Thinking about first time River Cruise and have questions.

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#1
TN
12,252 Posts
Joined Feb 2003
We are experienced large cruise ship cruisers who are thinking about doing a River Cruise to get away from the masses. Could someone please answer a few questions for us?

What is considered to be the best River Cruise line? We would prefer a newer ship leaving or ending in Amsterdam, like the Viking Gullveig that I have been studying.

What is included in the rate on a River Cruise? I have heard alcohol and tours, plus sometimes bicycles. Is this true or does it depend on RC companies?

For those that have cruised on the larger ships, what type of River Cruise accommodation do you find equals the size of a standard balcony cabin on say a ship like the newer Celebrity ships?

On these smaller ships, are the cabins soundproof? Any location better than another? We are probably thinking a standard cabin with full balcony.

Are you automatically seated with other passengers for meals, or can you sit by yourself? Is there room service for breakfast?

Thank you. I am sure we will have several more questions if we decide to book.
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#2
Kentucky
238 Posts
Joined Jan 2012
River cruising is a different animal than big boat ocean cruising. I do both. The rooms on river boats are smaller but very efficiently organized. We like Uniworld, I.e., the baths are marble but small and the beds and linens lovely.

If you choose a trip which goes thru locks at night, you "may" hear it.

Seating at dinner is open seating, though I read of one line in Russia that assigns you a table. You may sit by yourself or others may ask to join you. You choose your seat--it's not assigned.

Re: What's included in the fare. For Uniworld, it's transportation to/from the ship even if you don't book air thru them; beginning in 2014, tips are included.
Wine/beer is served at dinner--not sure about lunch--I only drink at dinner (ok, ok, I do have a cocktail in the lounge during the daily CD meeting before dinner)
And each stop has an included tour. Some itineraries offer optional (additional $) tours.

I'd read the river cruise reviews here on CC. I seems everyone has a line preference and most lines seem at a minimum, adequate, so you'll get many answers to which is "best".

Happy planning!
#3
Weston, FL
307 Posts
Joined Feb 2013
I know this does not directly answer your question, and you may not want to hear this, but...if you spend some time looking at some of the threads on this forum and spend some time looking at the websites of several river cruise lines you will get answers to questions that you may not have even thought of asking.

Take a look at itineraries’ that start or end in Amsterdam and see if you find a cruise that goes to places that would be of interest to you. That seems to be a big deciding factor in many peoples choice. I am sure some people will chime in here, but I dedicated a couple of hours to doing some research on my own and learned a lot.

I think most, if not all of the major RC lines now offer wine and beer with lunch and dinner.
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GCT M/S Provence, April 2017 Carnival Imagination, April 2016  NCL Norwegian Sky, March 2014  Viking Idun, November 2013  Royal Caribbean Voyager of the Seas, April 2004  Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas, April 2003  NCL Norwegian Sun, March 2002  Celebrity Cruises Century, August 1999  Admiral Cruise Lines Emerald Seas, July 1988
#4
Santa Paula CA
3,415 Posts
Joined Apr 2000
What is considered to be the best River Cruise line? We would prefer a newer ship leaving or ending in Amsterdam, like the Viking Gullveig that I have been studying.

It depends on your budget. IMO Viking is at the low end. AMA and Tauck are at the high end

What is included in the rate on a River Cruise? I have heard alcohol and tours, plus sometimes bicycles. Is this true or does it depend on RC companies?

It does depend on the company. Go to each company's website and see what is included

For those that have cruised on the larger ships, what type of River Cruise accommodation do you find equals the size of a standard balcony cabin on say a ship like the newer Celebrity ships?

As kathie indicated, the cabins are smaller bu very efficient

On these smaller ships, are the cabins soundproof? Any location better than another? We are probably thinking a standard cabin with full balcony.

Because of the dimensions of the locks, the width of the river boats is limited. Very few have full balconies. Some ships have none, some have French Balconies

Are you automatically seated with other passengers for meals, or can you sit by yourself?
Depends on the ship

Is there room service for breakfast?
On most lines no room service
The best thing is to read all the comments on this board. Also there are pictures and stories of the river cruises we have taken on our website. Another website that covers these cruises differently is www.thepreismans.com. I had the pleasure of meeting them recently.
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It serves no purpose to list all the cruises I have been on chronologically. Many of the lines or ships do not exist any more, or have been renamed. I have sailed on NCL,Bermuda Star, Regency, Royal, Silverseas, Mississippi Queen, Vantage, Marco Polo, Scottish Highlander, Princess, Victoria, Hebridean Princess, Paul Gauguin, Regent, Oceania, Cunard, Rembrandt, and Lev Tolstoy.
#5
FL
14,454 Posts
Joined Jul 2003
Not all river cruise lines offer tables for two. We look for that as we prefer whether to choose to dine alone or with others.

