New to River Cruising. Lots of Questions!


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#1
Native New Yorker living in AZ
581 Posts
Joined Nov 2006
Hello to All!

We are considering a river cruise in the fall of 2019. Traveling, will be myself and my husband (we will be 50 and 48 and celebrating our 25th anniversary) and another couple (will be 52 and 53 and celebrating his retirement from the police force). We are very interested in doing some time on land pre and post cruise probably in whatever port we decide on, a week cruise and also London. We are not looking to be terribly active in the sense of biking or hiking but are very active tourists and love to walk and see sights. We are leaning towards the Paris and Normandy itinerary (primarily because our friends have never been to Paris and we all are interested in Normandy.) Now for the questions:

We need to keep it fairly budget friendly so we are leaning towards Viking. We have heard that they are a more entry level line but I have also heard it described as the "Carnival" of river cruising. Will we be disappointed in it as a line or since it is our first time, will we not know a difference? Is there another line I should also be considering for a less fancy, more budget friendly option? We want a more casual feel where we don't want to have to dress to the nines every night. Are these cruises like that or are they super fancy? Will we be some of the youngest on the ship? Are they lines that are more geared to late 40/early 50 somethings? Are there some other itineraries we should heavily consider? If we do the Paris and Normandy itinerary, will they give us enough time to tour Normandy? Do they take you out the the walk that has the bunkers or just the museum? Would love some recommendations on any and everything. Again, this area of cruising is so new to us and I feel a little bit lost.

Thank you for any help!
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Rellyrooly
11/94 Carnival Ecstasy
10/05 DCL Wonder 4 day land and sea
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10/07 DCL Magic 7 day Western Caribbean
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#2
Toronto, Canada
1,340 Posts
Joined Mar 2010
Above this thread on the River Cruising board are a lot of threads with pins in them. These are general information that you should have a look at because they probably answer all of your general questions. Then it is easier to drill down to specifics here.

What I will say is that there is no such thing as dressing to the nines on any river cruise (except maybe Crystal). Dressing for dinner on most lines is generally no shorts or jeans (but some do), women might put a nice top on, and men usually put on a buttoned shirt rather than a polo. If it is cool, he might put on a sports jacket. Ties are few and far between.
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AmaDara, Vietnam and Cambodia, 2017
Aegean Odyssey, Istanbul to Venice, 2015
Bike and Barge Holland, Bruges to Amsterdam, 2014
Uniworld, Vienna to Basel, 2011
Uniworld, Tulips and Windmills, Antwerp to Amsterdam, 2010
#3
Northern KY
1,360 Posts
Joined May 2006
You will likely be amongst the youngest on the ship. I am 51, and have always been one of the youngest. It doesn't mean you won't enjoy the "older" crowd!

Also, when I have priced cruises before, Viking isn't any more "budget" friendly than others. In fact, my three Uniworld cruises (that I've paid for) have priced out less than Viking. Dress on our cruises has been casual during the day, and country club casual at night. Some "smart" jeans in the dining room at dinner, fewer sport coats and fancy dresses. Definitely find a good TA, who is familiar with more than one of the lines. They can be a wealth of info.

Lastly, the trip to Normandy is a very long day. I am not aware of any of the tours that visit the bunkers (I know ours didn't). Since it is such a long ride from where the ship docks, there is limited time in the region. We enjoyed our Paris-Normandy cruise. Any river cruise is going to involve a lot of sightseeing and walking. We average 10 miles/day.

Enjoy! We are doing #5 in the spring. It has become our yearly anniversary trip:-)

Robin
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#4
Rhine, Germany
2,649 Posts
Joined Oct 2013
Hello Rellyrooly,

welcome to the rivercruising board. You have already read from gnome12 about the stickies and attire on river cruises.

I am sure Viking offers a fine product and if you are happy with the Nordic (i.e. Scandinavian) design and what you have read in the description of the cruise and offered excursions, I am sure you cannot really go wrong. Just a couple of tips: Viking longships and all other ships that are over 125m long do not dock in Paris. It is called LePecq just beyond the Paris district boundaries. The SS Joie de Vivre and CroisiEurope ships spring to mind that dock in Paris itself. As regards CroisiEurope, their prices rate very favourably and are a good product. But be aware of some specifics to that French line which you can read up on in a recent thread and in the stickies. Most ships cannot go as far as Honfleur, again a port logistics thing, Viking, etc. bus you there. You would need to read every itinerary carefully to see which ships sail as far as Honfleur.

