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First time river cruiser looking for the right cruise line


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Crystal's only dress code is smart casual.  They call it country club casual.  In reality that means just about anything while on tour - shorts, jeans, sneakers, t shirts (although you should be respecting church tour guidelines).  At night none of those apply.  Collared shirts (generally long sleeved as it is cooler in the dining room than you think.  No real need to wear a sport coat.  You can guess I am a man, so my clothing recs are such - others can chime in.  I would think that most ships are the same.  

 

The self serve laundry on board is great.  It really cuts down on the amount of clothes you have to bring and you will go through a good amount since you are out everyday.  It isn't just rinse out your bathing suit like it is on an ocean liner.  

 

We have had the S5 room and the S1 room.  S5 is about 205 square feet and that is adequate for a summer cruise.i wouldn't go any smaller on another line.  We had the S1 (253 ft) for a Xmas cruise and that was better.  Bigger closet for winter clothes and such.  The actual usable room (bed and desk area) are the same size between the two different rooms.  You are paying for a double vanity and a bigger closet

 

The crowd on board Crystal is generally upper middle  My guess is that is true for many lines as the cruises are not some 7 day R/T Miami low ball last minute deal.  People have to plan and budget this money and it isn't a small number since were and post trips are always part of it.  

 

What you can put in a spreadsheet are the numbers - individual costs and see how they add up.  Gratuities, drinks, excursions.  What isn't in there is the experience and what that is worth.  If you have been on Royal and liked it, I can tell you that Crystal is 2 notches above that in experience.  Way above NCL.  That doesn't mean "too fancy for us", it means you will be wondering what you were spending your money on with RCCL and NCL.  Crystal customer engagement is so seamless and satisfying that you only concentrate on enjoying yourself - they really do all the background without you knowing it.  Believe the brochure you get from them.  

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Don't give up on Viking. Your TA may be able to move the payment date. We were able to. Our first cruise was with Avalon. That got us hooked on river cruising. If you choose Avalon go with a newer boat. Much nicer than the older one that we used called the Luminary. Our next cruise was with Viking and it was fantastic. When the weather is nice one can have meals outside on the Aquavit terrace. More casual with a really nice barbecue. We always do the pre and post stays. When we did or pre cruise with Avalon in Amsterdam the lobby area was taken over by Viking and looked to be much better organized for tours and questions than our Avalon one. In fact our Avalon rep came a lot later in the day and utilized a tiny room on one of the upper floors. The concierge at our hotel wasn't much help so it would have been nice to have had an Avalon rep when we got to the hotel. Maybe we've been lucky but all of our pre and post hotels with Viking had beautiful views of the water without asking for one. 

Our third river cruise was on the Rhone and we chose to go with Viking again because of the great experience we had with them the first time around. Thought it would be hard to top our Danube cruise but the Rhone was even better. Really fantastic. The level of service and detail with Viking was superb. 

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6 hours ago, TheKingD said:

There is definitely no need to drag formal wear or even "church clothes" because the daytime dress code is completely casual, and the dining room at night is no shorts or ball caps, and is probably close to "country club casual".  I wore casual dresses sometimes or casual slacks and tops, any my DH wore khakis or slacks with golf shirts or dress shirts without a tie or jacket.  Some men might have been slightly more dressy, but no one seemed to even notice.  I think the evening dress code is collared shirts for men as opposed to just t-shirts, but I'm not sure.

 

We went the beginning of June and were really lucky with our weather and the river levels, with no issues at all.  Every evening was perfect weather for sitting on the top deck before and after dinner.  Some of the afternoons were spent cruising, especially through the picturesque sections of the river, and most of the evenings were cruising, and the top deck was definitely the place to be for that.

 

We had watched the information about river levels the year before our trip, because that was the time that a number of cruise lines had issues.  Crystal does not have enough ships to do the "swaps" so their backup plan is to simply change the itineraries to avoid the low areas.  We are glad we did not experience low levels, but if we had, we would have been much happier with itinerary adjustments as opposed to ship swaps and bus trips.

