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Rhine cruise: Viking or AmaWaterways?


ak1004
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Hello all,

 

We are planning to do a Rhine cruise next June and debating between the following 2 options:

 

https://www.amawaterways.ca/destination/europe-river-cruises/2020/enchanting-rhine/dates-prices 

https://www.vikingrivercruisescanada.com/cruise-destinations/europe/rhine-getaway/2020-basel-amsterdam/pricing.html

 

It is a 7 nights cruise from Basel to Amsterdam, the itinerary is very similar (except AmaWaterways has overnight in Amsterdam which we will be visiting twice this year and next, so really not an issue).

 

AmaWaterways price is $4,744 CAD and Viking $3,999.

 

Is the price difference justified? I know that both lines usually have very similar prices, so was surprised to find such significant difference. 

 

Any feedback would be appreciated.

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According to price comparisons I have seen on another website that I don't think is supposed to be mentioned here [competitor], Viking is usually among the cheapest river cruises when all their discounts and promotions are taken into account.  But according to the Berlitz guide to river cruising, AMA is the top river cruise line for quality.  I haven't sailed Viking, but I know that AMA lives up to its reputation for quality.

 

Reading this forum for many years, it is apparent that unless things go badly wrong almost everyone loves their first river cruise – on whichever cruise line.  So you wouldn't go wrong to sail on Viking and save the money [it may not be quite as dramatic as the figures you state, because AMA includes more things, but it will be significant].  But you might [depending on your taste in food and wine, space on board, and other intangibles] enjoy the AMA cruise more.  There are plenty of folks on this forum who will argue either way – and they are all right!

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@Host Jazzbeauthank you very much!

 

What things are more included in Ama? Just trying to understand if they are important to us.

 

We don't care much about drinks, but food is very important, both variety and quality. For example, I would be willing to pay more to sail on Oceania (compared to Princess or Celebrity) just for better food. Cabin size is not really important, we always take the cheapest cabin. 

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25 minutes ago, subtchr said:

We just completed our first river cruise, and as @Host Jazzbeau wrote, we adored it.

So I can't help between the two you listed, but we did Avalon from Amsterdam to Basel, and enjoyed everything about it! Have you looked at Avalon?

 

Yes, I looked at Avalon. Their pricing is similar to Viking. My TA says that Ama is considered better. I'm sure I would enjoy Avalon as well. 

 

But Ama also has better extension option (Lucerne and Zurich).

 

What made you to select Avalon and this particular itinerary?

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4 hours ago, ak1004 said:

@Host Jazzbeauthank you very much!

 

What things are more included in Ama? Just trying to understand if they are important to us.

 

We don't care much about drinks, but food is very important, both variety and quality. For example, I would be willing to pay more to sail on Oceania (compared to Princess or Celebrity) just for better food. Cabin size is not really important, we always take the cheapest cabin. 

 

AMA includes all excursion choices (and they have more choices) – no extra cost.  The regular excursion will have a slow walker option.  There will also be hiking and biking excursions, and off-the-beaten-track excursions.  Often morning and afternoon, sometimes after dinner.  [AMA's excursion choices are even more inclusive and extensive than Uniworld, the 'all-inclusive' river cruise line.]

 

As to food, in addition to the excellent food in the MDR they have the Chef's Table multi-course tasting menu (free to all guests), and one of the MDR dinners will be a Chaine des Rotisseurs special menu.  If there is anything special you want, they will bend over backwards to please (on our Rhone cruise my wife's cousin wanted Extra Virgin Olive Oil for his bread at dinner; they apologized on night #1, sent somebody shopping on day #2, and starting with dinner #2 presented that bottle of EVOO to our table as soon as we sat down).

 

On drinks, AMA includes very good wine (also beer) at lunch and dinner, and a sparkling wine (for mimosas) at breakfast.  There is no corkage fee if you want to buy wine or spirits and bring it onto the ship.  They also have a happy hour with free drinks before dinner, and the waiters will top up your glass at the end of dinner as you head up to the lounge for the entertainment.  Thus the difference between AMA and an 'all-inclusive' line is minimal.