You have probably read about Viking's payment policy. If not, have a search round the board and I am sure past cruisers will be happy to explain. The other thing with Viking is the overall oldest demographic of passengers on board but do not let that deter you. It is just that they have no gym on their ships, on the other had they seem to be good at handling active passengers and slow walkers well, as testified by happy past cruisers.

Another tip: Have a look at Riviera Travel UK if you fancy a line from Britain, they have recently opened up to the North American market. If you want to stay in London first (I recommend a day trip to Canterbury or Cambridge for variety) you could book the stretch from London to Paris with Riviera Travel then, you could fly or take the Eurostar to Paris (nice, fast train ride from St. Pancras International, an amazing old/new station).

Have fun planning.

notamermaid
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#5
Native New Yorker living in AZ
581 Posts
Joined Nov 2006
Originally posted by acwmom
You will likely be amongst the youngest on the ship. I am 51, and have always been one of the youngest. It doesn't mean you won't enjoy the "older" crowd!

Also, when I have priced cruises before, Viking isn't any more "budget" friendly than others. In fact, my three Uniworld cruises (that I've paid for) have priced out less than Viking. Dress on our cruises has been casual during the day, and country club casual at night. Some "smart" jeans in the dining room at dinner, fewer sport coats and fancy dresses. Definitely find a good TA, who is familiar with more than one of the lines. They can be a wealth of info.



Robin
Now that is interesting...I've always heard that Uniworld was among the pricier lines. I love the boutique look of their ships but I thought they were pretty spendy. I also thought they might require a fancier dress code. I am having a problem finding a travel agent that is very experienced with multiple river cruise lines. Not sure how to go about finding one....
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Rellyrooly
11/94 Carnival Ecstasy
10/05 DCL Wonder 4 day land and sea
9/06 DCL Magic 7 day Eastern Caribbean
6/07 Golden Princess Alaskan Inside Passage
10/07 DCL Magic 7 day Western Caribbean
3/10 RCCL Mariner 7 day Mexican Riviera
10/11 RCCL Allure 7 day Western Caribbean
3/15 Carnival Imagination 3 Day Baja
6/18 RCCL Harmony Eastern Caribbean
10/19 Avalon Imagery II Central Europe Prague-Remich
#6
Native New Yorker living in AZ
581 Posts
Joined Nov 2006
Originally posted by notamermaid
Hello Rellyrooly,

welcome to the rivercruising board. You have already read from gnome12 about the stickies and attire on river cruises.

I am sure Viking offers a fine product and if you are happy with the Nordic (i.e. Scandinavian) design and what you have read in the description of the cruise and offered excursions, I am sure you cannot really go wrong. Just a couple of tips: Viking longships and all other ships that are over 125m long do not dock in Paris. It is called LePecq just beyond the Paris district boundaries. The SS Joie de Vivre and CroisiEurope ships spring to mind that dock in Paris itself. As regards CroisiEurope, their prices rate very favourably and are a good product. But be aware of some specifics to that French line which you can read up on in a recent thread and in the stickies. Most ships cannot go as far as Honfleur, again a port logistics thing, Viking, etc. bus you there. You would need to read every itinerary carefully to see which ships sail as far as Honfleur.

You have probably read about Viking's payment policy. If not, have a search round the board and I am sure past cruisers will be happy to explain. The other thing with Viking is the overall oldest demographic of passengers on board but do not let that deter you. It is just that they have no gym on their ships, on the other had they seem to be good at handling active passengers and slow walkers well, as testified by happy past cruisers.

Another tip: Have a look at Riviera Travel UK if you fancy a line from Britain, they have recently opened up to the North American market. If you want to stay in London first (I recommend a day trip to Canterbury or Cambridge for variety) you could book the stretch from London to Paris with Riviera Travel then, you could fly or take the Eurostar to Paris (nice, fast train ride from St. Pancras International, an amazing old/new station).

Have fun planning.

notamermaid
Thank you for all the information. So I guess the bunker areas are in Honfleur? I have been to Paris before but never to the Normandy region. My mother did tell me that the bunkers weren't near the museum per se; that would be disappointing not to be able to see them.

