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mozfoz

Has river cruising lost its luster.

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Its probably my imagination, but has the popularity of river cruising reached its peak, leveled off, or even started to decrease. It just seems that there is less interest in it than there seemed to be a few years ago. Did the cruise lines push the cost factor too far. Or maybe the low water levels that have been experienced over the last couple years scared people away. Are there too many ships and that lessened the demand. Is there a lack of media advertising or is it just that the newest has worn off. Is it that there are such a small number of river ports to visit compared to ocean ports for seasoned travelers to visit. I would surely do another river cruise, I think they are great, but for now, my next is an ocean cruise.

Edited by mozfoz
Wrong forum. Move this post to River Cruising Forum.

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Just returned recently from an Avalon cruise from Amsterdam to Basel.  We usually cruise on the sea but thought we’d give river cruising a try since we saw the ads on tv and read many positive reviews here and there.

Our cruise was short; only seven days.  We figured if we liked it as much as sea cruising, a short river cruise would be a good beginning.  None of us had ever been to Amsterdam, so our little group of four planned on a pre-cruise visit there for four days prior to sailing and a post-cruise adventure to Lucerne (I had been to Lucerne on five previous land tours) with a final day/night in Zurich.

On the day of boarding we were surprised that we weren’t assisted with our suitcases as we tried to pull them behind us as we climbed up the plank!  Perhaps with new passengers arriving there just weren’t enough staff to help everyone?

We found the stateroom to be roomy (panoramic view cabin on the topmost deck); bed very comfortable and the bathroom very nice with a great shower and plenty of room for bathroom supplies on either side of the sink.  Although we had a very nice young lady as our room steward (and she kept our room spotless) not once did she call us by our names (I guess we’re spoiled...on ocean cruises we’ve always been amazed that our room stewards knew our names immediately and greeted us by name throughout the cruise).

The ship itself was clean and the staff helpful.  THe food was good; not great.  Both breakfasts and lunches were buffet with the dinner handled by the waitstaff.  The wines offered were mediocre, at best.  The ‘happy hour’ 1/2 price drinks were a nice perk, though and “Robert”, one of the bartenders, was the best! 

The rest of the staff was always helpful and the cruise ship’s activities director was very professional with a good sense of humor.  We saw him frequently out and about during our excursions and he even showed up on his bicycle to help us when my husband and I were confused and taking the wrong path back to the ship!  He was great!

Most days consisted of an excursion in the morning; lunch; and then ‘downtime’ until Happy Hour.  Obviously, because of the restricted size of any river boat, there is little additional room for additional decks and thus, additional activities onboard.  That was a difference we missed.

Ocean cruises are great because they DO offer many activities for many different people. On this river cruise we enjoyed ourselves (particularly because we were with our friends and we have a blast wherever and whenever we are with them) but found the afternoons to be, frankly, boring.  The pace of the cruise was too slow...the evening entertainment after dinner was a hit and miss with the exception of a brilliant group of two violinists and a guitar player-WONDERFUL!!  Otherwise it was dinner and then bedtime!  

“Different strokes for different folks” is certainly alive and well!  We had a nice time; not a GREAT time on our river cruise.  Will we ever plan another river cruise....most likely not.  I have always wanted to visit Prague but would plan a land tour instead of a river cruise. 

We are ocean cruisers.  I love to look out from the veranda and enjoy the vast ocean view. We enjoy the smaller to medium ocean ships and their itineraries and the fact they offer many activities which we can chose or not chose to take advantage of.  The food on our past ocean cruises are not limited to one dining room experience but rather you have several other venues to choose from.  And, the list goes on.  

Happy sailing to you all whether you chose river or ocean cruising!  

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sorry you didn't enjoy your cruise more.  There are river cruise lines that offer an experience more varied in both food and activities than what you described, but even the best don't resemble the type of ocean cruise you prefer.  This is a great example of why I always advise doing a 7 night itinerary as your first river cruise, because some people conclude quickly that river cruising just isn't their cup of tea.