 

The lower density on Crystal is apparent not only onboard the ship, but it is also really nice on excursions.  Some excursions might have included only a handful of people, and some were maybe 20 or so, but we never felt as if we were being herded around.

 

Even though the single supplement on Crystal is a bit pricey, our cruise definitely had a handful of singles in the mix, because some of the groups of people included some singles, so the 106 capacity ended up being in the 90's since some cabins only had 1 passenger. 

 

Crystal has adjusted their deposit and cancellation policies and they may continue to make adjustments, and their website stays current, so keep an eye out.  We have always used our TA for bookings, because they are very familiar with Crystal, and they keep us informed with plenty of details and suggestions and even last-minute logistical tidbits.

 

In the event of low water levels I would much prefer not to do a ship or bus swap.  Changing the itineraries to avoid the low water level sections sounds so much better as packing and unpacking does not appeal to us in the least.  The dress code sounds perfect.  Obviously the lower density pax comes with a dollar price, but it doesn't seem prohibitive.  I'm trying really hard to stay objective, but Crystal is so compelling.  lol

 

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6 hours ago, tfred said:

Crystal's only dress code is smart casual.  They call it country club casual.  In reality that means just about anything while on tour - shorts, jeans, sneakers, t shirts (although you should be respecting church tour guidelines).  At night none of those apply.  Collared shirts (generally long sleeved as it is cooler in the dining room than you think.  No real need to wear a sport coat.  You can guess I am a man, so my clothing recs are such - others can chime in.  I would think that most ships are the same.  

 

The self serve laundry on board is great.  It really cuts down on the amount of clothes you have to bring and you will go through a good amount since you are out everyday.  It isn't just rinse out your bathing suit like it is on an ocean liner.  

 

We have had the S5 room and the S1 room.  S5 is about 205 square feet and that is adequate for a summer cruise.i wouldn't go any smaller on another line.  We had the S1 (253 ft) for a Xmas cruise and that was better.  Bigger closet for winter clothes and such.  The actual usable room (bed and desk area) are the same size between the two different rooms.  You are paying for a double vanity and a bigger closet

 

The crowd on board Crystal is generally upper middle  My guess is that is true for many lines as the cruises are not some 7 day R/T Miami low ball last minute deal.  People have to plan and budget this money and it isn't a small number since were and post trips are always part of it.  

 

What you can put in a spreadsheet are the numbers - individual costs and see how they add up.  Gratuities, drinks, excursions.  What isn't in there is the experience and what that is worth.  If you have been on Royal and liked it, I can tell you that Crystal is 2 notches above that in experience.  Way above NCL.  That doesn't mean "too fancy for us", it means you will be wondering what you were spending your money on with RCCL and NCL.  Crystal customer engagement is so seamless and satisfying that you only concentrate on enjoying yourself - they really do all the background without you knowing it.  Believe the brochure you get from them.  

 

How to place a valuation on the Crystal "experience" is my quandary.  Your characterization of the experience as not "too fancy for us" is what I would want to hear.  We like exceptional service, but we don't want fancy of formal.  The clientele is somewhat important to us as we don't want to deal with rude or selfish people.  I would hope river cruising in general has a little better clientele than most mass market ocean cruise lines.   That's the main reason why we don't cruise with Carnival.  Too many rude people; one and done for us.  

 

So many are making a very compelling case for Crystal.  

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5 hours ago, dolllover said:

Don't give up on Viking. Your TA may be able to move the payment date. We were able to. Our first cruise was with Avalon. That got us hooked on river cruising. If you choose Avalon go with a newer boat. Much nicer than the older one that we used called the Luminary. Our next cruise was with Viking and it was fantastic. When the weather is nice one can have meals outside on the Aquavit terrace. More casual with a really nice barbecue. We always do the pre and post stays. When we did or pre cruise with Avalon in Amsterdam the lobby area was taken over by Viking and looked to be much better organized for tours and questions than our Avalon one. In fact our Avalon rep came a lot later in the day and utilized a tiny room on one of the upper floors. The concierge at our hotel wasn't much help so it would have been nice to have had an Avalon rep when we got to the hotel. Maybe we've been lucky but all of our pre and post hotels with Viking had beautiful views of the water without asking for one. 