I have not really delved into the payment policy for Viking. Is it different than most of the others? If they are all similar in price, then I'd also like to consider some other lines including Ama, Avalon and Uniworld. Do they all do things majorly differently or are all the itineraries somewhat similar?
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Rellyrooly
11/94 Carnival Ecstasy
10/05 DCL Wonder 4 day land and sea
9/06 DCL Magic 7 day Eastern Caribbean
6/07 Golden Princess Alaskan Inside Passage
10/07 DCL Magic 7 day Western Caribbean
3/10 RCCL Mariner 7 day Mexican Riviera
10/11 RCCL Allure 7 day Western Caribbean
3/15 Carnival Imagination 3 Day Baja
6/18 RCCL Harmony Eastern Caribbean
10/19 Avalon Imagery II Central Europe Prague-Remich
#7
Native New Yorker living in AZ
581 Posts
Joined Nov 2006
Originally posted by gnome12
Above this thread on the River Cruising board are a lot of threads with pins in them. These are general information that you should have a look at because they probably answer all of your general questions. Then it is easier to drill down to specifics here.

What I will say is that there is no such thing as dressing to the nines on any river cruise (except maybe Crystal). Dressing for dinner on most lines is generally no shorts or jeans (but some do), women might put a nice top on, and men usually put on a buttoned shirt rather than a polo. If it is cool, he might put on a sports jacket. Ties are few and far between.
Thank you. Good to know that I don't need to bring formal wear or cocktail dresses. I'd really like to be able to wear smart casual clothing so that I am not lugging too many clothes. I have started to read some of the stickies and will continue to do so. So much information!
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Rellyrooly
11/94 Carnival Ecstasy
10/05 DCL Wonder 4 day land and sea
9/06 DCL Magic 7 day Eastern Caribbean
6/07 Golden Princess Alaskan Inside Passage
10/07 DCL Magic 7 day Western Caribbean
3/10 RCCL Mariner 7 day Mexican Riviera
10/11 RCCL Allure 7 day Western Caribbean
3/15 Carnival Imagination 3 Day Baja
6/18 RCCL Harmony Eastern Caribbean
10/19 Avalon Imagery II Central Europe Prague-Remich
#8
New Jersey, the Philly end
7,540 Posts
Joined Jan 2004
I'm going to suggest that you take a look at Grand Circle Travel and their Paris to Normandy itinerary. They are budget friendly without skimping. I should add that their cabins have fixed, single beds; that said I'm a big guy and have no problem with comfort.

https://www.gct.com/trips/river-crui...ruises:sen2018

It's 13 nights, longer than most of the competition and the cruise is one way from Paris to Honfleur, or the reverse, with two overnights in each of those ports. Very few cruises port in Honfleur, a really charming costal port small town, and that saves a lot of time getting to/from the beaches. We did also visit Pointe du Hoc and some bunkers on the DDay tour.

They bus between Paris and Honfleur, which ever way you don't cruise, and make a stop at the DDay Museum in Caen. Also from Honfleur they offer an optional (extra cost) excursion to see the Bayeux tapestry.
#9
Lakewood, CO
80 Posts
Joined Apr 2014
We did the Viking Paris to Normandy cruise in 2014. I don't know if the itinerary has changed, but our tour of Normandy included a stop in Arromanches for the D-Day museum and lunch, a stop at some German gun emplacements (?bunkers) overlooking the coast, a stop at the American cemetery for a ceremony, and where we had time to find my husband's uncle's grave, and a final stop at Omaha Beach. It was a very long day, but absolutely wonderful!
#10
FL
14,466 Posts
Joined Jul 2003
Grand Circle and Viking are geared to and market to seniors. They would not be my recommendation for 50 somethings and their demographic definitely skews older as that it their target audience.

AMA is our favorite river cruise line. We enjoy their active tour options (we have been; in the younger range on the 16 river cruises we have been on); the very good food served in their restaurants; the warm and engaging staff and crew; the nightly entertainment. We have found a nice mix of ages on our AMA cruises and also take advantage of their bikes, massage room, gym and occasionally the hot tub or pool.

I would not assume Viking is the least expensive choice, especially when all is factored in. Take a hard look at the number of passengers on their Longboats, the size of their cabins and the limited included excursions.

We found Uniworld to be more formal, in terms of staff, service, onboard ambiance, and preferred the food and excursions on AMA. We did enjoy both of our Uniworld cruises, just not as much as AMA.