Inclusions are not uniform so be sure to study the various options for specifics.

We have been on 4 different boats so far on the river, 6 river cruises total. The last and best so far was the beautiful AmaCerto. She was very new when we were aboard and gorgeous! Lovely decor, comfortably appointed cabins, abundant attention to detail.

We chose the twin balcony stateroom which was large and had both an interior sitting area with floor to ceiling windows and an external balcony. High quality bedding and linen, power shower, free internet and movies made for a very nice in room experience.

AMA is our preferred line, with two wonderful trips so far and two more planned. Excellent food and service, a warm and gracious staff and crew, diversified included excursions and enjoyable entertainment. We enjoyed having on onboard masseuse, a heated pool on the upper deck, an included specialty restaurant and just an overall wonderful experience on the AmaCerto. We had an equally wonderful cruise on the not brand new but still lovely AmaDante, which was our first AMA cruise in 2011 and which won us over.

On all of our river cruises, there was some noise when navigating the locks. It is not really possible to avoid that by choosing a specific location. However, we do prefer staterooms not at the very front or back as these are generally noisier due to proximity to public areas.
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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
#6
Northern California
216 Posts
Joined Jan 2010
The tips above are all very helpful and if you follow them you should have no trouble finding a river line that suits your particular preferences. A few other comments:

- We've found we spend less time in the cabin on a river cruise than on ocean voyages. Not much time for relaxing in the cabin if you plan on touring each city/village on the itin.

- The 'French balconies' on many ships are actually a sliding glass door with a railing across the opening to prevent pax from accidentally tumbling out the door if open. We felt they were a fine substitution for an actual balcony, as there are other places on the ship where one can sit outside. Others may not agree.

- Smoking policies on many river ships are quite restrictive. Choose a line with a policy that works for you in this area.

- A cabin on the top deck of rooms (under most ships' sundecks) may have late evening or early morning noise from gangways being deployed or put away. They are stored on the open top deck and moved with a little winch or crane. When one was lowered HARD onto the deck above our cabin late one night, it was quite loud, albeit only briefly. The ships we have been on restrict jogging on the sundeck between 10pm and maybe 6am for the comfort of guests under the track.

- There can also be some engine noise or vibration near the rear of the ship, depending on its age and whether the ship is moving up- or down-current. We never had a cabin near the back but noticed the vibration in a rearward public room when the ship was underway.

Whatever you choose, enjoy your river cruise! To us it's a perfect way to see charming small towns that would otherwise be a lot of work to reach.
#7
Mackay Australia
786 Posts
Joined Jan 2010
I am one poster that makes up spread-sheets before making a decision but all circumstances are different. As an example the Australian dollar was high against the US dollar and that made Tauck cheaper than a number of it's competitors when we made our decision on what company to use - taking away the standard argument that Tauck is just too expensive. US people can take advantage of companies like Vantage, Gateway and others whose deals are not available to us down here. I believe it all boils down to what you want to see and how much you budget to spend. I'm on the side of the "all inclusive cruise" because that personally takes away any mistakes I might make when it comes to gratuities and when I go on a holiday paying extra for optionals is an anathema to me but that is subjective and personal.

I recently started a thread of the process I went through in selecting a river cruise line for our big holiday in 2014.
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1852632

I hope this may be of some help in your decision making.

Rod
#8
TN
12,252 Posts
Joined Feb 2003
I did do some searching on this board before asking my questions. Not much on here about River Cruising. I also checked out Vikings website and could not find the answer...at least it was not front and center...about what was included.

Originally posted by Talisker92
The best thing is to read all the comments on this board. Also there are pictures and stories of the river cruises we have taken on our website. Another website that covers these cruises differently is www.thepreismans.com. I had the pleasure of meeting them recently.
Thank you for this. I love the Preisman reviews. I will also check out your website.

Originally posted by Ozjohnno
I recently started a thread of the process I went through in selecting a river cruise line for our big holiday in 2014.
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1852632

I hope this may be of some help in your decision making.

Rod
I'll take a look at your thread, also.

