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karinad

BUDGET RIVER CRUISE LINES

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We've been going on ocean cruises for the last nearly 20 years and have been to Europe several times on them. We manage to get great prices or we couldn't afford to go. The places we haven't been to and want to see are Austria, Switzerland, etc., and our choices for touring there would be a land or river cruises. The rates I've seen for river cruises are out of our budget. I know that some do include your drinks, tours, transports, etc., but, we're used to planning our way and we don't drink alcohol including wine. When we ocean cruise we keep our bill to a minimum.

 

I've heard of Teeming River Cruises and they do get good reviews and prices seem reasonable. Does anyone know of similar budget-minded river cruises that I could look into and any experiences with them? Thanks for your suggestions!

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Take a look at Gate 1.  Also, when pricing river cruises, pay attention to the inclusions.

 

Roz

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I would also recommend Gate 1 - sign up for their notifications as there are price reductions offered on many river cruises throughout the year. There are also Cruise Critic price reductions - we took advantage of one such savings on our recent Danube cruise with Gate 1.

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Barrheadlass already mentioned Grand Circle, and I'm seconding her recommendation.  I suggest you look at their Last Minute Travel Deals.  Go to their home page (GCT.COM)  and scroll down to the bottom of that page- under Grand Circle Advantage, click on Last Minute Travel.  You will find that this updates- usually weekly.  This is how we took our first river cruise, and now we're hooked on traveling with them and their sister company Overseas Adventure travel (just returned from our 13th).   Most of the specials leave within a month or two, so you have to be flexible re dates and cabin categories.  But the savings are significant.  Lynn

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10 hours ago, JerseyGem said:

Barrheadlass already mentioned Grand Circle, and I'm seconding her recommendation.  I suggest you look at their Last Minute Travel Deals.  Go to their home page (GCT.COM)  and scroll down to the bottom of that page- under Grand Circle Advantage, click on Last Minute Travel.  You will find that this updates- usually weekly.  This is how we took our first river cruise, and now we're hooked on traveling with them and their sister company Overseas Adventure travel (just returned from our 13th).   Most of the specials leave within a month or two, so you have to be flexible re dates and cabin categories.  But the savings are significant.  Lynn

Always nice to see another GCT or OAT traveler here.  I’m taking my 14th trip later this month...OAT to China.

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We have really enjoyed Grand Circle as well-haven't done Gate 1 but I have been on AMA.

 

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We went on Grand Circle to Paris, and then down the Rhone.  It sure didn't feel "budget" to me in any way, shape, or form.  Some of the best food and service we've ever experienced.  The ship was a bit older, but very clean and well maintained with a H U G E cabin.

 

And, yes, you can get some great deals in their Last Minute section.

Edited by Cary Cruiser

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I agree with you on that. We’ve also been on Teeming and for roughly the same cost as Grand Circle , they don’t include excursions or alcohol. And the food wasn’t as good. However you do have a bed choice- on Grand Circle there were only twin beds.

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I made a very unscientific search for river cruise prices on various lines.  I chose the Amsterdam to Budapest itinerary with no air in May/June looking at the cheapest (Aquarium class) cabins. Here are my findings.

 

GCT           $4195

Vantage    $5195

Avalon      $5199

Viking       $4299

AMA         $6699

Scenic      $5695

Uniworld  $7199

Tauck       $7399

 

Again, these are my findings and may only be accurate at the time I researched. 

 

Disclaimer: I have been on 15 GCT river cruises since 2001.  When I started cruising, GCT, Viking, and Uniworld were the only lines around for US marketing.  The only other line I cruised on was AMA is 2003, their first year in business. 

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That's very interesting. Were they all the same # of days?  I'm sold on GCT.  I'd like to see how Gate 1 , Croisie Europe and Teeming compare.

