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River cruise Amsterdam to Budapest or Basel - which is better?

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Hi - we're looking to cruise from Amsterdam to either Budapest or Basel in next few years (April). We are a couple in our early 50s. Ending in Basel will suit our itinerary best as we go to Lucerne after that, however, I am torn between that and ending in Budapest (as a few of my friends have done this and loved it) and then flying to Lucerne from there. We are seasoned large ship cruisers and love these, so I am confident doing a longer river cruise (Basel cruises are typically 8 nights, whereas Budapest is usually 14 nights). Any recommendations and suggestions gratefully received.

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We would come down on the side of the 14 day cruise to Budapest. Our reason is that we like the longer river cruise itinerary and Budapest is a wonderful place to spend a few days pre or post cruise. If you have a nice weather day in Budapest, consider taking the regional train over to Szentendre for a few hours and complete change of pace. One other suggestion is to take the cruise in mid April so you can fly over to Amsterdam a few days early. Why? It is Tulip time and spending a day at Keukenhof is quite an experience.

Hank

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Hi - we're looking to cruise from Amsterdam to either Budapest or Basel in next few years (April). We are a couple in our early 50s. Ending in Basel will suit our itinerary best as we go to Lucerne after that, however, I am torn between that and ending in Budapest (as a few of my friends have done this and loved it) and then flying to Lucerne from there. We are seasoned large ship cruisers and love these, so I am confident doing a longer river cruise (Basel cruises are typically 8 nights, whereas Budapest is usually 14 nights). Any recommendations and suggestions gratefully received.

 

 

 

Hi! You should know that being a seasoned large ship cruiser doesn’t necessarily translate to river ship cruising. We have done both and loved both, but they are 2 completely different experiences. I keep telling people that the only thing they have in common is water and a vessel that floats.

 

I’ve read many reports from those who love ocean cruising, but really disliked the river experience, so I would advise doing a shorter cruise first. You can always come back and do a longer one the next time if you find that you loved it.

 

We did Amsterdam to Basel, and now we are booked on the longer Budapest to Amsterdam. I am really looking forward to it! And Lucerne is gorgeous. I wouldn’t give up on that no matter what you decide.

 

I will tell you why we love river cruising and how the two experiences differ. Maybe that will help you decide.

 

While I do love some sea days on an ocean cruise, there aren’t any on a river cruise - at least not on these two routes. The ships mostly sail at night and you dock in the next port fairly early, then go off to explore that port - usually with a tour group.

 

There will be some afternoons or mornings where the ship sails through very scenic portions of the river like the Rhine Gorge where all the Castles are, or the Wachau Valley on the Danube. So you have a leisurely sail with emphasis on the scenery rather than the shipboard activities

 

For the most part there isn’t a lot of nightlife or shipboard activity. I don’t think there are any lines that have a casino. Only a few have a pool or even a hot tub. Most don’t have gyms or spas - often there is a walking track. You should research the different lines and see which one will be a better fit. Some do have more active styles than others.

 

Most do not have food available 24/7. Usually there is breakfast and lunch during set times that is more casual. Sometimes there is a choice between a small buffet and a restaurant with a small menu of items that can be ordered from a server.

 

Dinner is most likely a set time and everyone eats together. We have only cruised with Viking, but I know there are other lines with a bit more flexibility. Don’t expect anything like Anytime Dining or Freestyle dining with multiple venues. There simply isn’t room on a small ship with a small galley.

 

Viking does have yummy muffins at the coffee station in the morning and fantastic cookies in the afternoon. There is no pizza, or ice cream stand. There are no drinks of the day . Viking does have a beverage package, but beer, wine and soft drinks are included with meals. You may also bring your own beverages and snacks onboard - no questions asked, no dirty looks, no corkage fees. Other lines may vary these options.

 

On Viking we generally get up early - tours usually leave between 8:30 and 9:30 - we head for the lovely Aquavit Terrace at the bow of the ship for a light breakfast from the buffet. You can eat in the restaurant which has a small buffet, and a menu of items you can order from a server.

 

Shortly after breakfast we join up with our tour group (Viking includes a tour at each port) and off we go to visit the port. The included tours sometimes involve a bus ride to the town. In others you are docked close enough to walk.

