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  #1  
Old August 5th, 2014, 05:14 PM
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Default Overwhelmed!

We have done many "ocean" cruises but never a river cruise. We really want to try one next Sept for our 25th wedding anniversary. Like the idea of a small number of people on the ship and being so close to the scenery. But the more I look at the various websites and read this forum the more confused I get!! There are just so many choices of rivers, ships, lines, etc

How did you all narrow down the choices? I want to go to Europe but beyond that I have NO clue! They all sound great!! Any suggestions would be much appreciated!
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  #2  
Old August 5th, 2014, 05:43 PM
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Default Overwhelmed!

Welcome to the River Board!!! We ARE sailing September 2015 and made that reservation in February, cabins during the fall sell out fast so don't delay.....

First, you have come to the right place to educate yourself so keep reading and go back over old threads during at least the last year.

Second, go online and order up a bunch of beautiful brochures it is so much easier than trying to flip back and forth on websites. I like to compare itineraries side by side with multiple brochures open to itineraries I am considering. Also you can look in the back of these "sales tools/aids" and see the boats, cabin layouts and decks. So really good info.

The lines you will find info on Cruise Critic don't cover all the river cruise companies but most of the ones for English speakers, North Americans, and Australians.

I'm going to forget some and somebody here will point out the error of my ways!

Scenic**,Tauck*,AMA, Avalon, Uniworld*,Vantage, Viking***, (ok missing some but this is the lions share) *all inclusive **i think Scenic is all inclusive ***Viking 2 for 1 is a marketing term, the price quoted is the per person price.

All these companies will send you wonderful brochures so order them ASAP.

Lastly, did you read the "Sticky" at the top of this board called " New to river cruising, start here!" Excellent info and important to read.

Have a great time planning and welcome aboard!


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  #3  
Old August 5th, 2014, 05:46 PM
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Default Overwhelmed

Quote:
Originally Posted by LiseD View Post
We have done many "ocean" cruises but never a river cruise. We really want to try one next Sept for our 25th wedding anniversary. Like the idea of a small number of people on the ship and being so close to the scenery. But the more I look at the various websites and read this forum the more confused I get!! There are just so many choices of rivers, ships, lines, etc

How did you all narrow down the choices? I want to go to Europe but beyond that I have NO clue! They all sound great!! Any suggestions would be much appreciated!
You are right, it can be overwhelming. I am sure many people will chime in and try to help, but this is how we made our choice the first time we did a river cruise. We chose a country that we loved (which is Germany) and found a cruise that would not only stop in lovely towns, but also included the scenic cruise with castles along the way on the Rhine. I would say that the more popular cruise companies are comparable as far as service, food, etc. (Of course you will get a variety of opinions). We have cruised with Avalon and Uniworld and have no problem recommending either of them and will book them again as soon as the 2016 schedules come out (2015 is already booked!). But be aware that once you do a river cruise it will probably not be your last, so just start making your list of future cruises. Good luck in making your choice and don't let it overwhelm you. Enjoy!
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  #4  
Old August 5th, 2014, 06:24 PM
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I will chime in here, because I can definitely relate to being overwhelmed. We also have booked a river cruise for September 2015. I was shocked, when I started looking for information this past March, how little inventory was left for the exact dates we wanted to travel a whole year and a half away. We also are celebrating an anniversary - our 35th - and wanted to be on on the ship on the exact date of our anniversary, so this limited us a little.

Also as someone stated above, we knew we wanted to do the Rhine Gorge where there are castles on either side of the river, and we wanted to stop at some of the quaint German Towns. So process of elimination found us the itinerary we ended up choosing, which is Rivers and Castles, Paris to Prague on AMA Waterways. We had narrowed it down to Viking and AMA, which both have a very similar Itinerary, and both had our anniversary date available. The final decision in choosing AMA was the good reviews we read about how wonderful AMA was, but mostly because Viking wanted the entire amount of the cruise paid up front, and AMA only required a small deposit. That was the deal breaker for us.