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I'm the OP that's interested in budget river lines. I do know of most of all the river boat lines mentioned, however, they are still well out of our price range when starting over $2500.pp for a 7 day cruise. I was looking at Teeming River Cruises and read mostly positive reviews about it. Other then your meals, that's about all they include with their rate and that's fine with us. We're comfortable with booking tours on our own and don't want to pay even for wine that we don't drink or other alcohol.

 

I've heard of other river boat companies that operate like Teeming, but, so far my google searches haven't come up with any.  I know that beings it is a different kind of cruise then an ocean cruise, which we have been on many, including longer ones in Europe, that we're not comparing apples to apples and that the rate would be higher because of the sizes of the ships.

 

We've been cruising once or twice a year since 2001 and unfortunately, our budget hasn't improved that much, but feel extremely lucky that we have been able to go where we have because of cruising. I don't want to say that we're bored with ocean cruises, but would like to see places that ocean cruises can't get in to.

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As I write this Grand Circle is offering 10 nights on a Seine river boat balcony cabin  departing Paris 18 March to Honfleur plus 1 night hotel near CDG for $999/person. Also offering 14 nights in a river boat balcony cabin departing Vienna 13 March to Amsterdam for $1195/person. These last minute close-out deals do not include air, but are IMO terrific buys. There are deals out there if you are flexible and know where to look..

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Sue - All of the cruises I mentioned in the previous post were for 14 days.

 

Tom - I would love to take one of GCTs last minute deals but I travel as a solo and these deals are only available for double occupancy. This have been quite a bone of contention of the OAT and GCT travel forums. 

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The only other line I can think of is nickocruises, which is a German company offering some cruises to the English-speaking world. Here are their offers: https://www.nicko-cruises.de/en/river-cruises/

As you can see, they have shorter trips and that could be the way for you to go. I do not know what you could arrange with them as regards airfare.

 

A company like CroisiEurope also offers shorter trips but you would need to check which of those they offer on the North-American market.

 

For cruises of up to six nights do also look at the winter time when more cruise lines offer them. Here is Riviera Travel as an example: https://www.rivieratravel.co.uk/river-cruises/the-danubes-imperial-cities-yuletide-markets-river-cruise

Riviera Travel UK is not "budget" but worth looking into for offers.

 

Some UK tour operators, like Saga, also offer river cruises that are possibly more friendly for your budget. They sometimes use smaller or older ships: https://travel.saga.co.uk/cruises/river.aspx

 

Just one note. There is no river cruise that can geographically combine Switzerland and Austria as the only river port in Switzerland is Basel and all ships travel North from there. Only exception is going from Basel to Passau (for example) all the way through Germany along the Main and the Main Danube Canal. If you flew into Zurich and spent some time there before flying into Munich (for example) then a combination of the two countries (Switzerland and Austria) and a river cruise into Austria would be doable.

 

notamermaid

 

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TravelerThom-

Don’t they usually include air when they are last minute deals? Otherwise people might have a tough time getting air  or getting reasonable air.

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Karinad-

We have gotten fantastic deals on Grand Circle -$1000 per person without air for the 7 night Danube Christmas markets cruise and $1200 or $1300 per person (without air ) for the Rhine 10 night Christmas markets cruise.

 

These were not last minute deals either.  I’m thinking to get a lower rate like that in the summer you might have to do a last-minute deal.

Gate 1 might be similarly priced but we haven’t done one of those .


We did one Teeming river cruise last year. It was OK but I prefer Grand Circle because for roughly the same price , the food was better , the drinks are included,  the excursions were included.  I think the ships might’ve been a little nicer too and the service better. But as I mentioned in a previous post,  our 2 Grand Circle ships had twin beds only.

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1 hour ago, notamermaid said:

The only other line I can think of is nickocruises, which is a German company offering some cruises to the English-speaking world. Here are their offers: https://www.nicko-cruises.de/en/river-cruises/

As you can see, they have shorter trips and that could be the way for you to go. I do not know what you could arrange with them as regards airfare.