Our third river cruise was on the Rhone and we chose to go with Viking again because of the great experience we had with them the first time around. Thought it would be hard to top our Danube cruise but the Rhone was even better. Really fantastic. The level of service and detail with Viking was superb. 

 

We haven't given up on Viking by any means.  I appreciate your input.  Good to hear the service was top-notch.  The Aquavit terrace experience is right up our alley.  Eating a meal outside is one of our favorite ocean cruise pastimes.  I fully expect we will do pre and post stays.  Nice to hear Viking excels in that area as we will need a little hand holding. If we're going to travel that far, we're going to take advantage being in Europe and explore some.

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Have you signed up for the brochures, or do you have a TA that could provide them for you yet?  It's a good way to compare what is & isn't included without having 10 tabs open and trying to go back & forth!  I would say your chances of running into rude / selfish people would run on any line, however I have really only heard good comments about fellow guests......except from those who don't like to mingle or make new friends.  There have been some who try it but want to be "alone" not only at meal times but all the time - that just doesn't work on a smaller boat and open areas.

 

Most lines will have tours of up to 20 - 25 people or down.  I love taking pictures and someone on here recommended the "slow walkers" group for doing so.  I was really glad, as not only did we have guides who could walk & talk as they had to keep moving to make sure we saw everything (the odd tour we took that didn't have slow walkers would stand, talk then walk somewhere else & do the same).  Because they were moving slower, there was lots of time to get some great shots (between 2 phones & 2 cameras, we came home with over 7000 shots!), but we usually had about 5-8 in our group.  It actually grew as time went on as others were realising it was the better group.  I can't say we were rushed in the "normal walkers", but you see more when you can stroll....:)  Also, there are often more than one choice of included excursion, so it helps to cut down the groups.  When we did take busses (not all the great towns are on the river), we never had a full one, but there were often 2 - 3 busses heading out.

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2 hours ago, Daisi said:

Have you signed up for the brochures, or do you have a TA that could provide them for you yet?  It's a good way to compare what is & isn't included without having 10 tabs open and trying to go back & forth!

 

No, I haven't signed up for brochures.  Worried if I request brochures it'll be a lifelong commitment and we will be inundated with junk mail for all eternity.  I was waiting to whittle down our list of prospective suitors before I took the big step. 

 

We love to take photographs so the slow walking tour is something we would be interested in doing.  Commando walking tours and photography don't mix well.  We are always stopping for photographs and running to catch up. 

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1 hour ago, Non Partisan Cruiser said:

 

No, I haven't signed up for brochures.  Worried if I request brochures it'll be a lifelong commitment and we will be inundated with junk mail for all eternity.  I was waiting to whittle down our list of prospective suitors before I took the big step. 

 

We love to take photographs so the slow walking tour is something we would be interested in doing.  Commando walking tours and photography don't mix well.  We are always stopping for photographs and running to catch up. 

 

(1) During the toilet paper hoarding crisis, I was glad for all the brochures in each day's mail.  [But do you know how to get ink stains off my ... ? :classic_biggrin::classic_biggrin::classic_biggrin:]

 

(2) All (or almost all) the river cruise lines use the QuietVox or similar system, where the guide has a wireless mic and the passengers have wireless earpieces.  So we photographers can hang back and get clear pictures of what was just described – without worrying about getting lost.

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1 hour ago, Non Partisan Cruiser said:

No, I haven't signed up for brochures.  Worried if I request brochures it'll be a lifelong commitment and we will be inundated with junk mail for all eternity.  I was waiting to whittle down our list of prospective suitors before I took the big step. 

Most of the companies don't inundate you with brochures. The exception seems to be Viking, although I must admit that they dropped me fairly quickly.

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1 hour ago, Non Partisan Cruiser said:

 

No, I haven't signed up for brochures.  Worried if I request brochures it'll be a lifelong commitment and we will be inundated with junk mail for all eternity.  I was waiting to whittle down our list of prospective suitors before I took the big step. 

 

We love to take photographs so the slow walking tour is something we would be interested in doing.  Commando walking tours and photography don't mix well.  We are always stopping for photographs and running to catch up. 

