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SuzCruise

We liked Crystal, what other line should we consider?

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We've only done one river cruise, a Christmas Market cruise on the Mozart a few years ago.  We are interested in making a river cruise part a longer vacation and the Crystal itineraries don't really appeal.  What other lines should we consider?  Food is extremely important.  We like luxury accommodations and service.  We'd prefer not to cruise with children.  We like some nightlife, but aren't into big shows.  A little music and conversation with new friends over an after dinner drink, and we are happy.  We are more inclined to tour on our own then doing the included tours, though we did a few tours with the Mozart and enjoyed them quite a bit, but only when there was a fast moving option.  The e-bikes were a lot of fun and we'd like the option of biking on our own to see some locations.  We aren't interested in a cruise/land tour combo.  We'll be doing our own thing before and after the cruise, so we want the trip to start when we get on the boat and not consist of bussing us to other places.  So, please tell us what other lines compare favorably to Crystal that we should consider. Thanks in advance for sharing your experience.

 

 

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Hopefully Crystal will add more itineraries when they build more river ships, but that seems to be a ways off as they have other irons in the fire.  Since you say that food is important, I would recommend AmaWaterways as the next river cruise line to consider:  they are consistently rated by Berlitz as having the best food of all river lines and their river ships dominate the top 10.  They also do well with the other points you ask about:

•  Luxury accommodations and service – Uniworld, Scenic and Tauck are highly rated in these areas, although we have found AMA just fine.  [You can read my blogs through the links in my signature below.] You can book a suite on most river ships, but you don't get much more for your money [not like going from a cabin to a suite on Celebrity]  AMA does have larger cabins on their newer ships and more dining choices.

•  Children – there usually are very few children on a river cruise because most river ship cabins (and even the suites) are for 2 people only so the cost gets astronomical with kids

•  Nightlife – there are no big shows on river ships, but some lines bring on local folkloric groups [we had a lovely French chanteuse one night on our Ama Rhone cruise] – "music and conversation with new friends" in the lounge after dinner pretty much sums it up most of the time

•  Tours are included on ALL river cruise ships with high-level food and service, and on the higher quality lines you are seeking the tours should be equivalent to what you experienced on Crystal Mozart.  AMA was one of the first lines to have a large fleet of bicycles onboard all their ships, with some bike-based excursions and also the ability to take bikes off on your own – they also partner with Backroads, which offers bike-intensive cruises on AMA ships.

•  Cruise-land tour – AMA used to market some of their itineraries as cruise/land with a cruise-only option; this must have been confusing so now they market cruise-only as the default option with pre- and post-cruise add-ons if you wish.

•  Finally, since your Crystal river cruise was on Mozart – AMA is just about to launch AmaMagna, which will be a double-wide design similar to Mozart.  It will have the open public spaces that you experienced, and which are not possible on regular-width river ships.

 

One other point about river cruise line reputations: they are generally built on the experience on the rivers of Western Europe.  Many of these river cruise lines also offer cruises in Asia, Africa and Russia – and the experience in those places may be different because of factors outside the control of the cruise line.  For example [even though it's Europe :classic_wink:] all cruise ships on the Douro in Portugal until recently were controlled by a local Portuguese company monopoly – the cruise lines did what they could to make their leased ships look like the company product, but they couldn't control every aspect.  But the trend is to design and build ships directly, so the product will be what customers have come to expect: e.g. the new Viking Ra on the Nile.

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We have done only 2 river cruises, both on Tauck, and agree with Got2Cruise about the quality of the experience.

 

On 1/6/2019 at 10:39 PM, SuzCruise said:

 Food is extremely important

We thought the food was excellent, comparable to what we would get on luxury ocean cruise lines, like Crystal.

 

On 1/6/2019 at 10:39 PM, SuzCruise said:

We like luxury accommodations and service.

Tauck is unique (I believe) in terms of having an entire deck of their largest accommodation (category 7), extremely comfortable.  One down side- french balcony only.  Service was over the top, best I have experienced on any cruise line.

 

On 1/6/2019 at 10:39 PM, SuzCruise said:

We'd prefer not to cruise with children.

Not likely to be a problem here.

 

On 1/6/2019 at 10:39 PM, SuzCruise said:

We like some nightlife, but aren't into big shows.  A little music and conversation with new friends over an after dinner drink, and we are happy.

No big shows, at most they bring on local talent, very entertaining.  Lots of opportunities to meet and converse with new friends.

 

On 1/6/2019 at 10:39 PM, SuzCruise said:

We are more inclined to tour on our own then doing the included tours, though we did a few tours with the Mozart and enjoyed them quite a bit, but only when there was a fast moving option.  The e-bikes were a lot of fun and we'd like the option of biking on our own to see some locations.

All tours are included in your cruise fare, no options to spend more.  Obviously, you can do as you please, but the tours on Tauck, all by local guides are smaller groups than on other lines, and do tend to move along  just fine.  Bikes are provided in most ports, lots of opportunities for this.

 

While I cannot compare Tauck to other River Cruise lines, I would say that it would be a River line equivalent of the luxury ocean lines, such as Crystal or Regent.