 

After the tour ends, you usually have time on your own to explore, or you can return to the ship for lunch. Sometimes there are shuttles if the ship is not docked close to the town. Sometimes the ship continues on to another port while you are on your excursion and the bus will take you to the new docking area.

 

We go back to the ship for lunch if we have booked an optional excursion for the afternoon. Sometimes we sample local food in the town if we have nothing else booked.

 

We love sailing on small ships with less than 200 passengers. We love that there are no photographers in your face at every turn. We don’t miss the loud DJ music, art auctions, gold by the inch, watch or 2 for 1 tee shirt sales (and the constant announcements about them).

 

Before dinner, Viking holds a Daily Briefing in the Lounge. They request that at least one person from your party attend because they give you a rundown of the next days events, times and schedule. There is a daily newsletter, but things change frequently on a river cruise due to river traffic, locks, port traffic, etc. often the newsletter will give the time for docking and it changes after it’s printed. One thing for sure on a river cruise is that you have to be flexible.

 

I’m not sure what other lines do regarding this, but I would think something similar. This is another complaint I hear from ocean cruise lovers who prefer to book their own excursions. You don’t get the definite times for docking and leaving until the night before and often those times change. I know there are people who do book independent excursions on river cruises, but they aren’t easy to plan, and both you and your tour operator have to be flexible.

 

We have found that it’s easier and less stressful to just go with the flow and book the ship excursions - either included or optional. Again different lines do things differently, but all are subject to the vagaries of river travel.

 

On Viking, dinner comes after the Briefing and is held in one sitting in the restaurant. There is no assigned seating and there are no tables for 2. Again other lines do things in a slightly different way, but all have the small ship restrictions. For the most part there is only 1 dining venue. Some lines, Viking included, have begun to experiment with adding a small alternate venue.

 

There isn’t much in the way of evening entertainment. That’s another complaint I often hear on the river cruise boards here and in other cruise discussion groups.

 

We don’t do the shows or comedy clubs on ocean cruises, so we are fine with that. There is usually a piano player in the lounge and the Program Director (CD on an ocean cruise) often organizes a trivia game or other group activity. Sometimes they bring in local entertainment - a singer, a musical group or someone like a glassblower who will do a demonstration.

 

I don’t know if this will help you decide which route to do, but at least I hope it will give you some notion of what to expect. Like ocean cruises have wind, waves and weather affect them, river cruises have quirks as well.

 

There are water levels - too high and the ships can’t get under the many bridges, too low and the water isn’t deep enough for passage.

 

River ports are getting crowded due to the popularity of river cruising and ships are often docked together in what is known as rafting. Your ship could be docked 2, 3 or 4 out from the dock tied right smack up to another ship. If you have a room with a balcony or French balcony, you can shake hands with the people on another ship! Don’t leave your drapes open!

 

To get to shore, you walk through the other ship or over it. They mention this in the fine print of river cruise documents and on they websites but it often comes as a shock to those who aren’t prepared.

 

Anyway, I’ll leave you with all this to consider, but I’ll be happy to answer any questions. And I’m sure others who have traveled on different lines will chime in as well.

 

Come over to the River Cruise board for more information also.

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Forums

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Cyber Cat nicely covered the differences between ocean and river cruises. Personally, the river cruises suit me very well because I enjoy port intensive itineraries and don't care about the casino or shows on big ocean ships. One big complaint about river cruises I hear is that there is no nightlife - everybody is in bed by 11pm because everybody is up early the next morning to explore the next city. Ships tours and shuttles head out at 8:30. You are welcome to explore on your own, but you won't find breakfast served after the tours start.

 

Basel is a really great town, and Lucerne is a 1 hour beautiful train ride away. For your first river cruise, I'd do the shorter itinerary to make sure you enjoy the experience.

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Wow - thank you for all your responses so far (especially Cyber Kat). I really appreciate the time taken to do so!!