 

If you take the cheapest cabins, size doesn't vary that much (although AMA at 160sf is fairly generous; Viking is only 150sf).  But if you go up to a French Balcony cabin, AMA really shines:  most are 210 or 235 sf, vs Viking at only 135sf [tight!]

 

Also AMA has a lot more public space (because there are fewer passengers on the same size ships).

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11 hours ago, ak1004 said:

 

Yes, I looked at Avalon. Their pricing is similar to Viking. My TA says that Ama is considered better. I'm sure I would enjoy Avalon as well. 

 

But Ama also has better extension option (Lucerne and Zurich).

 

What made you to select Avalon and this particular itinerary?

To be honest, it was just that the timing worked out well for us, and we liked what Avalon offered. 

Again, I have exactly ONE river cruise under my belt right now, so I cannot fairly compare lines, but reading @Host Jazzbeau's list for Ama, there are a few differences:

- Avalon does not include ALL excursions -- some are an additional cost -- but they do offer a "gentle walking" option for all included excursions, and active and other specialty ones at some ports. One of our favorites turned out to be the extra cost tour of a Maginot Line bunker from Strasbourg, which our guide told us only Avalon offers now. It was fascinating.

 

- Avalon does not offer anything like a Chef's Table, but we found the food excellent in the dining room. The grill lunch offered on the top deck one day was outstanding.

 

- Avalon also offers complimentary sparkling wine at breakfast (and at the welcome and farewell receptions), and beer and wine at lunch or dinner. There is a happy hour each day, but the drinks are not complimentary. Our servers were also happy to top off our glasses at the end of dinner or lunch, to bring our drinks elsewhere.

 

- We enjoyed our cabin very much. My sister and daughter shared an inside stateroom (they did have windows), and it was fine at 172 sf. We had what they call a panorama suite, which we felt was quite roomy at 200 sf. We loved the way the floor to ceiling window opened 7 feet wide, to create what they call an "open air balcony". No wasted space!

 

- There were about 150 passengers on board, and it never felt crowded. I don't know how that number compares to other lines. There were bicycles, walking sticks, and binoculars to use. 

 

 

 

Edited by subtchr
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Hi there - We have cruised the Rhine twice - once with Uniworld for the Christmas markets - and once with Emerald (wanted to see the ports when it wasn't freezing outside!!)  I have looked at both itineraries that you have outlined - and also looked at Avalon and Emerald.  My thoughts are below:

 

- there are more similarities than differences IMHO.  I have travelled with both Viking & AMA - as well as Emerald, Scenic, Uniworld, and Avalon.  You cannot control weather, nor do you have any control over your cruise director (a HUGE thing, to my way of thinking....) nor the kitchen staff.  Because the kitchen is out of your control, the food on one cruise with a certain company may not be as good (or as varied) as another cruise with the same company.  Food (and alcohol) are quite subjective.  You could have an amazing food experience - or a real disappointment.   However, we have yet to have a disappointing experience on any of our river cruises...  We just completed # 14, with #15 booked for next year. 

 

- look closely at the itineraries.  Is there something you really want to see?  If so, is it offered on only 1 line?  Or, are there options if there is something that is a "make or break" on your vacation.  It looks as if Viking is the only line to offer a visit to Kinderdijk - and we loved our visit there.  But, that may not interest you at all.  Avalon does have an option one day to go to Mainz to see the Gutenberg Museum... again, I don't see that on any other itinerary. 

 

- look at what is included...  beyond the wine and beer at meals,  and the included excursions.  All the companies hire local guides - so I doubt any company has "the best" ones at any stop.  For example - Emerald includes gratuities, and airport transfers on day of embarkation and disembarkation even if you don't purchase their air.   Avalon has a daily "Happy Hour" - where all drinks (not just the "drink of the day") are half price.   Also look at their specials....  right now, Emerald has a sale on air - so, although the base price is more than Viking or Avalon - their air is REALLY cheap (from $275 pp in June 2020), and they include gratuities and transfers, so this brings the cost down

 

- lastly - look at final payment dates. I have travelled with Viking a few times, but they have the least "consumer-friendly" payment schedule of any company.  If you book now for next June, you will have to pay a deposit, and most likely have to pay in full within the next 30 or 60 days.  Every other line will want a deposit, and final payment 90 days out.   

