Best European River Cruise Company for the Money

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Santa Maria, CA
27 Posts
Joined Apr 2011
Need help with looking for a river cruise in Europe. Want to keep the cost down but enjoy a nice cruise with good food and wine! Please help!
New York
9,395 Posts
Joined Aug 2011
I suggest you start by reading the Stickies at the top of this forum, which have a lot of good information about how to choose the itinerary and the cruise line that best fit your interests.

The specific question you ask, unfortunately, leads to a 'Catch 22' situation: the river cruise lines with the best food and wine [Crystal and AmaWaterways IMO] are not the least expensive. But it also shows the importance of evaluating included amenities before comparing prices: e.g. Crystal and Tauck have the highest prices but are also the most inclusive--if the inclusions are important to you, their prices are much more in line with other cruise lines. At the low-price end of the spectrum, though, it isn't just a switch from included to optional items--the quality of basic things may be lower, and there is no way to supplement that. So the bottom line is that the "Best European River Cruise Company for the Money" will be different depending on each person's taste and evaluation of quality and the value of inclusiveness. The good news is that every river cruise line has many satisfied customers on this forum, and they will probably chime in here to explain why their favorite line is 'best' for them.
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373 Posts
Joined May 2013
Other things to think about if you want to keep the costs an 'aquarium class' cabin. One that is on the lowest level. Price is lower than a suite or balcony cabin, but the service, food and wine will be the same.
Travel during the beginning or the end of the sailing season. Less tourists, but weather could be iffy. (Our favourite time to travel)
Get a travel agent who has experience with multiple cruise lines. They should be on the ball regarding promotions and deals.
Read as many opinions as you can on Cruise Critic.
Travel with a positive attitude and sturdy shoes!
Long Island, NY
7,355 Posts
Joined Apr 2000
Originally posted by 1st
Need help with looking for a river cruise in Europe. Want to keep the cost down but enjoy a nice cruise with good food and wine! Please help!
Though not top of the line, we had good luck with Avalon cruises and I recommended the line to some friends, first time river cruisers and they were very very happy with everything. Avalon is owned by Globus, which has been providing tours for years and has a good reputation. But as stated in the other posts, depending on the itinerary, and the time of year, you might be able to get a good deal on another line. Its all about supply and demand. Also read the reviews here on CC. Somethings that are a deal breaker for some, others don't care about.
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50 Posts
Joined Jun 2005
It has to be Gate 1.
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London, UK
1,939 Posts
Joined Apr 2010
Originally posted by 1st
Need help with looking for a river cruise in Europe. Want to keep the cost down but enjoy a nice cruise with good food and wine! Please help!
Everyone has a different opinion as to what "a nice cruise", what is "good food" and what is "good wine". There is a wide selection of river cruise company and they all offer something different since everyone wants something different.

Is "good food" a european style dinner with posh plating or just a juicy burger suitable for the American market? You have to be more specific.

Wine is subjective. Are you willing to drink cheaper German rieslings and Austrian Gruner Veitliner or do you want an imported Californian Chardonnay/Merlot or a more expensive French/Italian wine?

What makes a nice cruise. If all you want is to get off the boat and wander around, then the cruise line does not matter. Or do you prefer to spend time in your cabin looking out of the window or sitting and reading in the public areas. Would you rather sail during the day and see the sights go by or would you rather sail at night and be able to get off the boat to go sight-seeing during the day.

It is all subjective. What are your preferences?
Do cheap = good? What is your budget range?
United States
149 Posts
Joined Mar 2013
We have done 2 river cruises on Gate 1 and enjoyed both. Food and accommodations were just fine and IMO their strong point is their tour guides. You will see the same sites no matter which company you choose. If you are looking for a wonderful and affordable cruise, you can’t go wrong with Gate 1. BTW, we are soon to take our first Viking River Cruise so it will be interesting to see what the differences are. We are regulars on Oceania ocean cruises so don’t always choose the lowest cost for travel.

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Weston, FL
345 Posts
Joined Feb 2013
"Best for the money" Value is in the eyes of the beholder. We have used both Viking and Grand Circle, and thought they were both very good values for the money.
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146 Posts
Joined Apr 2017
I would check out Scenic Tours “Emerald” line. The fares per diem are probably among the lowest and some of the newer ships are beautiful.

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Cambs. U.K
1,636 Posts
Joined Apr 2003
APT and their sub division of Travel Marvel have some excellent offers at the moment for bookings before the end of February. There are several dates for Amsterdam/Budapest and vice versa which are very good value indeed. These are for their Premium cruises as opposed to their Luxury ones. Worth a look.
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Dave & Marge Morgan
418 Posts
Joined Sep 2004
Originally posted by Sirgym
I would check out Scenic Tours “Emerald” line. The fares per diem are probably among the lowest and some of the newer ships are beautiful.

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Actually all of their ships are almost new. With transfers, tips and lunch and dinner drinks included, it's easily possible to leave the cruise with no onboard spending at all. For sure check out the recommended gratuities as those can add up quickly.
111 Posts
Joined Feb 2014
Traveling with some friends in May with Emerald Waterways (we did Danube in 2016, doing Rhine this time). Everyone has opted for "water level" staterooms this time, since we didn't spend enough time in our cabins last time to make the French Balcony that worthwhile. Having a French balcony room was nice, but so is saving a bit of money and still having a great trip!
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My Cruises

Sapphire Princess - 7 day Mexican Riviera - 4/2013
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