Bob

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Thanks for all of the advice!  I'll definitely look into all of your suggestions!

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I think I am sticking with Crystal. I was burned by AMA a long time ago (they probably have improved but I was not impressed with the response of the corporate office and it is the same leadership). IMO - a company is only has good as how they respond to a bad situation. 

 

I hope they expand their fleet in the near future.

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8 hours ago, Coral said:

IMO - a company is only has good as how they respond to a bad situation. 

 

While we had a great time onboard, and were very satisfied in most aspects, to your point it would be a very long time before we'd do another river cruise with Crystal.  This summer was very difficult in Europe for all river cruise operators, and horribly poor communications with Crystal's "river butler" and corporate staff both before and after our journey really fell far short.  It literally took months to get any response from Crystal after our journey, and frankly we just gave up in trying to communicate with them.  Have never had such a bad communications experience with any other cruise line.  

 

From trading notes with friends, our next river cruise is likely Tauck - have heard many positive comments from friends who have been on Crystal, Tauck, and Viking.  

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25 minutes ago, johng75370 said:

 

While we had a great time onboard, and were very satisfied in most aspects, to your point it would be a very long time before we'd do another river cruise with Crystal.  This summer was very difficult in Europe for all river cruise operators, and horribly poor communications with Crystal's "river butler" and corporate staff both before and after our journey really fell far short.  It literally took months to get any response from Crystal after our journey, and frankly we just gave up in trying to communicate with them.  Have never had such a bad communications experience with any other cruise line.  

 

From trading notes with friends, our next river cruise is likely Tauck - have heard many positive comments from friends who have been on Crystal, Tauck, and Viking.  

Interesting - I read bad things about all lines this summer in reference to communication. I don't think anyone said anything good about any line. Hopefully they were able to resolve things to your satisfaction.

 

I sailed in November and thankfully my cruise was minimally affected (a bus ride instead of docking in Bratislava). I was lucky and booked it knowing of the situation and knowing my trip would be minimally affected. Many booked it far in advance (probably like you) and had to live with the adjustments probably with little notice.

 

Tauck has an amazing reputation for their land trips. I wish there was more info about Tauck River on these boards.

 

BTW - Amawaterways never responded to my correspondence.

Edited by Coral

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8 minutes ago, Coral said:

I don't think anyone said anything good about any line. Hopefully they were able to resolve things to your satisfaction.

 

Actually, we know of other people in similar situations who were given the option of changing to a different cruise, of getting significant future cruise credit or onboard credit.  Later last summer Crystal started doing that as well,  but not in our case (where we booked only a few weeks ahead, were told 2 days before we'd be cruising a different river, were not able to change to another itinerary, were given minor OBC only to have it taken away when we were onboard because they made a "mistake" in giving it to us, and then not being able to get any answers EVER to questions afterwards).  Yes everyone had problems, but Crystal did a worse job initially than other lines facing similar issues, IMO. 

 

And no, neither us nor our TA were able to get anything resolved, let alone "to our satisfaction".  I think very highly of Crystal overall, but in our specific situation we found Crystal severely lacking in their willingness or ability to try to help us.  

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2 minutes ago, johng75370 said:

 

Actually, we know of other people in similar situations who were given the option of changing to a different cruise, of getting significant future cruise credit or onboard credit.  Later last summer Crystal started doing that as well,  but not in our case (where we booked only a few weeks ahead, were told 2 days before we'd be cruising a different river, were not able to change to another itinerary, were given minor OBC only to have it taken away when we were onboard because they made a "mistake" in giving it to us, and then not being able to get any answers EVER to questions afterwards). 

Thanks. There was a recent post (review) of a Christmas Markets Amawaterways trip where they were given a huge amount towards a future cruise because they were switching rivers and then at the last minute when it rained and they could do the original cruise, it was taken away. I thought that was tacky. I have friends who did Viking and will never sail again or use their future cruise credit due to their bus trip. 

 

Sorry your situation was never resolved. 

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If you refuse to deal with companies again because of one screw-up, you will very quickly run out of companies to deal with because nobody's perfect.  We sailed with AMA three times and had wonderful experiences on all three – and AMA's newer ships seem even nicer than the ones we sailed.  We have also sailed with Crystal [ocean] once and enjoyed that too – it didn't live up to the hype and we are certainly not 'crystalized,' but I have not written off a return to Crystal in the future.  In any case, as Keith says, 'choice is good.'

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6 hours ago, Host Jazzbeau said:

If you refuse to deal with companies again because of one screw-up, you will very quickly run out of companies to deal with because nobody's perfect.  

It wasn't one screw up. It was several on one sailing and then their refusal to respond.

 

I actually preferred Crystal River to Crystal Ocean. Though would sail either in a heart beat.

 

Edited by Coral

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I'm giving my question a bit of a bump, to see if there are any new opinions and to add another question.  On Crystal, dining was open, when and with whom you choose.  Is it the same on Ama, Uniworld and Tauck?  All have interesting itineraries, though age of ship and added land tours are concerning on some lines.  