We are travelling from NZ and think this may be the last "big" trip we do, first because it will be expensive and second because my husband has had 3 spinal surgeries and a hip replacement (due to have his second hip done soon). Because of this, we need to travel business class (poor me) so the cost of getting to Europe in the first place is a bit pricey to say the least. My husband is fully mobile and does a lot of walking for work, so activities while we're in Europe doesn't bother us. He just can't fly for very long in the cramped seats (he is almost 6ft4inches and has trouble flying to Australia (4 hours).

We have been to Europe before in our twenties - and before surgery - so we want to revisit the things we loved and see a few new things. We have family in both London and Amsterdam - so we were thinking something along the following lines:

 

Fly Auckland to London

5-7 nights in London visiting family

5-7 nights in Amsterdam visiting family

River cruise Amsterdam to Basel (or Budapest)

Basel (or Budapest) to Mount Pilatus (we stayed previously in hotel on top of Mt Pilatus and want to go back)

Fly Lucerne to Venice

9 - 12 night Italy tour with either Trafalgar or Monogram - 3 nights each in Venice, Florence and Rome with travel between cities by high speed train (again, my husband could not cope with long hours on a bus). May choose Monogram for this tour as we want to also visit Cinque Terre for 2 - 3 nights and I've heard they are more flexible with putting packages together?

Fly Rome to Auckland

 

From reading everyone's comments, I am more inclined towards the longer river cruise - I'm confident we will love it - and the longer time will mean some days we can relax and not worry about missing out on too much.

 

Now to start saving ... :)

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This information has been really interesting to me also. We have talked about river cruising but have not done it yet. :D

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I've also found the boards really useful planning other trips, but haven't really posted my own questions before. Everyone is so helpful and generous with their time in posting back. So appreciated.

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After 20 ocean cruises we did the Viking Amsterdam to Budapest last year and we throughly enjoyed it. I was going to try to explain some differences between ocean and river cruising but I think CyberKat hit about 110% of them. Just be prepared for a totally different experience. My one comment about the Viking trip was that the Amsterdam to Budapest direction had the advantage of 2 full days in Vienna verses much less time in the other direction. That allowed us to arrange some OYO touring there.

We did hit low water but Viking handled our ship switch very professionally

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Wow - thank you for all your responses so far (especially Cyber Kat). I really appreciate the time taken to do so!!

 

We are travelling from NZ and think this may be the last "big" trip we do, first because it will be expensive and second because my husband has had 3 spinal surgeries and a hip replacement (due to have his second hip done soon). Because of this, we need to travel business class (poor me) so the cost of getting to Europe in the first place is a bit pricey to say the least. My husband is fully mobile and does a lot of walking for work, so activities while we're in Europe doesn't bother us. He just can't fly for very long in the cramped seats (he is almost 6ft4inches and has trouble flying to Australia (4 hours).

 

We have been to Europe before in our twenties - and before surgery - so we want to revisit the things we loved and see a few new things. We have family in both London and Amsterdam - so we were thinking something along the following lines:

 

 

 

Fly Auckland to London

 

5-7 nights in London visiting family

 

5-7 nights in Amsterdam visiting family

 

River cruise Amsterdam to Basel (or Budapest)

 

Basel (or Budapest) to Mount Pilatus (we stayed previously in hotel on top of Mt Pilatus and want to go back)

 

Fly Lucerne to Venice

 

9 - 12 night Italy tour with either Trafalgar or Monogram - 3 nights each in Venice, Florence and Rome with travel between cities by high speed train (again, my husband could not cope with long hours on a bus). May choose Monogram for this tour as we want to also visit Cinque Terre for 2 - 3 nights and I've heard they are more flexible with putting packages together?

 

Fly Rome to Auckland

 

 

 

From reading everyone's comments, I am more inclined towards the longer river cruise - I'm confident we will love it - and the longer time will mean some days we can relax and not worry about missing out on too much.

 

 

 

Now to start saving ... :)

 

 

 

WOW! Sounds like you have a fabulous trip planned. Considering the circumstances, I’d say go for the longer cruise. We did Mt Pilatus in Lucerne and I would love to stay in one of those hotels.

 

I think your husband will be fine on the river. So much nicer than having to live out of a suitcase and you get to visit all those wonderful places.

 

Enjoy and please let us know which you decide to do!

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Forums

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