 

I'll be onboard Nicko's MS Casanova for a 7 night cruise (Saarbrücken to Stuttgart) beginning on April 6. I'll try to post while onboard and write a review when I'm done. The week before we'll be on a 9-night Teeming cruise through the Netherlands. So I should be able to do a reasonable comparison. One thing I like about both these lines is the fact that they post targeted arrival and departure times for all of the ports.

 

It might be worthwhile to put a post together for all of these budget lines, clearly listing what the do and don't include compared to the more expensive lines like Viking.

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1 hour ago, sjde said:

TravelerThom-

Don’t they usually include air when they are last minute deals? Otherwise people might have a tough time getting air  or getting reasonable air.

Grand Circle used to include air in last minute deals, but don’t seem to be doing that now. We did a last minute Bordeaux river cruise with GC in 2015 which DID include air. In May/June 2017 we did a last minute Med small ship with them and while air was not included they did offer it as an add-on at the same price they had offered to previous bookers ($1600/person Washington DC to Nice and return from Florence to DC).  We booked the cruise two weeks out and were able to find our own flights on SAS to Nice plus flights on Turkish back from Italy for less than $1000/person (both one connection which is the best available; there are no non-stops available between those city pairs). We flew in 2 days early because we wanted to (no price differential) and flew back 4 days late from Venice, again because we wanted to. We had checked available air pricing BEFORE buying the cruise. Right now a quick check would get me a non-stop IAD-VIE and non-stop AMS-IAD for $1204 to catch the 14 March VIE-AMS cruise. Not great, but not bad. 

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2 hours ago, notamermaid said:

Just one note. There is no river cruise that can geographically combine Switzerland and Austria as the only river port in Switzerland is Basel and all ships travel North from there. Only exception is going from Basel to Passau (for example) all the way through Germany along the Main and the Main Danube Canal.

 

We did Nuremberg to Basel for a Christmas Markets cruise on Avalon and there were earlier segments- can't remember if it was Passau or Vienna (or both) but we didn't have quite that much time so we didn't look closely. It was an odd cruise because there were so many different segments - felt like there were always people embarking/disembarking (Frankfurt was another embarkation point....) So the option does  (or has in the past...) exist if that's what is super important.

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3 hours ago, notamermaid said:

Just one note. There is no river cruise that can geographically combine Switzerland and Austria as the only river port in Switzerland is Basel and all ships travel North from there. Only exception is going from Basel to Passau (for example) all the way through Germany along the Main and the Main Danube Canal. If you flew into Zurich and spent some time there before flying into Munich (for example) then a combination of the two countries (Switzerland and Austria) and a river cruise into Austria would be doable.

 

notamermaid

 

I don’t know if they are still running it (and it wasn’t budget even before Uniworld went all-inclusive) but I sailed Vienna to Basel on a Danube-Main-Rhine itinerary in 2011. The cruise split into 2 7-day segments in Nuremberg, but Uniworld also marketed the 14 day. 

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Teeming has Budapest to Amsterdam (Danube-Main-Rhine) and vice versa, where you can choose the entire length or either half,  in or out at Nuremburg.

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41 minutes ago, sjde said:

Teeming has Budapest to Amsterdam (Danube-Main-Rhine) and vice versa, where you can choose the entire length or either half,  in or out at Nuremburg.

Yes, but that doesn’t get to Switzerland; it goes down the Rhine rather than upstream. The OP stated that they wanted Austria and Switzerland. 

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I would love to get a great deal, as mentioned by Sjde and others! We do prefer to travel in Sept. and Oct. I guess that I'm not used to looking and don't know where to look to get the great deals on river cruises. I'm pretty good with searches for ocean cruises and could usually end up with good deals on them or we don't go! Can't afford it! 

 

I really appreciate all your feedback on this! Every time I have searched for them the prices scare me off and it looks like they sell out very quickly! There was a couple on Teeming for August and they look like they sold out already!

 

Have most of you here done ocean cruises or are you strictly river cruisers?

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