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38 minutes ago, Eddie99 said:

Has anyone done a European river cruise?  How was it?

Hints & tips?

I will be interested too, we have been planning to do a river cruise for quite a few years but cost has tempted to put us off, when you can spend 5 weeks in the Caribbean for less than a river cruise then you have to think carefully. However last year we decided to take the plunge and booked Amsterdam to Budapest on one of the new Tui river cruises. We have since moved it to 2022 as we are not confident about this year, if things change we still plan to go if available at the right price. The one we have moved to next year is still the Danube from Budapest but the opposite direction. I have never had any doubt that river cruising will suit us.

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We did one a few years ago and we enjoyed it but there were good bits and  some limitations 

 

The good bits

 

No queues for anything

You dock in the centre of towns and cities so really easy walking distance to attractions day and evening. A more local experience than on a cruise.

You get to know other passengers as numbers are very small

The food and service were excellent and most drinks included

Great guest speakers and local entertainers

Seeing inland locations not reached by ocean cruise

 

limitations

 

limited outdoor space to sit

if you dock in a busy area you have to cross over other river boats to get to yours

limited entertainment venues which were busy when the boat was travelling (and that bit was boring and sometimes all morning / afternoon)

nice to get to know others but a little claustrophobic

you are at the mercy of the water level which if too high / low means you can miss towns and end up on a coach to them. Pick your time of year carefully for the river you are travelling on.

 

Overall we enjoyed it.

 

 

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54 minutes ago, yorkshirephil said:

I will be interested too, we have been planning to do a river cruise for quite a few years but cost has tempted to put us off, when you can spend 5 weeks in the Caribbean for less than a river cruise then you have to think carefully. However last year we decided to take the plunge and booked Amsterdam to Budapest on one of the new Tui river cruises. We have since moved it to 2022 as we are not confident about this year, if things change we still plan to go if available at the right price. The one we have moved to next year is still the Danube from Budapest but the opposite direction. I have never had any doubt that river cruising will suit us.

We did a Nile cruise about 10 years ago. The cruise was very good and the ship was fine. It was through TUI and an upper deck was good value. We saw some river cruise ships in Honfleur. The lower deck cabins seemed at water level. Booking an upper deck on a River cruise for 7 days now seems about the same price, or more as a 14 night sea cruise in a balcony cabin.

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It’s not a cheap option, for sure

Similarities to but significant differences from ocean cruising

 

I’m very interested to hear experiences of P&O cruisers who have tried the rivers - particularly European 

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We’ve done two river cruises. The first one on the Rhône from Avignon and finished at Lyon. Loved it, it was quite sedate compared with ocean cruising but food was excellent and mooring up in the centre of the towns or villages was a real bonus. Entertainment in the evenings was mainly a pianist, a quiz or the crew show.  The second cruise was the Danube from Budapest to Vienna and Salzburg. Loved this one too. Would definitely do another. Cabin nicely appointed smaller then P&O but bathroom bigger. We had no problem during the day finding space to sit on the deck, whilst watching the scenery pass by. 

Edited by Kentish Lass
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27 minutes ago, Eddie99 said:

It’s not a cheap option, for sure

Similarities to but significant differences from ocean cruising

 

I’m very interested to hear experiences of P&O cruisers who have tried the rivers - particularly European 

With specific comparison to P&O

 

The food was much better quality on the river cruise but the selection was much more limited (same for the bar, more limited choices).

 

Service was more personal on the river cruise.

 

Ability to DIY visit the town / city easier on the river

 

The choice of entertainment is much better on P&O

 

There is more buzz on P&O, the river boat was very sedate

 

 Anything specific you want to know?

 

ps no sea sickness

Edited by Eglesbrech
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1 hour ago, Eglesbrech said:

We did one a few years ago and we enjoyed it but there were good bits and  some limitations 

 

The good bits

 

No queues for anything

You dock in the centre of towns and cities so really easy walking distance to attractions day and evening. A more local experience than on a cruise.

You get to know other passengers as numbers are very small

The food and service were excellent and most drinks included

Great guest speakers and local entertainers

Seeing inland locations not reached by ocean cruise

 

limitations

 

limited outdoor space to sit

if you dock in a busy area you have to cross over other river boats to get to yours

limited entertainment venues which were busy when the boat was travelling (and that bit was boring and sometimes all morning / afternoon)

nice to get to know others but a little claustrophobic

you are at the mercy of the water level which if too high / low means you can miss towns and end up on a coach to them. Pick your time of year carefully for the river you are travelling on.

 

Overall we enjoyed it.

 

 

Great information.

 

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I've done several river cruises. In addition to what others have said, I'd add that there normally aren't any sea (or I suppose river) days. Often you travel from one stop to the next overnight, though sometimes a half-day will be spent in going from place to place. Also the scenery when you are moving tends to be a lot more interesting than on a sea day when you are in mid-ocean. One con to set against the pros is that in my experience the cabins tend to be more cramped, though that might be because I'm travelling as a single. (But there are some deals where there is no or only a small single supplement, which is nice.)