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8 hours ago, mozfoz said:

Its probably my imagination, but has the popularity of river cruising reached its peak, leveled off, or even started to decrease. It just seems that there is less interest in it than there seemed to be a few years ago. Did the cruise lines push the cost factor too far. Or maybe the low water levels that have been experienced over the last couple years scared people away. Are there too many ships and that lessened the demand. Is there a lack of media advertising or is it just that the newest has worn off. Is it that there are such a small number of river ports to visit compared to ocean ports for seasoned travelers to visit. I would surely do another river cruise, I think they are great, but for now, my next is an ocean cruise.

Where have you been - cruising on the moon.

 

River cruising has never been so popular as now, my home town is expecting 700,00 cruisers, day trip, embarkation and disembarkation, plus dirty fine particals from the ships diesel engines that are kept running even when docked.

 

The only time rhine cruisingloses it's lackluster is when a boat hits a bridge.

 

 

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My friends are just now discovering river cruising! Previously - they had no idea it existed.

 

I think they are getting tired of the massive ocean ships.

 

I think it is more popular than ever.

Edited by Coral

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River cruising is evolving with something for all markets. But there are challenges that threaten the marketing image. 

Some are concerned about the environmental risks and overcrowding on the rivers and small towns in Europe.

The continual supply of new vessels and business opportunities bring the promise of increasing growth and enterprise. We all hope there will be reliable water flows for the ships to travel.  

Water level challenges are a constant risk that impacts European river cruising.

It is tiresome to have to monitor and be concerned about whether a paid trip will go as planned.

Given the premium price high end providers charge. customers reasonably expect they will get what they are paying for, and not the ever present risk of a modified bus trip. 

 

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I do both, and will continue to do so, but they're different animals.  My 3 river cruises so far have been on Uniworld, but due to their noticeable fare increases, I'm looking at other less inclusive lines.  I'm not perceiving that river cruising is less popular, but it's just that, my perception.

 

I'm very surprised you got no assistance with suitcases.  Depending on where you're docked, that incline can be steep, and if it's wet, look out.

Edited by Roz

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37 minutes ago, Roz said:

I do both, and will continue to do so, but they're different animals.  My 3 river cruises so far have been on Uniworld, but due to their noticeable fare increases, I'm looking at other less inclusive lines.  I'm not perceiving that river cruising is less popular, but it's just that, my perception.

 

I'm very surprised you got no assistance with suitcases.  Depending on where you're docked, that incline can be steep, and if it's wet, look out.

 

Roz, I agree about your assessment re: Uniworld, and am also looking at other lines.

 

With regard to boarding Avalon, my one experience with embarkation (and what I've read others reporting) is that Avalon arranges a meeting at a local hotel, with luggage drop-off and check-in. This is usually early in the day, with the hope that everyone will have "checked in and dropped off" by 1pm? The luggage is then delivered to the ship from the hotel, and then to the stateroom. Passengers meet at the hotel at a later time, and are transported to the ship, as a group. This process may be different depending on the point of embarkation, but may explain why there was no one to assist with suitcases (since the above poster had been in Amsterdam, doing DIY "stuff")

 

Robin

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When we did Avalon in Europe (Dec 2014) we did NOT meet at the hotel together and travel to the ship if we were independent travelers. The only people transported to the ship by Avalon were those who booked the airport transfer same day, or who did the Avalon pre-cruise extension. So we got our bags on board ourselves. We just did Avalon Mekong and were transported together from the hotel, but our trip also included some days in the HCMC hotel & excursions from Avalon.....I'm not sure what the cruise-only passengers did - some might have gone directly to the ship and others traveled with us from the hotel?

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16 minutes ago, Hoyaheel said:

When we did Avalon in Europe (Dec 2014) we did NOT meet at the hotel together and travel to the ship if we were independent travelers. The only people transported to the ship by Avalon were those who booked the airport transfer same day, or who did the Avalon pre-cruise extension. So we got our bags on board ourselves. We just did Avalon Mekong and were transported together from the hotel, but our trip also included some days in the HCMC hotel & excursions from Avalon.....I'm not sure what the cruise-only passengers did - some might have gone directly to the ship and others traveled with us from the hotel?

Perhaps it is dependent on the city. We left from Vienna, and the ship's location wasn't "in town," so to speak. But, they were very explicit in their directions to us (we had been in Europe 3 days already) to not go directly to the ship.

