General questions about river cruises

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#1
Raleigh, NC USA
1,191 Posts
Joined Oct 2001
We are a 56 and 70 year old couple, very well traveled, but husband is now having some physical challenges with walking. We've sailed on Princess, HAL, RCCL, Celebrity, NCL and are now thinking we might enjoy a smaller cruise experience. But I'm struggling to figure out if this would suit us.

We tend to spend VERY little time in our cabins, so we book an inside guarantee and have always been happy. We don't tend to stay up long gone. The quality and variety of the food tends to make or break a cruise for us, and we rather hate the up charge for a specialty restaurant.

I believe some of the river cruise lines include some of the excursions in the price, yes? If so, how much physical activity and walking was involved. The fact that so many of the port stops are smaller towns, where one can just walk and not go running around on some tour is also very attractive to us.

Quite frankly, one of the reasons that we are considering AWA is that they include wine with lunch and dinner. As our bar bill on cruises tends to be way too high, I'd also like to get an idea of what a glass of wine costs at the bar, outside of dining hours. And the same information, please, for a basic cocktail. Is there an all inclusive alcohol program like Celebrity has? (again, I just hate the surprise of the big bill at the end - I'd rather just pay for it in advance and not deal with it on my vacation.)

Other advise is most appreciated.
#2
Beverly, ma, us
325 Posts
Joined Feb 2012
On most river cruises there is no restriction on bringing alcohol aboard with no restrictions on consumption in your cabin and a corkage fee for wine consumption in the dining room and lounge. The conspicuous over consumption and high bar tabs of ocean cruises are not an issue.
#3
California
150 Posts
Joined Jan 2011
Uniworld for 2014 will be all inclusive - including wine and excursions. There is always a "slow walkers" group for excursions.
cb
#4
Tulsa OK
7,614 Posts
Joined May 2006
We have only cruised AMA as far as river cruises, but we are regulars on regent and silversea. The food is very good on AMA, as good in most part as regent or silversea, just less options. Wine served with dinner and lunch usually was quite acceptable, and they will find something else if you don't like what is poured. There is no corkage fee, so you are free to bring aboard whatever you like as well. Bar tab at other times was very reasonable.
There is always a slow walkers group for excursions, and almost all excursions are included.

I would say so for it!
#5
NW Ohio
8,363 Posts
Joined Jan 2001
On Viking, a morning tour of each new port is included in the cost of the cruise. Most often a walking tour, and they do have "leisure" tours for those who need to go along at a slower pace or cannot do a lot of stairs, etc. Also, as already mentioned, Viking does allow you to bring onboard your own soft drinks or alcohol of choice to either consume in your cabin or in the lounge, at dinner, or up on the deck while sailing. If you'd like to purchase an occasional drink, here is a link to Viking's bar menu for individual drink costs. Please note, the costs are in euros. http://wpc.475d.edgecastcdn.net/00475D/PDF/bar_menu.pdf
On our 10 day cruise, there were two "Captain's" cocktail parties at which drinks were complimentary.
#6
Conway, AR USA
1,813 Posts
Joined Jan 2001
We have cruised Avalon and Uniworld and both were tops as far as we were concerned. (We are sailing again with Uniworld next year) I would be willing to bet that once you have done a river cruise - you will have a hard time returning to the large ships. No more nickel and dimeing you to death. Excellent food, wonderful customer service and you will know many people by their first names by the end of the cruise. It is a wonderful way to see some of the most beautiful ports that are not accessible by big shop.
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#7
Vancouver Island, Canada
639 Posts
Joined Nov 2006
Originally posted by rjscott
On Viking, a morning tour of each new port is included in the cost of the cruise. Most often a walking tour, and they do have "leisure" tours for those who need to go along at a slower pace or cannot do a lot of stairs, etc. Also, as already mentioned, Viking does allow you to bring onboard your own soft drinks or alcohol of choice to either consume in your cabin or in the lounge, at dinner, or up on the deck while sailing. If you'd like to purchase an occasional drink, here is a link to Viking's bar menu for individual drink costs. Please note, the costs are in euros. http://wpc.475d.edgecastcdn.net/00475D/PDF/bar_menu.pdf
On our 10 day cruise, there were two "Captain's" cocktail parties at which drinks were complimentary.
I took another Viking cruise in March/April this year and Viking now has wine and beer included at lunch and dinner and champagne at breakfast.
#8
Kentucky
238 Posts
Joined Jan 2012
OP, I laughed when I read your post this evening! DH and I took a walk today around an outdoor mall and I remarked to him that we needed to build up our endurance for our next Uniworld cruise. I reminded him that he mentioned stepping up our daily walk earlier in the week. Uniworld does have a "gentle walking" group separate from the regular tour guides. My DH is 72 and he did just fine last May when we were on the River Princess (Nuremberg to Paris) In fact a few times, we parted ways with the slow walkers and did our own touring.