 

Thanks in advance!

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We loved our Uniworld cruise last year. It was our first river cruise, but have sailed many ocean cruises. The food was very good, and the service excellent . 

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SuzCruise, since I last responded in January, I have taken 2 Uniworld cruises on the rivers of France.  I can answer about open dining, on both Tauck and Uniworld it is open, can't say about AMA.  

We had a wonderful time on our Uniworld cruises, and were were extremely impressed with the service. However, I must say that if it came down to a choice between Tauck and Uniworld for a similar itinerary, it would be an easy choice for us, Tauck by a wide margin.  Here is what I wrote at the end of my Uniworld trip report:

 

Finally, as much as enjoyed this trip and was impressed with the Uniworld product, I feel I would be remiss if I didn't mention that I think I would have been a lot more blown away had I never cruised on Tauck.  I say this not to demean Uniworld, but it is difficult for me to not compare.  There are quite a few things that Tauck does, that Uniworld does not , here are some of the most notable:

·   Uniworld had one person who is Cruise Manager, responsible for the organization of onboard activities and tours.  Tauck has a Cruise Director for onboard activities and three(!) Tour Directors.  As good as A.J. was, there is no way that one person can do the job compared  to 4. The Tour Directors are all very knowledgeable, but  each have their own areas of special expertise.  This is very helpful in daily briefings, and in having lectures and presentations during the cruise.

·   Gala evenings, such as a dinner in a castle with opera singers and classical music

·   Special tours such as a tour of an opera house when it is closed to the public.  Including a surprise performance by opera singers.

·   Evening onboard cultural events, such as a string quartet in Prague, local dancers in Strasbourg, Alpine Horn player in Basel. They have other evening events such as Name That Tune and trivia.  On one of our cruises, the crew put on a show.  At the very least, there is a piano player in the evening.

 

Having said that, given the fact that Uniworld's portfolio of itineraries is far more extensive than that of Tauck, there is little doubt in my mind that we will cruise with Uniworld again.  And when we do, we will do so with eager anticipation and high expectations.

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Boblerm, thanks so much for sharing your experience.  Tauck does sound fabulous, and we will definitely be considering it for a later date.  They don't have an itinerary that works for us for this occasion though.  Your comment about how you would have liked Uniworld better if you hadn't experienced Tauck is exactly what we are concerned with coming from Crystal River Cruises.  We are trying to focus on the itinerary and then just make sure that the line we choose has the elements that are key to us.  Your insight is very helpful.  

 

Did Uniworld have bike tours or bikes available for use in port?  We'll be cruising in October, so weather might affect the use of bikes, but Crystal kept them on board for our use on our cruise in November, though their were no organized tours.  What time does breakfast end?  We have had a problem with some ocean lines having super early breakfast hours, which doesn't work for us when on vacation.  

 

Thanks again for your help!  

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Bikes were available on uniworld. There were also group bike excursions. 

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Thanks vino100.  Were those excursions available in most ports?  Do you know if they would be available for an October sailing?  

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The bikes were available at all ports , not sure if every port had organized excursions. We cruise in September , so not sure about October. 

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We have used Uniworld bikes in December and even on New year's day in Vienna! 

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I sailed AMA back in 2016 and loved it. Yes, dining was open and you could eat with folks of your choice.

Yes, they offered bikes as well.

 

I am trying Uniworld in October and very much looking forward to it.

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Posted (edited)

Crystal was ahead of the curve with dining:  multiple dining venues, true open seating(most lines still have a 7pm dinner including Ama) and abundant tables for two plus room service.  If you enjoyed these aspects of Crystal look very carefully at the other lines.  They are starting to introduce some of these features (see the new AmaMagna) on other lines but mostly the newer ships. Check the details carefully.  

 

Edited by hehny

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Done Uniworld...nice.  Friends love Tauck.  Nice ships, supposedly the best tours if that's a factor.

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We have sailed on Uniworld (2 cruises), AMA (4 cruises), Viking ( 2 cruises with one booked for 2020), Scenic (2 cruises), and Tauck (2 cruises and one upcoming in September). We are avid Crystal Ocean cruisers but have not booked a river cruise due to their limited itineraries.

  • For Uniworld one cruise was fabulous in all categories, and one had a great itinerary but missed on all counts onboard.
  • For AMA we have had 3 great cruises, and 1 that had some very unpleasant moments onboard.
  • For Viking we had one cruise that had multiple miscommunication issues and one cruise that was wonderful in every way. 
  • For Scenic we had more great things than negative on one cruise and a terrific time on the other.
  • On Tauck we thoroughly enjoyed most things, but had a couple of events that were well below expectations for the cost of the trip. And are having some communication issues for our upcoming trip due to their website being continuously under construction.

A great deal of the experience  on any river cruise is so dependent on the crew on the ship and how they handle difficult situations. Communication  precruise with  the cruise line management can also have a major impact. We have had the most consistent positive experience overall regarding both communication and the crew on the ship with AMA and Scenic. 

 

 

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