Thank you all.
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UPCOMING:
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#9
Bluffton,SC
3,968 Posts
Joined Nov 2007
The absolute top of the line is Tauck. Everything is included except airfare. Transfers are included, all tours, bikes on board, all drinks, everything. Rooms do not have balconies, but French Balconies. Two new ships in 2014.
I will be sailing on Tauck on July 14 and promise to do a report when I return.
Terri
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September 2011-MS Nieuw Amsterdam-Magic of the Mediterranean-24 Days
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#11
6,446 Posts
Joined Apr 2002
Originally posted by tbrein
The absolute top of the line is Tauck. Everything is included except airfare. Transfers are included, all tours, bikes on board, all drinks, everything. Rooms do not have balconies, but French Balconies. Two new ships in 2014.
I will be sailing on Tauck on July 14 and promise to do a report when I return.
Terri
Have a wonderful cruise! Looking forward to hearing all about it when you return.
#12
Bluffton,SC
3,968 Posts
Joined Nov 2007
Originally posted by twinkletoes4445
Have a wonderful cruise! Looking forward to hearing all about it when you return.
Thanks. Hope all is well with you. We leave for Vienna on Sunday and have a few days pre-cruise there with a side trip to Salzburg. Then we're taking the train to Budapest on July 14 to begin the cruise.
Terri
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June 1986-MV Atlantic-Bermuda-7 Days
July 2007-MS Zuiderdam- Alaska-7 Days
September 2008-MS Zuiderdam- Magic of the Mediterranean-24 Days
January 2009-MS Noordam-Southern Caribbean-10 Days
January 2010-MS Maasdam-Panama Canal Transit-14 Days
January 2011-MS Maasdam-Southern Caribbean-11 Days
September 2011-MS Nieuw Amsterdam-Magic of the Mediterranean-24 Days
March 2012-MS Veendam-South America and Inca Explorer-31 Days
January 2013-MS Noordam-Southern Caribbean-21 Days
July 2013-Ms Treasures-Budapest to Amsterdam-14 Days
January 2015-MS Noordam-Southern Caribbean-11 Days
July 2015-MS Zuiderdam-Adriatic and Mediterranean Dream-22 Days
January 2016-SeaDream 1- Marigot to Barbados-7 Days
August 2016-Oceania Insignia-Dover to Rome-Artisans and Explorers-19 Days
December 2016-MS Rotterdam-Eastern Caribbean-10 Days

March 2017-Oceania Riviera-Caribbean Hideaways-10 Days
August 2017-Tauck Swiss Emerald-French Escapade 14 Days
#13
6,446 Posts
Joined Apr 2002
Originally posted by tbrein
Thanks. Hope all is well with you. We leave for Vienna on Sunday and have a few days pre-cruise there with a side trip to Salzburg. Then we're taking the train to Budapest on July 14 to begin the cruise.
Terri
All is well here. Our first grandchild (a boy) arrived almost 2 weeks ago. Everyone doing good.

Enjoy your cruise! I am jealous!! We had so much fun on our cruise ... I wish we were also with you on this one.
#14
Ohio
773 Posts
Joined Apr 2009
As others have mentioned, Tauck is generally considered top of the line. The next level seems to include AMA, Avalon, Uniworld, Scenic & Vantage. A-Rosa is an European line that is just starting to market to Americans and I don't know if many have cruised with them yet to determine where they fit. Viking is definitely the mass-market, lower tier.

Some things to consider when you are deciding on your first river cruise:
1. Itinerary - compare different lines carefully. Even doing the same cruise (Amsterdam to Basel or Amsterdam to Budapest) each line may have different cities they stop in.
2. Compare cabin sized - Avalon is known for having the largest standard cabin sizes.
3. Look at total passenger capacity. Viking's newest ships put many more passengers on basically the same size ship as most of the other companies. This may result in open areas / lounges feeling cramped and getting very loud.
4. What's included: as mentioned, most lines include wine and beer at dinner, some at lunch, some have champagne at breakfast. Most lines include at least 1 excursion a day. Some lines have bikes for use. Some include tipping. You have to decide what is important for you.
5. Length of cruise - some suggest that you do a shorter cruise for your fist time (7 days vs 14 or longer). This way - if you don't like it, you won't be stuck for a longer period.

I highly suggest that you read many of the recent posts about how all of the companies handled the recent flooding in Europe. Viking had more complaints that all other companies combined. Some will say that is because they have more ships and more passengers on the rivers than the other companies. I really think how a company handles adversity shows more about them than how they deal with day to day issues.

You also need to be aware that all companies reserve the right to modify itinerary as needed. There are many old, low bridges in Europe and if the water is too high, the ships cannot go under them. Also - depending on the itinerary and water levels, the top deck may be closed frequently so the ship can go under these bridges. If the top deck is closed, is there adequate space to hang out or are you stuck in your cabin? Likewise, if the rivers are very low, some boats can't sail. In either water situation, there is always a chance that your cruise will be turned into a bus trip. You need to be prepared for this possibility.