We usually book a Cat 3 cabin. That has the large table level to ceiling window so if want to sit in bed or sit at the little table and look out you have a good view. But when we stay on the boat, we tend to congregate in the large lounge or sit up on the sun deck (weather permitting).

We cruised last May and the rivers were fine. Be aware that it's sometimes noisy going thru locks. I wasn't prepared for how many we went thru-it was something like 57-but we were on the Main-Danube Canal, the Moselle and Rhine. The Rhine is lovely and you certainly can't beat sitting in the lounge as you drift down the river which the cruise director says "On the left is AXXX castle" and then 2 minutes later "On the right is BXXX castle" and then again a minute later "Here's the CXXX castle on your right". It's simply amazing.

So amazing that we booked 2 river cruises for this year--both with Uniworld Like you, we've done several sea cruises, HAL this past March and Disney Cruise Line (with the grands) last October, most recently. The service on the Uniworld River Princess was excellent and the food very good.

Have fun planning!
#9
Saint Simons Island, Georgia
11,811 Posts
Joined Jul 2010
Originally posted by jkgourmet
We are a 56 and 70 year old couple, very well traveled, but husband is now having some physical challenges with walking. We've sailed on Princess, HAL, RCCL, Celebrity, NCL and are now thinking we might enjoy a smaller cruise experience. But I'm struggling to figure out if this would suit us.

We tend to spend VERY little time in our cabins, so we book an inside guarantee and have always been happy. We don't tend to stay up long gone. The quality and variety of the food tends to make or break a cruise for us, and we rather hate the up charge for a specialty restaurant.

I believe some of the river cruise lines include some of the excursions in the price, yes? If so, how much physical activity and walking was involved. The fact that so many of the port stops are smaller towns, where one can just walk and not go running around on some tour is also very attractive to us.

Quite frankly, one of the reasons that we are considering AWA is that they include wine with lunch and dinner. As our bar bill on cruises tends to be way too high, I'd also like to get an idea of what a glass of wine costs at the bar, outside of dining hours. And the same information, please, for a basic cocktail. Is there an all inclusive alcohol program like Celebrity has? (again, I just hate the surprise of the big bill at the end - I'd rather just pay for it in advance and not deal with it on my vacation.)

Other advise is most appreciated.
AMA is great. Also, they have a slow walker's choice on excursions.
#10
Queens, NY
2,161 Posts
Joined Mar 2008
We took our first River Cruise last October (Viking Rhone River). DH - 73 at the time - had developed a nerve problem with his left foot - tarsel tunnel syndrome - uses a cane and sometimes walking slowly.

Before we left I was happy that Viking includes a slow group on all its excursions since I expected we'd always be part of it. But, no, DH had NO trouble keeping up with a regular group - but I was still happy that we had a fall-back just in case!

Viking offered the slower group for all included tours - walking and bus. But you aren't "assigned" to it so you can switch depending on where the tour is going. We made friends with another couple in their early 60s. The wife had just recovered from knee surgery but had really worn her knee out on the Paris subways. So she alternated between the regular and slower tours. Viking was very good at explaining the tours beforehand - and the difficulty - stairs, long walking, etc.

Aside from the tours, Viking, as mentioned, has unlimited wine/beer at lunch and dinner and champagne for bk. You can also bring wine on board and we had no problem or attitude drinking it at dinner. One of the women we became friends with only drank white wine - the guys usually brought red on board for dinner. Waiters had no problem pouring our red for all of us but the one woman who prefered white!

We fell in love with river cruising - have 2 more booked!!! I'm not saying we'll never return to the ocean - Viking's 2015 ocean cruises look interesting! - but for now the rivers are calling us!!! I'm SO glad we took the RC chance last year!!!
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#12
Sunshine Coast Queensland
323 Posts
Joined Jun 2011
Hi jkgurmet,

We are going on our first river cruise in 5 weeks with Scenic Cruises and they have all beverages (wine beer etc) available ALL day and champers at breakfast, so NO bar tab at all. All excursions are included in the cruise price as is all tipping.