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2 hours ago, acwmom said:

Perhaps it is dependent on the city. We left from Vienna, and the ship's location wasn't "in town," so to speak. But, they were very explicit in their directions to us (we had been in Europe 3 days already) to not go directly to the ship.

On Crystal - in Vienna, we were told to go directly to the ship. It wasn't an expensive taxi ride from my hotel.  I had also been in Vienna for a few days earlier. The dock didn't seem that far "from town".

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Last year on our Rhine cruise with Avalon, we took a cab from the hotel we were staying in to the ship.  When we arrived, there were some crew outside (not waiting, as we arrived quite early), and they just offered to bring our bags in.  

 

I guess it depends on how good of a crew you get, as our room attendant knew our name (even introduced us to some of the other staff when we were out on tour and they were on our bus to go into town.)  The Captain & Hotel Manager were there to send us off on tours, and greeted us when we returned.

 

The food was different every lunch & dinner (lunch was a buffet, but geared to a regional menu as was dinner), and it only took 2 days for the Chef & wait staff to know I couldn't eat some foods ( the Chef because of a casual mention once during the breakfast buffet - he then warned me if there was something out that I should avoid without having to ask), and we really appreciated being able to try anything with the option of ordering something different if it wasn't to our liking.

 

We also took optional afternoon tours when they were available, so found our days busy...most evenings after catching up on news from home, it was lights out so we could be well rested for the next day.

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On our Uniworld cruise starting in Antwerp,  we had the ship transfer from the airport.  A crew member took our bags from the car to the lobby.  The hotel director took us to our room. 3 minutes later the bags were delivered- by the Captain!  Such is the life on a 100 person ship with a small crew. 

Edited by JPH814

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Enjoyed reading all the different perspectives about river cruising.  As one posted earlier, you pretty much know within the first few days whether you like river cruising or....not so much.

As stated, river cruising is a “different animal” so if you like seeing the same group of people (approx. 156 passengers??) each day/evening; generally paying a higher cost p/p for the experience; cruising on a river with questionable and ever-changing water levels; traveling through locks on a regular basis; cruising through both heavily industrial areas and the more advertised picturesque landscapes; etc...etc...

We found that ocean cruising gave us the chance to meet different people all the time!  When we go to dinner on our ocean cruises we always ask for the larger tables of six or more because we enjoy meeting new people so every night we’d look forward to new encounters and conversations. 

Just an observation but we noticed that on the river cruise, by the second evening people had scoped out a favorite table-usually close to the buffet line-and group to sit with for the entire length of the cruise.  To each his own but one of our joys is meeting new people!  Let me say that those we did meet on this cruise were lovely and we did have some interesting conversations!  Many of them had not cruised on the ocean!

I have a friend who asked me about our experience.  She and her husband are celebrating an anniversary next year and are considering a river cruise.  I told her of our Avalon cruise and suggested she look into ocean cruising.  She is deathly afraid of being on the high seas so that was that and I understand completely!   The beauty of all of this is that whatever you choose; river or ocean cruising; each has it’s own pros and cons and everybody has their own story to tell.  So,.....keep on sailing and enjoy!

 

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Also sorry you did not enjoy it more. I am a river and an ocean cruiser.  Leaving the end of next week for my 2nd river cruise and I can't wait😃

I am surprised nobody offered to help with your luggage!

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Agree with previous posts - river cruises are gaining in popularity rather than declining. Hence, the ever increasing number of ships and itineraries. The only downsides are the increased tourism in some cities and, of course, water levels which can impact the enjoyment of a river cruise. 

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8 hours ago, Europeantraveler1 said:

Enjoyed reading all the different perspectives about river cruising.  As one posted earlier, you pretty much know within the first few days whether you like river cruising or....not so much.

As stated, river cruising is a “different

It sounds like you were on the wrong river cruise. I am not sure if I would like Avalon.

 

My first experience with River Cruising wasn't a home run but I knew I liked the concept. I waited probably 10 years before I went on a 2nd and loved it.

 

I like both river and ocean cruises. I like that river cruises take me places that ocean cruises can't take me. The food I had on my river cruise was amazing compared to most of my ocean cruises. The service was also outstanding. Though with all the cut backs in ocean cruises, I am looking more to river cruises as I am not a fan of the large, mega ships on ocean cruises that seem crowded all the time and nickel and dime me.