I also highly recommend getting travel insurance as soon as you put down your deposit. Due to the recent flooding, many recommend getting cancel for any reason. It costs more but you can get all of your money back and be in charge of your decisions. Some cruisers were not offered refunds but only future cruise credit. Some felt they had no choice but to continue with the bus tour because they had no chance of getting refunds, etc.

Good luck with your research and keep asking questions. Go to all of the companies websites and request brochures be mailed to you. Then you can read all of the details and compare.
#15
FL
14,454 Posts
Joined Jul 2003
Originally posted by YoungDubFan
As others have mentioned, Tauck is generally considered top of the line. The next level seems to include AMA, Avalon, Uniworld, Scenic & Vantage. A-Rosa is an European line that is just starting to market to Americans and I don't know if many have cruised with them yet to determine where they fit. Viking is definitely the mass-market, lower tier.

Some things to consider when you are deciding on your first river cruise:
1. Itinerary - compare different lines carefully. Even doing the same cruise (Amsterdam to Basel or Amsterdam to Budapest) each line may have different cities they stop in.
2. Compare cabin sized - Avalon is known for having the largest standard cabin sizes.
3. Look at total passenger capacity. Viking's newest ships put many more passengers on basically the same size ship as most of the other companies. This may result in open areas / lounges feeling cramped and getting very loud.
4. What's included: as mentioned, most lines include wine and beer at dinner, some at lunch, some have champagne at breakfast. Most lines include at least 1 excursion a day. Some lines have bikes for use. Some include tipping. You have to decide what is important for you.
5. Length of cruise - some suggest that you do a shorter cruise for your fist time (7 days vs 14 or longer). This way - if you don't like it, you won't be stuck for a longer period.

I highly suggest that you read many of the recent posts about how all of the companies handled the recent flooding in Europe. Viking had more complaints that all other companies combined. Some will say that is because they have more ships and more passengers on the rivers than the other companies. I really think how a company handles adversity shows more about them than how they deal with day to day issues.

.
IMO Vantage is a step down from AMA, Uniworld and Avalon.

I disagree that Avalon is known for having the largest cabin sizes. On their suite ships, the Panorama suites are spacious, but no more so than the twin balcony on the new AMA ships, AmaCerto class. One must compare ships and not lines as you cannot generalize.

Our French balcony cabins on Avalon Luminary and Affinity were the same size as our French balcony cabin on AmaDante and very similarly configured. Both were comfortable and well designed. Our Panorama Suite on Avalon's Panorama was lovely and the same size as our twin balcony on AmaCerto but without an external balcony. Both cabins were simply lovely.

The basic French balcony cabin on Viking's new longships is ~132 sq ft, far smaller than the equivalent on Avalon and AMA.

Compare ships as well as lines to make an informed decision.
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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
#16
TN
12,252 Posts
Joined Feb 2003
All good advice...thank you. We think we are going to stick to cruising with Celebrity for the next trip. I have Bookmarked this thread for future use.
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UPCOMING:
Celebrity Solstice - February 3, 2018 - LA, Australia/New Zealand
Celebrity Eclipse - May 10, 2018 - Scotland, Ireland/Iceland
Celebrity Edge - December 16, 2018 - Inaugural Cruise
#17
san jose ca
369 Posts
Joined Sep 2011
Thank you OP for this post. I am just beginning to think about a RC and had the same questions as you. I also did look on Websites and this site for answers but did not readily find them.
#18
Palm Bay, Florida
262 Posts
Joined Dec 2011
Originally posted by Iamthesea
All good advice...thank you. We think we are going to stick to cruising with Celebrity for the next trip. I have Bookmarked this thread for future use.
Enjoyed your posts, DH and I are both Celebrity Cruisers, but looking for river cruise for 2014, research is fun.

Enjoy Alaska, hope you are including the interior as well as SouthEast portion. We did Ak 2 yrs ago, and LOVED it. Had some cool days, DEFINATELY pack sweatshirts and a jacket(layer), and you will be ok. They are having some unusual weather this year, quite warm!! We lived in Anchorage for 4.5 yrs, so I do hope you get to interior, fabulous, and nothing like lower 48!
Enjoy
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Barbara & Sam :
Love to Cruise:
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June 4, 17 -Equinox West Caribbean with Family and friends
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#19
Granby,MA
223 Posts
Joined Jul 2011
We have had several friends who have gone on river cruises..they took Grand Circle (gct.com) one couple is on one right now! Wondering about floods?
This is an American cruise line...which makes the experience different. Everyone speaks English...for one thing...just a consideration