Cheers
#13
Ontario, Canada
2,756 Posts
Joined Nov 2008
Hi there -

Most lines include at least a walking tour in each stop - and most will have a "gentle walkers" group.

Most include wine/beer/soft drinks at dinner --> many also now include at lunch, and some have champagne at breakfast. As identified above, Scenic is ALL inclusive this year. I believe Tauck has lots of options for free beverages, but haven't sailed with them, so perhaps someone can add further detail.

You always have the option of "doing your own thing" when you dock, but you should do some homework on which ports are actually close to town. For example, the river boats dock very close to the downtown area in Budapest, Bratislava, Durnstein, Melk, Passau, Regensberg on the Danube - and in Rouen on the Seine. In Vienna you are a subway ride away from the centre of town (although there is often a shuttle bus provided....), Nuremberg is a solid 15 minute bus ride away and the beaches in Normandy (if that is what interests you) is an hour away from Rouen. Prague is included in many Danube packages - but it is 4-5 hours away from the Danube.

Some include all gratuities (Scenic and Tauck --> also Uniworld in 2014) - some include airport transfers even if you book your own air (Uniworld and Scenic) providing you arrive/depart on the days the cruise starts/ends.

We have been on 6 river cruises so far, with another 2 booked. Except for one cruise, we have always travelled lowest category cabin (aka Aquarium class) - and are very happy with that. Kathie859 commented on a category 3 with a table height window - but those windows are only available (as far as I know) on Uniworld, and on their older boats. Many lower category cabins have shoulder height windows.

Food is very subjective - and quite dependent on the chef and his crew. Many here rave about the food on AMA, and yet it hasn't been our best dining experience (we have travelled with Scenic, Uniworld, AMA and Viking). We have found that each cruise has it "highlights" and "low lights" in the food category.... Again, very subjective.

The only line that has an alternative dining format as far as I know is Scenic. Every passenger has an opportunity to dine there once in a 7 night cruise, and twice on a 14 night (or longer) itinerary. It is a set menu (Italian) and there is no extra charge.

A number of people have commented on the opportunity to be able to bring your own wine/spirits on board. Most lines also have a "drink of the day" - and it is a bit cheaper than the usual drinks. I tend to drink beer - and it is quite reasonably priced.

Hope this helps.

Fran
#14
Mackay Australia
786 Posts
Joined Jan 2010
At present Tauck include all non-alcoholic beverages and in 2014 like Scenic will include all alcoholic beverages 24/7. Tauck also have a fridge in each cabin. When you consider transfers, included tours and every thing you can imagine except laundry costs Tauck is definitely all-inclusive and I realise I'm biased but I think they are truly the best.
#15
Surprise, AZ
580 Posts
Joined Dec 2011
JKGourmet - Welcome to this CC site. We're your "neighbors" over in Surprise (AZ). I believe all the poster have given a very fair and unbiased view of the way river cruises are in Europe. Each of their experiences is somewhat based upon whether their particular cruise "lived up" to the expectations they had before boarding (or subsequently "modified", once they got underway).

I went on a 13-day cruise last year with my 94-year old Dad. He's in pretty good shape for 94, but he IS 94. He had no problem keeping up with the pace on most every walking tour we went on. We had a variety of excursions we could pick in each town and we selected, based upon what sounded "reasonable" for us to both do. With a 94-year old Dad, you can make a pretty good guess of my age, as well (I have my very own Medicare Card ).

I found the staterooms to be on the "smallish side" and we paid a whole lot extra for the largest stateroom (I wouldn't embellish it by calling it a "suite"). You indicated right up front that you're not part of the "Penhouse Crowd" and that you don't place too much, or exclusive, emphasis on the staterooms. That's good, because you'd probably be disappointed. My advice - don't waste money on an "upgraded" stateroom. The river cruises are very port-intensive and there won't be any "sea days". On a river cruise, your stateroom is primarily the place "you sleep" and change clothes.

The meals onboard are adequate and I found the house wines to be fine. Again, if your own personal "bar" is not set too high, you should be quite pleased with the majority of meals and complimentary spirits that are served. When we took our Avalon cruise, we could have purchased an all-inclusive drink package. It would have been another waste of money. At nearly $400/PP, we could not have possibly drunk enough to "get our money's worth". As the others have said, you can always walk into a local "package store" in one of the many towns you'll be visiting and bring something of interest back to the boat with you. Dad and I always had a bottle of our favorite single-malt in our stateroom and had no problem taking a tumbler of it up to the sky deck. Absolutely no problems encountered doing that.