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https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-10-01/scenic-tours-river-cruise-passengers-planning-class-action/11560730

Another example of some of the dissatisfaction when water levels impact was reported today. 

It is disappointing to read such reports.

On our Christmas river cruise last year some were quite stressed about the uncertainty in the lead up.

Some on board were visibly upset and angry when no Christmas dinner/lunch was provided. Compensation was provided after arrival at home.

It was the last cruise of the season. It was sold as a premium inclusive product and priced accordingly. We have had positive experiences when travelling with the provider previously, but were underwhelmed on that one.

We like shepherds pie but it was served twice on the 14 night cruise and some were not impressed.

We loved the trip to Salzburg the local guide was fabulous and it was a beautiful sunny day.    

We enjoy both ocean and river cruising.

We are prepared to pay for quality and service but sometimes the providers do not deliver and its not just water level issues.

We also love reviews and accounts from other travellers and this forum is great for that purpose.

 

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1 hour ago, pully8 said:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-10-01/scenic-tours-river-cruise-passengers-planning-class-action/11560730

Another example of some of the dissatisfaction when water levels impact was reported today. 

It is disappointing to read such reports.

On our Christmas river cruise last year some were quite stressed about the uncertainty in the lead up.

Some on board were visibly upset and angry when no Christmas dinner/lunch was provided. Compensation was provided after arrival at home.

It was the last cruise of the season. It was sold as a premium inclusive product and priced accordingly. We have had positive experiences when travelling with the provider previously, but were underwhelmed on that one.

We like shepherds pie but it was served twice on the 14 night cruise and some were not impressed.

We loved the trip to Salzburg the local guide was fabulous and it was a beautiful sunny day.    

We enjoy both ocean and river cruising.

We are prepared to pay for quality and service but sometimes the providers do not deliver and its not just water level issues.

We also love reviews and accounts from other travellers and this forum is great for that purpose.

 

How were the water levels and the weather?  We are going to try Scenic 

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I just read this morning that Scenic has also lost its appeal to the class action taken in 2013, so they will be hurting with another action being called against them.

 

Hopefully this will at least mean that if people have problems on their cruises this month, Scenic might try to treat them a little better.

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I have done only river cruises (17) and can respond only to those. The last was in April 2019. I have always traveled on the 300 level. Usually my trips were in April and December for the seasonal experiences and to avoid the mid-summer crushes. The prices in December used to be lower, but that seems to have changed.

The crowds of people and ships in ports has become a real disappointment. My last cruise was into Northern Holland, Friesland, and then to Arnhem. It was nice, far fewer people and new places to visit. The docking in Amsterdam is especially disappointing to those who want to walk into the city, distances are farther and time in port is very short compared to past years. The port is obviously trying to be fair to all the ships that want to dock there.

Avalon is by far my favorite line. As a single traveler, their pricing is most attractive to that class of customer. Their bathrooms are almost perfectly designed. I love the beds that face directly toward the windows, a feature that appears only in the most expensive rooms on other lines. I understand that Avalon has them in all the 200 and 300 level rooms.

The Avalon food was good, reminding me of home cooking, usually regional (which I really like), rather than pretentious. AMA had slightly better food, but I think at times pursued the adventure rather than the flavor and comfort of food. Food on Viking was usually good. A few years ago they bought local produce. Sadly I watched fellow travelers turn up their noses at truly fresh and sweet Brussels sprouts and white asparagus. Later Viking trips catered to tastes that ignored fresh veggies. On Vantage and some Viking trips, the food bordered on institutional. 

Wine was mediocre, which was OK for me since I rarely drink on these trips preferring to have a clear head for the art, history, and architecture offered on the day trips. 

Staff on all ships were friendly (especially Avalon and AMA). Viking staff could be a little snooty at times. Vantage staff seemed frustrated by poor corporate decisions.

All lines had good excursions. I took as many as I could to satisfy my travel goals.

Of the four lines, three had very satisfactory embarkation and disembarkation. Avalon's only weakness in my experience was getting on and off. Embarkation was quirky with the hotel to ship requirement. Although they did meet me with an empty full sized bus at the Amsterdam airport. Disembarkation worked much more smoothly.

I've had years of happy satisfied travel on the European rivers. The crowding now means I'll probably bring it to an end.