I too, pour over this board to gather every bit of information I can, so we can be prepared for our first time on a river cruise. Thank you to everyone for posting any and all tidbits of information. The biggest thing I have learned so far, is to roll with what ever happens and just enjoy traveling with whatever experiences we will encounter. It sounds as if a river cruise can change in an instant with weather, high water, low water, lock issues, etc. I hope I can head my own advice
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Last edited by travelqueen555; August 5th, 2014 at 06:25 PM.
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  #5  
Old August 5th, 2014, 07:25 PM
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Yes it is overwhelming but once you choose the itinerary everything else falls into place. Since it's your first river cruise I would stick to a seven day cruise. Most people spend time in the departure and arrival ports too.
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  #6  
Old August 5th, 2014, 08:27 PM
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My method isn't everyone's but it works for us My in-laws have done several river cruises in Europe on Uniworld and kept telling us we need to go. My husband really wants to go, and he wants to go to Germany. I don't have a desire to go to Germany or on a river cruise, BUT I love Christmas Markets. So I told my husband I'd do a river cruise if we do one in December. From there, we lined up the areas he wanted to go (Germany) with the areas I have already been and didn't want to visit this time (Prague, Budapest, Vienna) so we are booked Nuremberg to Basel - through Germany and then a little of France & Switzerland. It's an 11 day cruise and we're not doing any of the pre or post trips other than flying in a day early and leaving a day late.

In terms of boats, there were only a couple of lines that had a Main/Rhine itinerary (there are many fewer boats sailing the Christmas Markets than there are in the summer months) so I did a matrix comparing per diems, cabin size, inclusions (alcohol, tips, tours, fridge in cabin - important for us as we like to get local beer & wine to enjoy on board) as well as some notes on "intangibles" (food & service reviews) We opted for Avalon and booked in August 2013 for December 2014 and most of the cabins in the category we booked were already sold.

My in-laws as well as my mom & her husband will be joining us on the trip (my in-laws are doing the Prague trip pre-cruise with Avalon - I would make my own plans if I wanted to but we don't have extra time this year)
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  #7  
Old August 5th, 2014, 09:02 PM
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LiseD: If you are feeling overwhelmed to the point of paralysis (and believe me, I well remember that feeling when we were selecting our first river cruise), I offer the following Simplified River Cruise Selection Strategy:

1. Take a coin.
2. Flip it.
3. Heads: Avalon; Tails: Viking
4. Flip it again.
5. Heads: 8-day Danube Cruise; Tails: 8-day Rhine Cruise
6. Try to book something based on these results.

If the cruise line doesn't work, switch to the other. If the river doesn't work, switch to the other.

I've narrowed it down to these choices because we have done both cruise lines and both rivers, and truly feel that you will be happy with any combination. There are other cruise lines, and other rivers, and longer and shorter itineraries, but for a first river cruise, I don't think you can go wrong with any of these choices.

Good luck!
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  #8  
Old August 5th, 2014, 09:59 PM
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Add Grand Circle Cruise Line to the list supplied by a pp.

Not to overwhelm you more, but are you looking for a shorter, one week or so, or a longer, about two week, cruise? Some of the lines focus on longer cruises. The amount of time you can stay obviously makes a difference in who you can cruise with.

As far as itinerary, roll the dice . . . tough to pick a bad itinerary. Our first river cruise was Vienna to Amsterdam in 17 days. We loved it and got hooked. Why that itinerary? We found a last minute deal at what we felt was a great price. We flew out just a few days days after we booked. We didn't have time to get overwhelmed with details and planning . . . laundry and packing was our priority.
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  #9  
Old August 5th, 2014, 10:36 PM
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WOW - I'l SO glad choosing wasn't so hard for us! We just went to the movies - happened to be Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris" and I feel in love with it! As we left DH said that I refused to go to Paris - when? was my answer - OK, I was the worst French student in the history of the universe - but I'd go in a heart-beat! So that led to a River Cruise - our first - and we picked the Rhone River because DH enjoys the wine of that region! I had a big ? about RCing but fell in love with it!!!

Our second cruise was an easy choice - DH suggested the Rhine River, which we had seen during a car trip to Germany in 2008. So I added the layer of Christmas Markets and there we were! It was also great!!!!

Our next - Bordeaux region - has also been wine-driven! We even booked it before out second cruise!!!

Should mention that we travel on Viking and, so far, are loving it!!!

So, in short, I'd suggest you think about what you guys like - history, castles, big cities, wine, shopping, etc. - and then pick a cruise that is based on your likes/dislikes. Then pick a cruise line that appeals to you and don't ever let anyone tell you that you were wrong!!! Everyone enjoys different things - we're all unique!!!!
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  #10  
Old August 5th, 2014, 11:07 PM
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DH and I went through this same thing too. Our research suggested starting with a 7-day cruise because if you don't like it you don't suffer through a second week . Since the Danube is so long, we decided to start with an itinerary that lends itself to 7 days, and Amsterdam to Basel fit the bill. Then we started looking at the different cruise lines, and decided that although they are similar on the surface there are major differences -- and since our top priority among those differences is the quality of the food, and since AMA gets top marks for the quality of their food -- voila! AMA it was. That cruise was so successful that we have booked another for next year (Provence).