 

If you travel Aquarium class (and we always do....) - you  may discover that your chosen line/date of sailing has limited cabin options.  So - you may have to adjust your date(s), or change your mind about the company.  Whatever you decide - enjoy!!

 

Fran

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On 7/24/2019 at 10:25 PM, ak1004 said:

Hello all,

 

We are planning to do a Rhine cruise next June and debating between the following 2 options:

 

https://www.amawaterways.ca/destination/europe-river-cruises/2020/enchanting-rhine/dates-prices 

https://www.vikingrivercruisescanada.com/cruise-destinations/europe/rhine-getaway/2020-basel-amsterdam/pricing.html

 

It is a 7 nights cruise from Basel to Amsterdam, the itinerary is very similar (except AmaWaterways has overnight in Amsterdam which we will be visiting twice this year and next, so really not an issue).

 

AmaWaterways price is $4,744 CAD and Viking $3,999.

 

Is the price difference justified? I know that both lines usually have very similar prices, so was surprised to find such significant difference. 

 

Any feedback would be appreciated.

I always compare river cruises offered by those two lines as well as Vantage World Travel and others.

Vantage always has been the cheapest (except for Gate 1).   I dislike Viking's pay a year in advance policy.

 

Still both Viking and AMA are excellent cruise lines.  With that price difference, I would go with Viking.  I don't expect there would be much difference in what was included.

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Thank you everyone for your responses, I truly appreciate it!

 

I can totally relate to the "first cruise experience". Our first ocean cruise was with Costa, and I still remember it as the best cruise experience. We did 13 cruises since then, and most on much better ships, but you always remember the first one. So I'm sure we will enjoy our first river cruise, no matter what we choose.

 

That said, I just spoke with my TA, and she recommended Ama as a higher quality line. The cost on both cruises is fairly high already, and we also doing a land extension, and fly business class, so the difference in price is not that big, relative to the total cost of the trip which will be close to $10k CAD per person. It is also my understanding that Ama handles things better if something goes wrong (low river levels etc,) - correct me if I'm wrong.

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2 hours ago, ak1004 said:

Thank you everyone for your responses, I truly appreciate it!

 

I can totally relate to the "first cruise experience". Our first ocean cruise was with Costa, and I still remember it as the best cruise experience. We did 13 cruises since then, and most on much better ships, but you always remember the first one. So I'm sure we will enjoy our first river cruise, no matter what we choose.

 

That said, I just spoke with my TA, and she recommended Ama as a higher quality line. The cost on both cruises is fairly high already, and we also doing a land extension, and fly business class, so the difference in price is not that big, relative to the total cost of the trip which will be close to $10k CAD per person. It is also my understanding that Ama handles things better if something goes wrong (low river levels etc,) - correct me if I'm wrong.

Wow, we have never spent $10 on a river cruise trip even with a land extension.  We usually spend half that.

I will say that I think AMA would handle things better than Viking if water levels turn your cruise into a bus tour.

 

A few years ago firms like Emerald and Viking handled those problems in Central Europe very poorly.

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1 hour ago, 4774Papa said:

Wow, we have never spent $10 on a river cruise trip even with a land extension.  We usually spend half that.

I will say that I think AMA would handle things better than Viking if water levels turn your cruise into a bus tour.

 

A few years ago firms like Emerald and Viking handled those problems in Central Europe very poorly.

 

Don't forget that those are Canadian dollars so about 7+k usd. And it includes business class flight. 

 

But yes it will be our most expensive vacation ever.

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We have taken 6 Viking River cruises and one AMA (Mekong).  We will soon be doing a river cruise with AMA in Europe, and will be better able to compare both lines re: European sailings.

 

I will come back and give my thoughts as to how the 2 lines compare, or rather, where they differ, what sets one apart from the other.

 

 

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3 hours ago, 4774Papa said:

I will say that I think AMA would handle things better than Viking if water levels turn your cruise into a bus tour.

 

A few years ago firms like Emerald and Viking handled those problems in Central Europe very poorly.