For a new traveler, there are still many, many good experiences to be had with river cruising.

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Hasn’t lost its luster for me, because I haven’t been yet 🙂

I’m starting to see why it might be losing its luster for the people who live along the river though. 

In 1999, we stayed in Passau for a few days in November. Few tourists around, very much a town going about its ‘normal business’. A couple of incidents stick in my mind - a young Irish bartender in a pub commented on how nice it was to chat to English-speakers, as it didn’t often happen. And we had dinner in a restaurant (I think we were the only ones there) where the owner was surprised to meet Australians; he had a brother in Melbourne and immediately called him and put us on the phone to say hello.

Fast-forward to 2019 and I was a bit surprised to see that, on what I thought to be a relatively off peak time for a river trip, there will be 7 cruise boats docked on the day we are in Passau in late November. I’m guessing that’s 1000 tourists in town... And I’m guessing it probably doesn’t add a huge amount to the economy, with accommodation, alcohol and meals on the boat.

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Great thread.  I have my first river cruise booked for May with Ama on the Rhine.  I have a few questions for anyone who wants to chime in.

1. After dinner each night on the ship; what do most people do? Read, Dance, Go to Bed, watch a movie?

2. I see most ships have breakfast and lunch buffets; Will the on board chefs work with you for the dinner menu?  I only eat a few items, like pasta/marinara sauce, some veggies, some chicken, no fish.

3. How many shore excursions do you take a day? One or Two?

4. Like the OP mentioned above; worry a little that I will be bored.  Do they have an area on board where the staff has trivia games? 

5. What is the normal time in port?  6,8,10 hrs per stop.

6. I have a weird goal that everywhere I travel I try the french fries in each country to see who makes the best. Any chance that there will be places located close to where we dock?

 

thanks everyone and have a great day.

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1 hour ago, AF-1 said:

Great thread.  I have my first river cruise booked for May with Ama on the Rhine.  I have a few questions for anyone who wants to chime in.

1. After dinner each night on the ship; what do most people do? Read, Dance, Go to Bed, watch a movie?

All of the above, and maybe even go for a dip in the pool. We would always go to the bar and have a few drinks and listen to the musicians.

1 hour ago, AF-1 said:

2. I see most ships have breakfast and lunch buffets; Will the on board chefs work with you for the dinner menu?  I only eat a few items, like pasta/marinara sauce, some veggies, some chicken, no fish.

Pasta may be a little harder to have consistently, but if you do other starches, like rice or baked potato, you should be fine. Chicken is a standard "always available" option on every line whose menu I have seen, and certain soups and salads also seem to be "always available" options. I would recommend emailing Ama in advance (or working with your TA, if you're using one), and seeing if you can set up a meeting with the restaurant manager and head chef to discuss your limitations at the start of your cruise. They often shop locally, so could find things to meet your needs.

1 hour ago, AF-1 said:

3. How many shore excursions do you take a day? One or Two?

It varied from day to day. Our first day, in Breisach, we went to Freiberg in the morning, and had a choice of Colmar or Kaysersberg/Riquewihr in the afternoon. Our next day, morning in Strasbourg, and optional trip somewhere i the afternoon, or Strasbourg on your own; other days were similar.

1 hour ago, AF-1 said:

4. Like the OP mentioned above; worry a little that I will be bored.  Do they have an area on board where the staff has trivia games? 

Honestly, the days are pretty full with excursions, exploring on your own, or scenic sailing. Uniworld has books and board games. Both Uniworld and Avalon have done wine tastings. We walked about 10 miles a day, so were content to spend time at the bar and head to bed around 11/11:30.

1 hour ago, AF-1 said:

5. What is the normal time in port?  6,8,10 hrs per stop.

This can also vary, depending on which port it is, and what the lock schedules are.  

1 hour ago, AF-1 said:

6. I have a weird goal that everywhere I travel I try the french fries in each country to see who makes the best. Any chance that there will be places located close to where we dock?

If not close to docking (this can vary with this itinerary) then at least somewhere during your "free time"   

1 hour ago, AF-1 said:

 

thanks everyone and have a great day.

Hi AF-1, another queen city resident here:-)  See my answers, in red, above. I've not traveled on Ama, but have done the Rhine itinerary.

 

Robin

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