I suggest Amsterdam to Basel [with the extension to Lucerne and Zurich if you can swing it] as a great starter river cruise. Amsterdam is an easy city to fly in to, whether or not the cruise line picks you up at the airport. The cruise starts with an overnight, so you can get acclimated and un-jetlagged. You travel through four countries (Holland, Germany, France, Switzerland), for a broad introduction to European cultures, food and wine. And the Rhine seems to have fewer high- or low-water issues than the Danube.
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  #11  
Old August 5th, 2014, 11:16 PM
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Great advice from all.....ok bfred....according to your formula...we should take a Viking cruise on the Danube!! Ha ha
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  #12  
Old August 6th, 2014, 09:00 AM
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Two points:

1) Where to cruise. There are many great rivers to cruise on. Most of the river cruise companies will have each cruise listed on their websites. There are many cruises in central Europe on the Rhine and Danube, which go through Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Hungary and more countries down to the Black Sea.
There are great cruises in France on the Rhone (SW France), which we have done and loved it, as well as the Seine (think Paris). Then you will find the Douro river in Northern Portugal, Russian River cruise from Moscow to St. Petersburg (we did that one, it was great). Also, there are river cruses in China, Burma, Vietnam and Brazil (Amazon).
Whatever you choose, you will enjoy.

2) Which cruise line. There are many and you will find reviews under member reviews. I suggest comparing what you receive in tours, meals and pre and post river cruises with the competition. We first discovered river cruises when we received a brochure from Viking. However, I researched several companies, Uniworld, Avalon, Viking, Vantage, AMA and Grand Circle.
I discovered significant price differences from the cruise lines.
Our first river cruise was in Russia and we picked Vantage, due to price and what it offered, like five star hotels in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, instead of fighting traffic from the port to city center. We later took a wonderful Vantage trip to China that included a four day river cruise. Again, Vantage had the best product for the money, beating Viking.

We also, too a Rhone/Saone river cruise with AMA in SW France and loved it. We picked the cruise because of the timing. AMA is great, but tends to be a bit more expensive.

Here are my reviews of our river cruises:

Russia, Kiev and Baltics

http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1478384

China

http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1718320

AMA Rhone River

http://www.cruisecritic.com/memberre...EntryID=103733
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  #13  
Old August 6th, 2014, 09:49 AM
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I'll put in a vote for what I consider to be one of the most scenic river routes. Several lines offer Paris-to-Basel cruises (Viking's is the River Rhapsody). This gets you through both the Moselle valley and the Rhine Gorge. It's a 10-day cruise, but you spend a couple of nights in Paris. There's a bus ride from Paris to Trier, where you board the ship.

AMA has a Amsterdam-to-Paris trip that also includes the Rhine Gorge and the Moselle.

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Old August 6th, 2014, 10:00 AM
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We started about 6 years ago with a 5 night cruise on Avalon and had a very good experience. We were happy that we chose a short cruise to start with as river cruising is not for everyone.

After that first cruise, we took 3 more with Avalon and became disenchanted with the food, tours, wine and entertainment on the last 2 especially. We experienced a decline from our first.

I did a bunch of research and focused on what was important to us: tours that offered the pace we prefer; very good food and wine; some entertainment in the evenings that was not snooze worthy; a mixed demographic in terms of age. My research led us to try AMA and we have not looked back.

We enjoy the attention to detail we have experienced on all of our cruises with them; the quality of food and wine; the warmth and personalities of staff and crew; the diverse passengers we have met; the variety of excursions offered.

We found their theme cruises to be especially delightful, with lots of special touches.

In terms of ocean cruising, it is rare for us these days to go on one. But if we do, it would be Oceania for overall quality. We feel AMA is of the same standard.
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  #15  
Old August 6th, 2014, 10:00 AM
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Here's another thing that might help in your planning. Some of the river cruise companies are partnered with or associated with land based tour companies. Avalon is part of the Globus family and if you have previously traveled with any of their brands (Globus, Monograms, Cosmos, Avalon) you are entitled to a 5% discount of your river cruise as a loyalty perk. I think Uniworld has a partner as well but I'm not positive. You should be able to find the partner information on the river cruise lines websites.

Another line that is relatively new to the US market is Emerald Waterways. Someone else had mentioned River Cruise Advisor, which is a great site. Many of their writers have taken numerous river cruises with most of the different cruise lines and they publish very nice live trip reports, with pictures and lots of details. Read a few of these.