The conventional wisdom is that Viking, who have the largest fleet on European rivers, are best placed to handle events such as adverse water levels or other blockages as they have more scope for ship swaps. How that works out in practice is another matter, and the experience of last year probably isn't a good indication as all lines seemed to suffer more or less serious problems as low water was so extensive on so many rivers.

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7 hours ago, ak1004 said:

That said, I just spoke with my TA, and she recommended Ama as a higher quality line. The cost on both cruises is fairly high already, and we also doing a land extension, and fly business class, so the difference in price is not that big, relative to the total cost of the trip which will be close to $10k CAD per person. It is also my understanding that Ama handles things better if something goes wrong (low river levels etc,) - correct me if I'm wrong.

Not sure that "higher quality line" is really a fair assessment.   Having travelled both, I think that both lines have areas where they excel, and areas that could stand some improvement.  The Viking longships have THE best stairways to get to the lower level of any ship we have been on.  But, the AMA ships have larger cabins in the lowest category, and a smaller passenger capacity - so the noise is potentially a bit less on the AMA ships.  I know you said that cabins don't matter to you - but, you should look at the sizes as the rooms are smaller than many ocean liners - although they are very efficient. 

 

I don't know how AMA handles bumps in the road, but I saw 1st hand how the cruise director and concierge (yes, Viking has both of these positions on their Longships) handled a health emergency when we did Bucharest to Budapest with them. An older passenger fell before we even got on the boat - and it turned out she fractured her hip. She was taken to the hospital, and Viking had someone stay close with her as she didn't speak the language - and then worked to get her home.  Now, I do believe that had a lot to do with the individuals on the boat (cruise director, concierge) - so AMA may have handled it the same.  I was just so impressed with how they worked to ensure the best outcome possible for her (and to ensure that the family didn't have to pay out of pocket to fly her home as she had adequate insurance to cover repatriation....).  I am aware of how things played out after we left her in Bulgaria, as it turned out that the woman was travelling with her sister - and she (the sister) was the mother of a woman that I know!! Very small world...  

 

Whatever you choose, I am sure you will enjoy it. Have fun planning!!

 

Fran

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25 minutes ago, franski said:

Not sure that "higher quality line" is really a fair assessment.   Having travelled both, I think that both lines have areas where they excel, and areas that could stand some improvement.  The Viking longships have THE best stairways to get to the lower level of any ship we have been on.  But, the AMA ships have larger cabins in the lowest category, and a smaller passenger capacity - so the noise is potentially a bit less on the AMA ships.  I know you said that cabins don't matter to you - but, you should look at the sizes as the rooms are smaller than many ocean liners - although they are very efficient. 

 

I don't know how AMA handles bumps in the road, but I saw 1st hand how the cruise director and concierge (yes, Viking has both of these positions on their Longships) handled a health emergency when we did Bucharest to Budapest with them. An older passenger fell before we even got on the boat - and it turned out she fractured her hip. She was taken to the hospital, and Viking had someone stay close with her as she didn't speak the language - and then worked to get her home.  Now, I do believe that had a lot to do with the individuals on the boat (cruise director, concierge) - so AMA may have handled it the same.  I was just so impressed with how they worked to ensure the best outcome possible for her (and to ensure that the family didn't have to pay out of pocket to fly her home as she had adequate insurance to cover repatriation....).  I am aware of how things played out after we left her in Bulgaria, as it turned out that the woman was travelling with her sister - and she (the sister) was the mother of a woman that I know!! Very small world...  

 

Whatever you choose, I am sure you will enjoy it. Have fun planning!!

 

Fran

 

Well, she claims it is overall better food and better service. I know food is very subjective, but seems like Berlitz ranks Ama ships as #1, with 4.5 rating, compared to Viking with 4 stars. Slightly bigger rooms and slightly lower number of passengers is probably also a factor why Ama is considered a slightly "higher quality" overall.

 

As for the cost - all it takes is taking 3-4 optional non included excursions on Viking to bring Viking overall cost much closer to Ama, right?

 

btw, what drinks are included at lunch and dinner? is it only wine and beer or also some cocktails?