I get at least 3 a week from Viking. Really. They must have a huge advertising budget.

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8 minutes ago, Host Jazzbeau said:

 

(2) All (or almost all) the river cruise lines use the QuietVox or similar system, where the guide has a wireless mic and the passengers have wireless earpieces.  So we photographers can hang back and get clear pictures of what was just described – without worrying about getting lost.

These are great! You just have to remember to charge them every night!

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On 4/29/2020 at 3:36 PM, Non Partisan Cruiser said:

 

Thank you for the tips.  A happy hour sounds nice.  Avalon added to my list!  The castles are a major attraction for us, so appreciate the advice to have a view of both sides.  Look forward to commentary on the castles.  We prefer a room with a view so we won't be on the bottom deck.  Rafting doesn't sound like fun, but we'll be mentally prepared and take it as it comes.

Youll get lots of recommendations as everyone has their favorites!  I agree with everyone else to read all the introductory information first; it will help you decide what factors are most important for you.    We have done 3 cruises with Avalon; 2 on the older boats and one a year ago on one of the new Panorama ships, the Imagery II.  We chose our first cruise, on the Danube, with them mainly due to schedule (we were still working then), itinerary, and price.  The staterooms on the Panorama ships are beautiful, larger than those on other lines and we loved the bed facing the panoramic window.  Although when sailing the most scenic parts of the river we were on the upper deck, we did enjoy spending some quiet time in our rooms and appreciated the large window and view.  Our last cruise was last June on the Moselle and Rhine from Remich Luxembourg to Amsterdam.  If you are interested in viewing castles,  I suggest you look at this itinerary.  The Moselle is stunning, you'll cruise past vineyards and castles; we stopped in several picturesque towns and sampled the local wine.  When we reached the Rhine, the boat went south on the Rhine to dock in the small town of Engers.  I think this town was a new docking location for Avalon.  After dinner we were treated to an amazing violin/piano concert at a concert hall across the street from the dock.  It was a new excursion that was well appreciated and one I hope Avalon continues to offer.The advantage of doing this cruise in June with the long hours of daylight was that we got to sail through the Rhine Gorge twice as we headed north from Engers the next day.  We especially loved the Moselle because there weren't many other cruise ships on the river and we didn't have any other boats rafted to us.  Several lines cruise the Moselle along with the Rhine but there's usually only one or two at a time.  I think the only time we experienced rafting on that cruise was in Amsterdam and only for a half day.  I guess we were lucky!  We have found Avalon's price point, excursions, service, and accommodations work well for us.  I hope the information you find on this board helps you pick a line that works for you!

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5 hours ago, KathyK13 said:

Youll get lots of recommendations as everyone has their favorites!  I agree with everyone else to read all the introductory information first; it will help you decide what factors are most important for you.    We have done 3 cruises with Avalon; 2 on the older boats and one a year ago on one of the new Panorama ships, the Imagery II.  We chose our first cruise, on the Danube, with them mainly due to schedule (we were still working then), itinerary, and price.  The staterooms on the Panorama ships are beautiful, larger than those on other lines and we loved the bed facing the panoramic window.  Although when sailing the most scenic parts of the river we were on the upper deck, we did enjoy spending some quiet time in our rooms and appreciated the large window and view.  Our last cruise was last June on the Moselle and Rhine from Remich Luxembourg to Amsterdam.  If you are interested in viewing castles,  I suggest you look at this itinerary.  The Moselle is stunning, you'll cruise past vineyards and castles; we stopped in several picturesque towns and sampled the local wine.  When we reached the Rhine, the boat went south on the Rhine to dock in the small town of Engers.  I think this town was a new docking location for Avalon.  After dinner we were treated to an amazing violin/piano concert at a concert hall across the street from the dock.  It was a new excursion that was well appreciated and one I hope Avalon continues to offer.The advantage of doing this cruise in June with the long hours of daylight was that we got to sail through the Rhine Gorge twice as we headed north from Engers the next day.  We especially loved the Moselle because there weren't many other cruise ships on the river and we didn't have any other boats rafted to us.  Several lines cruise the Moselle along with the Rhine but there's usually only one or two at a time.  I think the only time we experienced rafting on that cruise was in Amsterdam and only for a half day.  I guess we were lucky!  We have found Avalon's price point, excursions, service, and accommodations work well for us.  I hope the information you find on this board helps you pick a line that works for you!