If you come up with specific questions, everyone on this board is more than willing to help. You really need to pick a river first and then start narrowing down. My first river cruise was Basel to Amsterdam on Avalon. I picked this because I knew I wanted to cruise the Rhine gorge, with all of the castles. I'm in the planning stage for a Paris to Normandy cruise on the Seine. I am also interested in a Tulip time cruise, round trip to Amsterdam. These are usually in April, to try to time the cruise with the peak tulip blooming season.

Good luck with your planning.
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Old August 6th, 2014, 03:25 PM
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Bucking what appears to be a trend, here, we actually felt that, if we're flying across the pond, we wanted to maximize our time on a river cruise. Our going-in assumption in these situations is always, "We may never get there again." So, we looked for cruises that were closer to two weeks.

The best itineraries we found were Budapest to Amsterdam, or vice versa. (I see Avalon has a French itinerary that's two weeks but involves two rivers, switching to trains and other ships, etc. Somthing we might consider in the future.)

Based on that, we began looking at river cruise lines that offered the itinerary. Because we had been "sold" on river cruising by an AMA rep at a travel "convention" we went to, we started with AMA and Viking (since Viking is the most "known" here in the States). We then "discovered" Avalon and Tauck. We liked both of the latter because they are renowned European touring companies (Avalon is owned by Globus/Cosmos) so Viking and AMA fell off. We finally settled on Avalon based on their room configuration. This may see trivial to some but important to us. We felt that, while cruising down such scenic rivers, we'd both like to be able to just lie there and look out at the scenery without having to lean over each other. Also, the French Balcony (which was even better than we had hoped) afforded more living space within the room than those with outside balconies. (Don't be fooled by square footage. Like most ocean cruise lines, these cruise ships tend to include balcony footage into the calculation.)

Another selling point for Avalon (and other non-Viking companies) is the ability to get away with a relatively small down payment until 3 months before sailing.

So, we booked the Budapest to Amsterdam trip - only chose that direction because it crossed July 4th and allowed me to use one less vacation day. Got our flights (Lufthansa - who we liked a lot though some others seem not to), our hotel for two nights in Budapest and never looked back.

Though we were unaware at the time, Avalon is not huge in the American market. There were only 11 of us, along with 22 Brits, perhaps a dozen New Zealanders and many Aussies. This, we think, would actually have been a SELLING point for us had we known. We really enjoy spending time with folks from other countries.

We were VERY fortunate on our trip to make it all the way through with barely a hitch. (Slow going caused us to cancel one optional excursion on morning.) It was the best time ever!
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  #17  
Old August 6th, 2014, 06:57 PM
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Take a short one to start maybe look at Vantage ..
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  #18  
Old August 7th, 2014, 08:46 AM
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Default Thanks all

Such great replies! I wanted to mention that I ordered a book that just came in and looks wonderful...lots of helpful info on river cruising, the rivers themselves and reviews of the many riverships. Also..think it was just published....called River Cruising in Europe by Berlitz. Seems good for a newbie like me!
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  #19  
Old August 7th, 2014, 09:15 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LiseD View Post
Such great replies! I wanted to mention that I ordered a book that just came in and looks wonderful...lots of helpful info on river cruising, the rivers themselves and reviews of the many riverships. Also..think it was just published....called River Cruising in Europe by Berlitz. Seems good for a newbie like me!
My favorite line won top honors in many categories. And the best boat we have been on to date, AmaCerto, did as well.
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  #20  
Old August 7th, 2014, 04:20 PM
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I agree "analysis paralysis" can do anyone in! I once put off a trip to Africa for a whole year because I couldn't wrap my head around the where and what!

I really do find that reading reviews is so helpful! Even reviews where the folks had a bad time are helpful (if I read that a place is "too remote, not enough shopping" - then I know even if they gave it one star, it's for me) Plus, you can get a feel for the kinds of activities and the kinds of people you'd cruise with. Are the reviews all about raving about the food? Then probably those are foodies on a line that prioritizes food, if they person goes on about the tours and activities, then there's a good chance that the line specializes in that populated with active folks. Only you know what you would like!

Lastly, keep asking here, this is a nice group who happily answered any question we had We will be newbie river cruisers next month, and I feel based in what I've read here, we've picked the right itinerary and line for us...we will soon find out
__________________
AMAPrima (Danube to Black Sea) Photo Review
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showt...1#post44488254
Enchantment (Bahamas) photo review:
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2002049
Jewel (S.Caribbean) photo review:
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1951547
Allure (E.Caribbean) photo review:
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1834584
Paul Gauguin (French Polynesia) photo review:
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1729992
Galapagos Explorer 2 (Ecuador)photo review:
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1702506
Jewel (W. Caribbean) photo review:
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1582079
Oasis (E. Caribbean) photo review:
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1539995
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