 

Overall, I'm sure we cannot go wrong with either line, just trying to get as much information as possible. Thank you again everyone for your feedback!

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To me, the bigger rooms and lower number of passengers are a positive thing...  again, food is so subjective, that I don't place a lot of stock in food ratings.  Not sure if you are aware, but the kitchen on a river boat is quite small - so the kitchen staff is limited in number.  My understanding is that the chef often hand picks his kitchen crew.  You have no control over who runs the kitchen.  If you get kitchen staff that focuses on appetizers or mains - the dessert offerings may be lackluster.  Soups may be phenomenal on one cruise, and boring on another --> same line.   Many (? most) people who have a positive experience on one line seldom stray --> unless they can't get an itinerary they want on their "preferred" line...   There are many happy AMA cruisers here - so, I don't think you could go wrong with choosing AMA. 

 

Re: included drinks...  It is only beer & wine that is included at lunch and dinner.  Some lines do have bubbly at the breakfast buffet so you can have a mimosa!!  

 

Again, the beer & wine situation differs from line to line.  Some only offer the beer on tap as "included"... some will offer what ever they have in the bar.  On one cruise, they would make me a Radler if I asked - so I got the beer on tap with fruit juice or lemonade.  Not sure if every line offers that - or whether I was just "special"...  😀  Most lines offer red & white wine (some have said it never varies... that has not been my experience in Europe....) --> Avalon also offers rose (which makes me very happy....).

 

Fran

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Food reviews on Cruise Critic are subjective, but the Berlitz food ratings are objective:  they specifically mention that AMA spends more on quality ingredients and staff training than other river cruise lines.

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I’ve only traveled on two river cruise lines Avalon and Viking with my second Viking cruise coming up in Oct. We found Viking to be superior to our Avalon one . We still enjoyed our Avalon cruise . I agree the cruise director is important . I found the Viking staff to be excellent from start to finish and on our pre cruise hotel stays always ready to answer questions and give suggestions . In fact when we were at the hotel in Amsterdam on our Avalon cruise Viking had the whole bottom floor ready at your disposal. Avalon came very late and had a small room on the third floor. Food was excellent on our Viking cruise but it really depends on the chef on any given cruise . River cruising is great and my favorite way to travel now. 

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On 7/26/2019 at 11:39 PM, franski said:

To me, the bigger rooms and lower number of passengers are a positive thing...  again, food is so subjective, that I don't place a lot of stock in food ratings.  Not sure if you are aware, but the kitchen on a river boat is quite small - so the kitchen staff is limited in number.  My understanding is that the chef often hand picks his kitchen crew.  You have no control over who runs the kitchen.  If you get kitchen staff that focuses on appetizers or mains - the dessert offerings may be lackluster.  Soups may be phenomenal on one cruise, and boring on another --> same line.   Many (? most) people who have a positive experience on one line seldom stray --> unless they can't get an itinerary they want on their "preferred" line...   There are many happy AMA cruisers here - so, I don't think you could go wrong with choosing AMA. 

 

Re: included drinks...  It is only beer & wine that is included at lunch and dinner.  Some lines do have bubbly at the breakfast buffet so you can have a mimosa!!  

 

Again, the beer & wine situation differs from line to line.  Some only offer the beer on tap as "included"... some will offer what ever they have in the bar.  On one cruise, they would make me a Radler if I asked - so I got the beer on tap with fruit juice or lemonade.  Not sure if every line offers that - or whether I was just "special"...  😀  Most lines offer red & white wine (some have said it never varies... that has not been my experience in Europe....) --> Avalon also offers rose (which makes me very happy....).

 

Fran

AMA has beer & wine & soda inc with Lunch & Dinner. Breakfast there is DIY Mimosa bar. Sip & sail cocktail party every day- if you do not want the cocktail of the day just ask for wine, prosecco ,  bloody MAry,beer etc. It s all included.Food, service and presentation has been outstanding on our 3 prior AMA trips. Their fish choices & preparations are very good. The french fries are deadly to any diet. Looking @ itineraries for our 4th AMA- would not have booked 2nd if not very happy with AMA

Carole

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