The "stickies" are a great place to start. Enjoy the planning!
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143 cruises since 1964, 16 on the river.
Looking forward to:
MS Joy - Magic of Advent, December 2017

Amadeus Silver III, May 2018
AmaStella, Christmas Markets, December 2018
Scenic Eclipse, April, 2019

Our river cruising history:
Avalon Luminary B2B- Christmas Markets, 2009
Avalon Affinity - Christmas Markets 2010
Avalon Panorama - Danube New Years Cruise, 2011
AmaDante -Vineyards of the Rhine and Moselle 2012
AmaCerto - Budapest to Nuremburg, 2013
AmaBella - Tulip Time, 2014
AmaDagio - Provence, 2014
AmaReina - Holiday on the Rhine 2014
SS Catherine - Provence 2015
AmaSerena Christmas on the Rhine, 2015
Scenic Diamond, Bordeaux, April 2016, October 2017
AmaVida, Douro, August. 2016
AmaSonata, Romantic Danube - Oct. 2016
Joie de Vivre, Paris and Normany - April 2017

Recent ocean cruises:
Le Lyral, The Adriatic, September 2017
#11
FL
806 Posts
Joined Nov 2005
We just came back from Viking Rhine and we had many age groups. Quality ptroduct


Sent from my iPhone using Forums
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#12
New Jersey, the Philly end
7,540 Posts
Joined Jan 2004
Just a note from someone that has been on eight GCT cruises. Don't believe everything you hear from people that haven't cruised or travelled with the line they are commenting on.

There will be a number of cruisers in the under 65 demographic on any GCT cruise. You will likely find a fair number in the older demographic that will bike and hike if those activities are available. On our Seine cruise there were several 70+ women that went out on hour runs before breakfast when we were docked. We also had a DDay vet . . . despite his age he was active and added a lot to the trip.

Just FYI, GCT only markets direct - no travel agents.
#13
San Diego
248 Posts
Joined Jul 2015
We just were on the Viking Paris and Normandy tour last August.

There are two tour options for the visit to the WWII beaches: The US and The Commonwealth. We chose the Commonwealth Tour because it included a stop at Beyeux to view the famous tapestry of William's conquest of England. I also assumed it would be less crowded than the Omaha Beach tour and it was (Only 8 people). For anyone interested in history, I consider this a must see and it did not disappoint.

Instead of Omaha, the tour stops at Juno beach where you get to walk right past some bunkers and go onto the beach. There are no cliffs at Juno. The bunkers at Juno have been mostly covered by sand. Our tour guide grew up a few miles from Juno and explained that he use to play in the bunkers as a boy. He said that years ago some children found some ammunition in one of the bunkers and it detonated. Since then they have been off limits and the sand covers most of them but the gun ports are still visible. The visitor center at Juno is staffed by Canadian college student volunteers. They emphasized that they wanted the staff there to be the same age as the men who stormed the beaches. In addition to the museum display there is also a powerful movie that details some of the sacrifices made in the war effort.

The other main reason we took the Commonwealth Tour is that it also stops at the Pegasus Bridge which was made famous in the movie "The Longest Day." ("Hold until relieved"). The museum there has full scale replicas of the gliders used in the assault as well as the actual bridge that you can walk around on. The bridge was taken down a few years back so new, wider, longer one could be built. The original was reassembled a few yards away in what is now the grounds of the Pegasus Museum. This was the highlight of the trip.


The day ended with a tour of the British and Canadian cemetery that overlooks Juno, where there is also a section with German war dead.
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Along Europe’s Western Coast (Viking Jupiter) April 2019 (Copenhagen post extension)
Paris to the Swiss Alps (Viking Hild) June 2018 (pre and post extensions)
Paris & the Heart of Normandy (Viking Rolf) August 2017 (Oxford post extension)
Grand European Tour (Viking Modi) June 2016 (Bruges & Amsterdam pre, Prague post extensions)
#14
Rochester, NY
237 Posts
Joined Sep 2012
I'll add my voice to those that said not to assume that Viking has the best prices. When we first started looking at river cruises, we found discounted prices on AMA, Avalon, and Uniworld that were cheaper than Viking. We ruled out Viking for our first cruise because their french balcony rooms were much smaller than the ones on AMA and Avalon, and I was afraid we'd feel too cramped, plus we found better prices elsewhere. Both AMA and Avalon have current promotions for the Seine cruise, depending on dates you plan to travel. Uniworld also has some good deals but only on the older ships and I don't think they cruise the Seine.