 

I'm glad to hear you've had several good experiences with Avalon, that's helpful input. The Panorama ship is the type of ship we're looking to cruise.  Cabin size and layout is one of our most important criteria.  Spending a week or more in a cramped poorly layout cabin is not for us.  Add to that, a better chance at a lack of rafting is a definite plus, (assuming your experience is indicative of future conditions, but who knows?)  Something for me to research.  

 

I'm not familiar with the Moselle and Rhine from Remich Luxembourg to Amsterdam route, but a cursory search on Google has me intrigued.  Thanks for sharing that.

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@KathyK13

Glad to read you enjoyed the concert in Engers. I have been to the Great Hall in the palace myself for a concert. They call it the Diana-Saal. Not huge but very sizable with an impressive ceiling painting. It is a great setting on the river almost unrivalled along the Rhine (for a palace I mean). Your description of the geography on this itinerary needs a little further explanation IMHO to help understand the OP why this itinerary is special as regards avoiding a ship swap. This is the page with map: https://www.avalonwaterways.com/river-cruise/canals-vineyards-castles-northbound/wra/?nextyear=true 

The itinerary route cuts out the low water stretch. You see Engers marked. Where the two rivers meet is Koblenz. South of Koblenz (downward along the blue line) is the low water area. The ship only does this down to Rüdesheim and goes back up (on the map). In low water that section is not sailed with the ship, but can be done by excursion boat or bus and you return to your ship in Engers. This is a lovely itinerary and I would recommend the OP compare it to the Moselle itineraries of Crystal as regards route to see how they sail.

 

Non Partisan Cruiser, the low water scenario is really only an issue for around three months and only potentially, in 2017 we had no ship swaps mentioned here. It would be from August till October. It is usually only a problem for the 125m to 135m ships (that is the majority these days). So if you prefer the large ships and want to avoid a swap and see many castles, Avalon's itinerary before beginning of August is a great one to go for!

 

Although I do think Strasbourg would be a great place to see on a cruise, which is the standard on the Basel to Amsterdam route and vice versa.

 

notamermaid

 

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10 hours ago, Coral said:

These are great! You just have to remember to charge them every night!

 

Avalon looked after that for our cruise...we picked up our QuietVox system (or whatever they called it) on our way off the ship to go on our tour.  Each one was already tuned to the correct number for whichever tour you were in and colour coded to the flag you would be following.  I think the most they had was 4 or 5 different colours laid out.

 

Jazz, we had some problems on the "regular" walker tours when guides would go around the small streets without noticing if anyone was lacking behind, and you loose connection with the QuietVox.  There was one guy on our cruise who was in a wheel chair for the tours (he could walk, but not far.  He usually spent most of the time in the squares enjoying the atmosphere while we toured) that my husband would push around, and in Heidelberg, we had a very hard time keeping up with the guide.  With the narrow "streets", tall stone buildings and her not keeping an eye out for us, we were having to have his wife & I run with the group to make sure we could follow.  Fortunately, others quickly picked up we were missing and made her wait.  Needless to say, I missed a lot of nice pics that we tried to go back to get, but it would have been nice to have time to take them when we first went by.

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Not sure if they use the QuietVox system, but I saw on television that Pheonix Reisen keeps the devices in boxes in a separate room and checks them and recharges them if necessary. A great invention they are. Used them as similar versions during a museum tour. It was great as the museum could have two guides explaining different paintings in the same room without disturbing each other's listeners.

 

For the frequencies not disappearing I can imagine that street corners and tall buildings are a challenge.

 

notamermaid

 

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On 5/2/2020 at 8:46 AM, Daisi said:

 

Avalon looked after that for our cruise...we picked up our QuietVox system (or whatever they called it) on our way off the ship to go on our tour.  Each one was already tuned to the correct number for whichever tour you were in and colour coded to the flag you would be following.  I think the most they had was 4 or 5 different colours laid out.