The biggest problem you might encounter (and something they're dealing with right now) is what's happening "off the boat", not "on" the boat. The rivers in Europe are not as "constant" as the ocean. Sometimes there are high water levels, sometimes low water levels. Sometimes in winter or early spring, the rivers are frozen, and you may even have to deal with 100-year flooding (like what is happening right now in central Europe). All four of these conditions might/will have an adverse impact on your individual cruise itinerary. Do some research beforehand. You can plan as much as possible, and still get a nasty surprise.

Generally, you'll have to pay the full fare well in advance of the cruise and you will have extremely limited options for getting that money back, in case environmental conditions get nasty and turn your expected river cruise into a "bus ride" from port to port, instead. Just be aware that those things may happen. Otherwise, you will most likely have a wonderful time. Regards.
#16
New York
8,313 Posts
Joined Aug 2011
Our AMA cruise full payment was not due until 90 days before sailing. This is much better than some other river cruise lines, and should be factored in to decision making.
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I am not an employee of Cruise Critic and I don't speak for Cruise Critic. All opinions are mine alone. Also, I'm only a Host on the various River forums -- everywhere else I'm "just plain Jazz."

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#17
Ontario, Canada
2,756 Posts
Joined Nov 2008
Originally posted by pingpong1
JKGourmet -
Generally, you'll have to pay the full fare well in advance of the cruise and you will have extremely limited options for getting that money back, in case environmental conditions get nasty and turn your expected river cruise into a "bus ride" from port to port, instead. Just be aware that those things may happen. Otherwise, you will most likely have a wonderful time. Regards.

Actually, the only line that asks for full payment within 30 days of booking is Viking. All of the others have a "deposit" then final payment.

Some - such as Uniworld - will give you a better price if you pay in full. This may - or may not - be worth it. For us, this was a great deal when we booked for our Russian cruise.. the savings was more than we would have made in interest if we kept our money in the bank, and paid up 90 days prior to sailing.

Fran
#18
1,884 Posts
Joined Sep 2009
Originally posted by franski
Actually, the only line that asks for full payment within 30 days of booking is Viking.
... and that is not actually true in all cases either as it varies according to which country you book in.

In the UK for example Viking only require full payment 10 weeks before sailing.
#19
New York
8,313 Posts
Joined Aug 2011
Originally posted by Mark_T
... and that is not actually true in all cases either as it varies according to which country you book in.

In the UK for example Viking only require full payment 10 weeks before sailing.
But OP is in the US.
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Email me: [email protected]
Blogs: Jazzbeaux Blogs

I am not an employee of Cruise Critic and I don't speak for Cruise Critic. All opinions are mine alone. Also, I'm only a Host on the various River forums -- everywhere else I'm "just plain Jazz."

Booked:
Crown Princess Classic Canada & New England 10-2017
Azamara Quest Costa Rica 1-2018
AMA Discover Africa 5-2018
Viking Sun British Isles Explorer 8-2018
Celebrity Edge Caribbean B2B / Celebrity Equinox Caribbean B2B 1-2019 [will choose one!]

Completed:
Norwegian Pride of America Hawaii 10-2016; Azamara Quest Norwegian Fjords 8-2016; Celebrity Constellation Greek Isles 5-2016; AmaDagio Provence 9-2015; Celebrity Xpedition Galapagos 5-2015; Celebrity Eclipse Southern Carib 3-2015; Fresco Tours A Kinder Camino walking tour 9-2014; Crystal Serenity Mediterranean 5-2014; Coral Princess Panama Canal 1-2014; AmaCello Rhine 8-2013; Coral Princess Alaska 6-2013; Ireland Fly-Drive 9-2012; Norwegian Dawn Caribbean 3-2013 / Celebrity Summit Caribbean 1-2012 / Oceania Insignia Mediterranean 5-2011 / Fair Dinkum (Erie Canal bareboat) 7-2003 / Costa Italia Caribbean 5-1974
#20
Surprise (Phoenix) AZ
173 Posts
Joined Dec 2007
Hi PingPong. We're even closer neighbors since we live in Sun City Grand. Have done a lot of ocean cruises but running out of oceans so looking into the river experience. care to talk?
Bill