One caveat regarding Viking Seine cruises: because of the length of the longboats, Viking ships do not dock in Paris. Instead, they dock in Le Peq, a suburb about 18 km from the center of Paris and provide shuttle buses in and out of Paris. Many people have posted complaints about the dock location, since the bus ride can be up to an hour depending on traffic. All other cruise lines dock in the center city, fairly close to the Eiffel Tower. We loved standing on the top deck at night watching the light show on the Eiffel Tower! Plus less time is spent sitting in traffic on a bus.

We used an online travel agent company to book our cruises that was referred to us. Unfortunately, Cruisecritic doesn't allow giving travel agent recommendations on this board. Our agent did give us a nice discount off the price of the cruise. I suggest you contact agencies either online or in your area and ask what they can do for you, once you've narrowed down your choices.
#15
76 Posts
Joined Jan 2015
In my opinion, Normandy is much more than the beaches and deserves more than a "long day" - specially if you are interested in visiting the WW2 battlefields and museums - Visit London, take the Chunnel to Calais and then rent a car to spend a couple days in Normandy. Take the train to Paris or Amsterdam and start a cruise there ( maybe Rhine?).
#16
New York
9,388 Posts
Joined Aug 2011
The Seine is an unusual river cruise itinerary because the river is actually very short -- so there isn't much cruising. You might want to consider a Moselle cruise as these often start from Paris with a train or bus ride to Luxembourg, then cruise down the Moselle and up the Rhine (including the famous Rhine Castles stretch) and end in Basel. If you have more than a week, you can easily do a pre-cruise stay (either with the cruise line or DIY) in Paris, and post-cruise in Lucerne and Zurich. Here's an example:
https://www.amawaterways.com/destina...elle-splendors
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#17
Florida
4,615 Posts
Joined Feb 2010
Originally posted by knoxclone
In my opinion, Normandy is much more than the beaches and deserves more than a "long day" - specially if you are interested in visiting the WW2 battlefields and museums - Visit London, take the Chunnel to Calais and then rent a car to spend a couple days in Normandy. Take the train to Paris or Amsterdam and start a cruise there ( maybe Rhine?).
This sounds like an excellent plan!

The bunkers are found all along the French Atlantic coastline, not only in Normandie. I am sure there must be some that can be officially visited. Most are derelict remnants of WW2.
#18
Rhine, Germany
2,649 Posts
Joined Oct 2013
I like knoxclone's idea too, Floridiana. If one wants to go deeper into this part of history one should include this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlantic_Wall Not far from Calais is a preserved structure, the blockhaus at Eperlecques: http://www.leblockhaus.com/en/, one could start there and head down to Normandy.

notamermaid
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English Channel Crossings 1984 to present:
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#19
Florida
4,615 Posts
Joined Feb 2010
Wow, I have never seen such a massive bunker! I knew they are called blockhouse in French.

One more thing. If you are thinking about a river cruise because you are dreaming of leisurely floating down a river while enjoying the scenery ... This is what we did on the Yangtze and the Mekong. Small towns and villages on shore, relatively short side trips into the countryside.

If I understand people on this board correctly, river cruises in Europe are more like going from city to city and cruising at night except for some scenic stretches like the Rhine gorge and the Moselle. Since we travelled to most places along European rivers on various land trips by car over the years, we never booked a European river cruise, but did several day cruises such as the Rhine gorge.
#20
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
690 Posts
Joined Feb 2006
Originally posted by KathyK13
We've hesitated to use cruiseline airfare because we don't live in any of the cities listed for special fares. Instead we drive 2 hours to Toronto (depending on border crossing wait times!) where we can get direct flights to most cities in Europe and the US/Canadian dollar exchange rate results in prices similar to the discounts offered by the cruise lines. I'm curious to hear from people who don't live in gateway cities but have gotten good prices on cruise line discounts.
We don't live in a gateway city either, we live in Baton Rouge. Depending on the promotion, we can usually get an air supplement from New Orleans for anything from $0 extra to $395 extra (most lines don't offer a supplement from Baton Rouge, but some do, it tends to be closer to $695 though).
When there is an included air, or low air supplement deal, I also run the air myself and compare it to the "air credit" I would receive from the cruise line, and sometimes go that route.
Often worth looking at it from several angles.
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