that we will like it!
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  #9  
Old September 3rd, 2013, 06:20 PM
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Another thing to remember about the river cruise tours is that you are split into smaller groups with a guide on the walking tours. It personalizes the experience a bit. Also, most ships post their departure time from each port so if you go off on your own, you know when to be back on board.
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Old September 4th, 2013, 10:03 AM
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One thing we liked about the small group tours was the use of a receiver and headphones. We could wander away from the group and still hear the comments made by the guide. I do not like to be squished in a small group, straining to hear the guide/leader speak. The receivers make that unnecessary.

Our riverboat cruise offered different options. For example in Cochem, we were shuttled in mini busses up to the Reichsburg castle for a guided tour. After the tour, there were 3 choices: 1- board mini bus to return to the riverboat, 2- ride the mini bus down to the town for time on your own to shop, or 3- join a hike led by program manager down to the town from the castle.
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  #11  
Old September 6th, 2013, 02:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by peterdkiwi View Post
We have just completed our first River Cruise, Avalon - Basel to Amsterdam in July. We both hate bus tours and also have usually done most touring in a group of 4 or 6 and private guides.
Most days when in port you can freely walk into towns your self and do your own thing, which we did once, other days we started with the free tour and then broke away when we wanted to, no problems, they provided maps and details how to get back. A couple of days there was short bus trips to towns and once again you could either join their guided tour or do you own and they advise where the bus would be to take you back to the ship.
In other words it is very flexible and you can be totally part of tour groups every day or do it all by yourself. Not sure if all cruise lines offer this flexibility.
We were VERY impressed with Avalon and have already booked another cruise with them for July 2014.
Also note and read all the issues people have had with Viking, Scenic and other when there was issues with water levels, closed locks etc.
Avalon were one of the better performers in this situation. Also their newer ships are all suites at 200sqft with fully opening glass wall, they were wonderful (but smaller the cruise liners)
Hi--I am looking at this same itinerary for next July. We have never been on a river cruise only ocean cruises. It seems as if they are very intimate in size. Any comments on your experience with the food, rooms, space?? Quality for the money??

Thanks-Cheryl
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Old September 6th, 2013, 05:35 AM
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Originally Posted by RTcruzer View Post
Hi--I am looking at this same itinerary for next July. We have never been on a river cruise only ocean cruises. It seems as if they are very intimate in size. Any comments on your experience with the food, rooms, space?? Quality for the money??

Thanks-Cheryl
Cabins on Avalon are a nice size and well appointed, especially the Panorama Suites on those class of ships. Beds are excellent and bathrooms very nice.

There is of course not the variety of food on a river ship as compared to an ocean cruise but we have pleased overall with food quality. We have done 4 with Avalon and food ranged from excellent to ok, depending on the head chef. Entertainment is very limited, no casino of course and very low key. Also, no sales pressure, loud announcements, nickel and diming or crowds.

Quality for money is relative. IMO, ocean cruising may have maintained cabin pricing but there are now so many added charges that the overall value of mass market cruising is nowhere near where it used to be and quality on has greatly deteriorated.

We grew tired of the crowds and nickel and diming and stopped ocean cruising about 6 years ago, with the exception of a last minute one week cruise last winter on Grand Princess which was a great reminder of why we no longer ocean cruise on mass market lines. Food was awful, service not much better. We paid extra for everything, even a decent cup of coffee. There was constant pressure to buy things. Our premium balcony cabin was not as nicely appointed as the cabins we have had on river ships.

IMO, value is relative. We now cruise with AMA as we enjoy their onboard experience very much. We cruise in the off season and take advantage of promotions. Theme cruises are an even better value as there are great extras included.

For our tastes and travel style, we would rather do one river cruise than 5 on a mass market line.
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  #13  
Old September 6th, 2013, 11:00 AM
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This itinerary gets closed out very quickly. It is very popular. There are only approx only 70 cabins available on each sailing. Not the same as ocean cruise with many
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Old September 6th, 2013, 06:10 PM
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Originally Posted by caviargal View Post
Cabins on Avalon are a nice size and well appointed, especially the Panorama Suites on those class of ships. Beds are excellent and bathrooms very nice.

There is of course not the variety of food on a river ship as compared to an ocean cruise but we have pleased overall with food quality. We have done 4 with Avalon and food ranged from excellent to ok, depending on the head chef. Entertainment is very limited, no casino of course and very low key. Also, no sales pressure, loud announcements, nickel and diming or crowds.

Quality for money is relative. IMO, ocean cruising may have maintained cabin pricing but there are now so many added charges that the overall value of mass market cruising is nowhere near where it used to be and quality on has greatly deteriorated.

We grew tired of the crowds and nickel and diming and stopped ocean cruising about 6 years ago, with the exception of a last minute one week cruise last winter on Grand Princess which was a great reminder of why we no longer ocean cruise on mass market lines. Food was awful, service not much better. We paid extra for everything, even a decent cup of coffee. There was constant pressure to buy things. Our premium balcony cabin was not as nicely appointed as the cabins we have had on river ships.