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I actually also did a couple of “river” cruises on a small ocean ship with Fred Olsen (French rivers and the Kiel canal) with Fred Olsen and that was the best of both worlds so also worth a thought.

 

jh is right about the scenery being much more interesting than on a sea day.

 

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1 hour ago, jh1809 said:

I've done several river cruises. In addition to what others have said, I'd add that there normally aren't any sea (or I suppose river) days. Often you travel from one stop to the next overnight, though sometimes a half-day will be spent in going from place to place. Also the scenery when you are moving tends to be a lot more interesting than on a sea day when you are in mid-ocean. One con to set against the pros is that in my experience the cabins tend to be more cramped, though that might be because I'm travelling as a single. (But there are some deals where there is no or only a small single supplement, which is nice.)

Just don't expect to see too many whales or dolphins.:classic_rolleyes:

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3 hours ago, Eddie99 said:

Thanks everyone 

Goodness knows if we will ever do this.  Our Euro list is quite short - South of France and Douro, in that order

 

 

Just to say that all sailing on the Douro is done during the day (sailing at night is banned). This can reduce the time spent at the various stops.

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We did a Christmas market cruise a few years back from Cologne down to Ruddesheim and back. Most of the cruising was done during the day so didn't have whole days in towns that you stopped at. Also found the cabin very cramped. The ofa during the day became one bed with the other bed folded out of the wall by cabin steward during dinner. Gap between the two you had to walk sideways!!

Food was good but you had to pre-order and options were limited. 

 

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My husband and I are keen cruisers on both ocean and river ships with the driving force being the destinations rather than the cruise company and ship. We have done river cruises on the Nile, Yangtze, Mekong, Irrawaddy, Amazon and Rhône and have one booked for June this year sailing from Amsterdam to Bucharest. We loved every one of them!
As others have said, a river cruise is very different from an ocean cruise because ships are much smaller and the land experiences are more intense. A river cruise give people the chance to get know an area in greater depth. We do land tours as well but find the constant packing, unpacking and moving to different hotels quite tiring as we are getting older. A river cruise is an excellent alternative.....unpack once and the same bed all holiday!!
I do a lot of research before I book any trip and carefully compare what each TA and cruise line has to offer before making a decision.
River cruise company prices often, but not always, include drinks, Wi-fi and a choice of excursions at the ports. Some include extra special excursions such as an evening concert and dinner in places like Vienna.
Cabins are very similar to ocean going ships although balconies tend to be 'Juliette' style as the ships have to be able to fit through the locks etc. I never had a problem with a cabin near the water line as river waters are usually calm.

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Inevitably, entertainment is very limited but quite often you are moored overnight in a town so can spend the evening ashore.
The ships sometimes have to dock parallel with other ships so you have to walk through to get ashore but I always found this interesting because you get a chance to be 'nosy'!
On all the river cruises that we have done except for the Nile cruise, we were given a choice of included shore excursions at each port. These ranged from walking tours, cycling tours, home visits and cookery classes to bus trips to more distant attractions. On the Nile cruise there was one included excursion each day.
Food has always been good and varied although, again, options were more limited. Some ships had ‘traditional' dining but others had 'open' seating.
We loved sailing along the rivers and never had a problem finding seats on deck. There was always something to see and someone to chat to.

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I’m trying to think of a downside and am struggling but we are easy-going travellers and don’t need much entertaining.

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Having just read the last post, I have to agree that the cruise line you use makes a big difference - of course all the ships are small, with limited entertainment, but the quality of what you get varies a lot, as does the price, naturally.

 

It is not too easy to compare the various lines, but with a bit of effort you can find out what is included, and how large the cabins etc.  Viking is certainly one of the top lines, with top prices.   They compare unfavourably with ocean cruising on price per day, but  if you can afford it it is something I would love to do sometime, either the Douro or Danube.

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1 hour ago, Eddie99 said:

Thanks

IF we ever get round to doing it, it will be with a 5* line - Viking etc.  I’m hoping that would mean more space, meal choice etc?

 

We have done two river cruises, both with Viking.  I will give you a report here, but if you have specific questions, please ask away.

 

We travel to see the destinations and they are often less visited ones, so our choices where Bucharest to Budapest and a few years later, St Petersburg to Moscow.  In terms of what we saw/did it was a load more than you would expect on an ocean cruise.  Viking include their tours and TBH it can feel quite busy, especially when you consider that when you are not docked, then there is scenic cruising.  With both our packages we had a short time in hotels at each end of the cruise.  They were Included in the first cruise, but payed optional extras in Russia.  The hotels included a viking rep(s) based at the hotel who can help advise with suggested restaurants or details about, location of and best way to get to places of interest which you wish to visit.  We also had short tours for each hotel stay in Russia, which helped to gain our confidence in getting about as they also included a trip using the underground.  I would definitely recommend those hotel stays on both cruises as it gives time to go around, see and experience the places and countries in a way that you do not do on set tours. However the Viking tours did cover a lot and given the limited time docked on river cruises have a lot to be said for them.