 

Jazz, we had some problems on the "regular" walker tours when guides would go around the small streets without noticing if anyone was lacking behind, and you loose connection with the QuietVox.  There was one guy on our cruise who was in a wheel chair for the tours (he could walk, but not far.  He usually spent most of the time in the squares enjoying the atmosphere while we toured) that my husband would push around, and in Heidelberg, we had a very hard time keeping up with the guide.  With the narrow "streets", tall stone buildings and her not keeping an eye out for us, we were having to have his wife & I run with the group to make sure we could follow.  Fortunately, others quickly picked up we were missing and made her wait.  Needless to say, I missed a lot of nice pics that we tried to go back to get, but it would have been nice to have time to take them when we first went by.

 

people wandering off on their own is fairly common.  The guides we had only checked when we actually would get back on the bus and would announce ahead of time where and when the bus was leaving to go back to the ship.  The group tour can't be held hostage by everyone stopping wherever they want.  there generally is some free time after the group tour that allows people to go back to revisit a site

 

I would imagine wheelchair users would find these rive cruises more difficult.  Old towns, cobblestone streets.  Europe is not always ADA compliant

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5 minutes ago, tfred said:

 

people wandering off on their own is fairly common.  The guides we had only checked when we actually would get back on the bus and would announce ahead of time where and when the bus was leaving to go back to the ship.  The group tour can't be held hostage by everyone stopping wherever they want.  there generally is some free time after the group tour that allows people to go back to revisit a site

 

I would imagine wheelchair users would find these rive cruises more difficult.  Old towns, cobblestone streets.  Europe is not always ADA compliant

 

Most of the guides we had would keep an eye out to make sure everyone was following, and fellow cruisers (ourselves included) would let the guide know if we were wandering off as we needed to know where the pick up was.  My husband pushed the chair for this couple, as his wife was having a hard time, and most of the guides (even some of those on the regular tours) did ensure that we were close behind.  This guide (and another one we had on the regular walking tour) just marched along and did loose several other guests...and yeah, the Captain, Hotel Manager and CD all heard about it.  We weren't stopping to look, just trying to keep up.

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with ocean cruises, 40% of the pax never get off the ship so excursions are different and many people just don't do them.  "St Kitts Marketplace tour" is going to be slow speed.  Everything is designed for mostly US pax with ADA compliance.  You know what snorkeling excursion is going to be like and won't do it if it sounds above your grade

 

River cruises are inherently different with 95% of pax getting off.  They will not get an ocean excursion experience as you are walking through narrow steep streets and are fairly ambulatory.  Churches built in the 1400s.  No ramps.  2 hours of steady walking at a reasonable pace.  River tours can be rated as "soft, moderate, extreme" (at least by Crystal) and allows self selection.  You can read some reviews on this site with rants about excursions (death march was my favorite term).  

 

We are all adults, there is a narrow window for the whole tour and people want to wander off they should tell the guide and they won't look for them.  There are people who actually would like to get all they can out of the guides knowledge, so wandering off is affecting those people.  Yes, there are some guides who are more regimented and want to get it all in - they dont last long.   

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Never been on an ocean cruise, so would have no idea as to pax or how they operate.  The couple we were helping were living their dream vacation while they still could, and they were not the only passengers we helped out, as it was more important to all work together and have a good time than to rush through the tourist spots.  We had the Captain and Hotel Manager not only send us off on tours every day, but also greet us when we returned, so that's when I heard various people mentioning how they either enjoyed the various guides or had problems.  I guess you could say the one I was referring to Jazz to was one on a "death march".  That is why we chose the gentle walkers group.  We often saw (and got pictures of) a lot of stuff others didn't as their guides marched them straight past.  Maybe they chose the guides for the gentle walkers to be more at ease with some who could not jog around on the cobble stones.  I just enjoyed being able to wander within hearing range and getting pictures.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