IMO, value is relative. We now cruise with AMA as we enjoy their onboard experience very much. We cruise in the off season and take advantage of promotions. Theme cruises are an even better value as there are great extras included.

For our tastes and travel style, we would rather do one river cruise than 5 on a mass market line.
I'll second that Caviargal! I like the intimacy of a river cruise as well as the informality and being in the heart of the city (most of the time) makes it easy to explore on your own if you wish. We tend to choose the shoulder season...we get the best of both seasons and I refuse to go someplace that's colder than where I live in winter or hotter than where I live in summer

Our first ocean cruise was a disaster and I vowed never again, but I will say Celebrity Infinity exceeded our expectations and they don't make announcements about sales or auctions or donations of some kind, which we too found very annoying. They use invitations on your cabin door, which after the first two I just threw them away. Why would I go on a cruise ship if I wanted to buy a Faberge egg! I also found Celebrity's food was very very good.
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Last edited by Hydrokitty; September 6th, 2013 at 06:12 PM.
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Old September 6th, 2013, 06:40 PM
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As far as I know Grand Circle does not include the tours. This way you don't pay for tours you will not join.Plus- what I like- they have Program directors for each group of about 40 people. They will inform in port talks about tours and how to do ports on own.
But there is another differance to ocean ships: The entertainment. Don't expect a lot of entertainment on a river. The actual entertainment is - and that is what I just LOVE- watching the country side pass by lying on a chair on deck or sitting in the lounge.
My favourite tour: The Danube- lots of different countries!
Enjoy!
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Old September 6th, 2013, 10:50 PM
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Originally Posted by dons_shopper View Post
As far as I know Grand Circle does not include the tours. This way you don't pay for tours you will not join.Plus- what I like- they have Program directors for each group of about 40 people. They will inform in port talks about tours and how to do ports on own.
But there is another differance to ocean ships: The entertainment. Don't expect a lot of entertainment on a river. The actual entertainment is - and that is what I just LOVE- watching the country side pass by lying on a chair on deck or sitting in the lounge.
My favourite tour: The Danube- lots of different countries!
Enjoy!
Vantage includes most of the tours and there are usually a couple of optionals that you can buy on board. They also break up cruise into 4 groups each with their own TM and bus (sometimes buses will combine) and the port talk every night will give you plenty of information on going on your own. Also in every port there will be a walking tour which usually takes about an hour before you're turned loose on your own. Most important thing on river cruise is that you don't EVER have to take a tour if you don't want to and no one will pressure you. In fact, on our first trip after about 5 days I really wanted some "retail therapy" and told our TM that. He totally understood and gave me a separate map and marked the shops I was interested. When we got to the point in our walking tour, he told me, "this is where you leave us, have fun and be back on board by 4 p.m.! DH went with group and I went shopping.
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Costa Rica, Star Flyer,Vantage, 2011
Russia and Ukraine, Vantage, 2012
Panama Canal, Celebrity Infinity, 2013
Columbia and Snake Rivers, American Cruise, 2013
Gateway to the Black Sea, Vantage, 2014

Other:
England
Italy
France
Monaco
Greece
Turkey
Iceland

Not yet Sailed:
Trans Canada Rail Odyssey ,Vantage, June 2015
Switzerland Rhine & Mozelle, Vantage, August 2015
Canada-New England, Celebrity, October 2016
Elbe: Berlin to Prague, Vantage, 2016

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China and Yangtze River Cruise
Australia and New Zealand
South Africa, Odyssey
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  #17  
Old September 7th, 2013, 12:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dons_shopper View Post
As far as I know Grand Circle does not include the tours.
Grand Circle does include tours. There is always one included tour at each stop. A good example is their Great Rivers trip from Amsterdam to Vienna. There are 11 included tours and 4 optional tours. The optional tours are usually in addition to the included port tour.
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Old September 8th, 2013, 05:50 PM
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Thanks for all of your replies back!! Now I just need to pick one!
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Old September 8th, 2013, 07:06 PM
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RT Curzer
Others beat me with my reply, we found the 200sqft staterooms on Avalon brilliant, we had 2 other couples in our room for drinks twice, the food was excellent, dinner always had three mains from local region plus 3 fall back mains of Chicken, fish and steak for those not willing to try local dishes. A total of 5 courses for every dinner, not large meals, but we were always full by the time we had reached desert.
Having travelled a lot we could be considered fussy by some, we expect good standards when you are paying $$$$. We found Avalon faultless, which says a lot. We would not have booked another cruise with Avalon so soon if we had not had such a good time.
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Old September 8th, 2013, 07:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Got2Cruise View Post
This itinerary gets closed out very quickly. It is very popular. There are only approx only 70 cabins available on each sailing. Not the same as ocean cruise with many
Are you speaking of basel to amsterdam?? As this is the trip im interested in as well.... Ive just started my research for a cruise next summer....too late??

Thnx
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