I don't have the wealth of experience that many do who have already posted.  We have only done two river cruises so far - but our first (2017) was Uniworld's Castles Along the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel, and it was wonderful in every way.  We enjoyed it so much that we did another Uniworld cruise (Delightful Danube and Prague) last summer and hope to do others when it is safer to travel.  We like the fact that Uniworld is all-inclusive (except for a few extra excursions) -- no nickel/diming, no surprises at the end.  Tips are not required/expected (although we did tip our housekeeper and a couple of waiters who had done an exceptional job).  Alcohol is also included (unless you prefer top-shelf brands, then there is an additional charge) and is not limited to just beer/wine at meals.  We aren't big drinkers, but we really enjoyed going up to the top deck after dinner each evening and having a cocktail as we sailed.  I'm sure that's an option on other cruise lines - but the convenience of not having to sign a tab was nice.  Some of the Uniworld decor is a little 'frou-frou' - but that was far out-weighed by the level of service we enjoyed.  We are in our early 60's, active, and not interested in a pretentious, high-brow crowd.  We felt very comfortable on Uniworld and made some great new friends.  As another poster said - if you enjoy your first river cruise, you will be hard-pressed to try another cruise line.  

Also - we had planned to have over 24 hours in Amsterdam before embarking.  But due to some flight delays, we did not arrive until two hours beforehand.  Wish we'd had more time to explore.  But we did do our own extension at the end and spent three days in Lucerne, which I highly recommend.  Then took the train to the Zurich airport to return.     

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4 hours ago, Caligirl58 said:

I don't have the wealth of experience that many do who have already posted.  We have only done two river cruises so far - but our first (2017) was Uniworld's Castles Along the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel, and it was wonderful in every way.  We enjoyed it so much that we did another Uniworld cruise (Delightful Danube and Prague) last summer and hope to do others when it is safer to travel.  We like the fact that Uniworld is all-inclusive (except for a few extra excursions) -- no nickel/diming, no surprises at the end.  Tips are not required/expected (although we did tip our housekeeper and a couple of waiters who had done an exceptional job).  Alcohol is also included (unless you prefer top-shelf brands, then there is an additional charge) and is not limited to just beer/wine at meals.  We aren't big drinkers, but we really enjoyed going up to the top deck after dinner each evening and having a cocktail as we sailed.  I'm sure that's an option on other cruise lines - but the convenience of not having to sign a tab was nice.  Some of the Uniworld decor is a little 'frou-frou' - but that was far out-weighed by the level of service we enjoyed.  We are in our early 60's, active, and not interested in a pretentious, high-brow crowd.  We felt very comfortable on Uniworld and made some great new friends.  As another poster said - if you enjoy your first river cruise, you will be hard-pressed to try another cruise line.  

Also - we had planned to have over 24 hours in Amsterdam before embarking.  But due to some flight delays, we did not arrive until two hours beforehand.  Wish we'd had more time to explore.  But we did do our own extension at the end and spent three days in Lucerne, which I highly recommend.  Then took the train to the Zurich airport to return.     

 

Thank you for your input.  Uniworld is still high on our list.  Especially like that we can book through a well-known club warehouse for a discount. 

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15 hours ago, Non Partisan Cruiser said:

 

Thank you for your input.  Uniworld is still high on our list.  Especially like that we can book through a well-known club warehouse for a discount. 

I personally recommend using a real agent. I consider big box stores as "order takers". Not real agents. A river cruise is a big investment - IMO, it is worth working with people who know their stuff. Not those paid to just take an order. Do you think these order takers have been on one or multiple lines?

 

I also recommend some river cruise books. There is one by Avid Cruiser that I have been meaning to purchase. https://www.amazon.com/Ultimate-River-Cruising-Handbook-formula/dp/1983943231/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=ralph+grizzle&qid=1589385663&sr=8-1 

 

Berlitz and Frommers also have copies.

 

I am adding - pick someone who has actually gone on multiple river cruise lines. My agent is across the country but we can talk on the phone.

Edited by Coral
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I also think a good "independent" or small chain TA is a good idea. It need not be in your town. With air travel there, river cruise and air travel back you have three components that could get a problem of sorts. I have a travel agent in Hamburg, i.e. 500km away from me. I always use them for my UK travels. They really know their stuff. Phone around, ask around.

 

notamermaid

 

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