 

Our first cruise was on the cheapest cabin, bottom deck and to the front and was fine.  It was an older ship which is not used now and had a big round window and the water washed across the bottom of it when sailing.  In Russia we had a balcony cabin on a "price we could not refuse" basis if we booked the first boat out that season.  In fact both cruises where the first of the season which meant they were well priced.  The weather was good but not a hot weather holiday.  It was quite warm and sunny much of the time though, but perhaps needed a jacket. Sadly in Russia we missed the most northerly port as the ice had not melted around it, but instead we were given a deck ice party when they sailed near to ice flows and there was free vodka and nibbles, and we also had a free folk dancing show, which otherwise would have been a payed extra.  So we were treated well.  It was a very icy year and they did say the port was only missed once every few years, perhaps 8 years, so we were unlucky.  The down side of the first boat out is that there can be hiccups regards they planning of the itinerary as it is the first time the boat was doing the run that year and hiccups did happen on both cruises,  though it was only one problem on each of our cruises, so we would happily go for the first boat of the season again as it was another big advantage that the tourist season was just waking up, so we did not have the crowds that you see in high season, particularly in Russia.  Generally the planning was spot on and went like clockwork, in fact we were the first group in St Catherines Palace (they had paid for early doors), so each room was empty as we arrived.  Also we were queued up outside The Hermitage, ready to enter as it opened, so although a number of people were around, it was not like I have seen explained elsewhere.

 

Both cabins were fine with no feeling of being cramped and facilities were good on the ship.  Pictures are available of cabins in their brochure/website and their office sent me a couple of pictures of cabins on the Russian ship which had posts in them, which some people found problematic (if book early can avoid post cabins).  Those Russian boats have to be a specific type of boat, but Viking have refurbed theirs to make the cabins bigger.  Entertainment was not something we encountered, apart from a musician in a lounge, but there would have been little time to partake of it anyway IMO.

 

There is not time to have a leisurely shower before dinner most days, but it is not a formal atmosphere, like that on an Ocean cruise, so not needed at that time of year.  Dinner and I think at times Lunch, were at a set time, but not set tables so you can sit where you want.  There were some tables for two on the Russian boat which we often managed to get by going in nippily, otherwise it was shared tables which was also good as you got to know your fellow travellers, some of whom were very interesting, well travelled people.  A lot of US folk and also a fair number of Aus people on Viking.  Meals were fine, but by no means the very lengthy, substantial (and fattening) meals which are often served on Ocean ships, though that may in our case have been because our cruises were in Eastern Europe.  We did not go hungry though and the meals were very acceptable (I think there was a choice of 2 or 3 main courses and probably other things.

 

Most tours as I said were included, though there were some extra ones which were charged for (quite a lot), but we did not book those and there was no need to do so - really only used by US people who wanted to see absolutely everything they could whilst there.  The included trips were good and even included a trip to the Opera in St Petersburg, so overall I would not say prices of the cruises were unduly high (if off season) and hotels for their land stays were excellent and also very well located.  It was possible to go off on your own and explore independently if not taking the optional tours, even in Russia when the ships are not docked centrally.  Reception were very helpful by telling us how to get into SPB and Moscow by public transport - mainly on the underground, but needed a bus to the underground in SPB, which was an experience in itself!  If you have any mobility issues I should think your experience would be very restricted on the river cruises we did as there was a lot of walking. 

 

There is a river cruise section of these boards which are worth migrating to for details of specific cruises.

 

Enjoy, I would recommend. 

Edited by tring
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Well, those were a good read.  Thank you all, very much

 

tring - thank you for the reminder that there are other sections to this message board!  D’oh 🙄

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Interesting reading.  We did one some years ago and it was awful.  Our cabin smelt of bilge water.  We had to eat at 6.30 or even earlier every day, then nothing to do afterwards, apart from one bloke playing keyboards.  We said never again.  That said, I would imagine the very expensive ones are  not like that.  The food was very average as well.

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1 hour ago, Eddie99 said:

Well, those were a good read.  Thank you all, very much

 

tring - thank you for the reminder that there are other sections to this message board!  D’oh 🙄

 

This is a good place to start though if want a comparison with what you are used to.

 

A couple of extra thoughts - there were quite a lot of talks about Russian History and life in Russia as well as basic Russian language lessons from the onboard guides, so not at a loss for something to do when not in port in the daytime.  Probably the same on the Eastern Danube, but that cruise was about 7 years ago so memory not so good and also less sailing time between stops than in Russia.  Both cruises felt very busy and we opted out of a tour one day on The Danube in exchange for a stroll round the Croatian town we were moored, visited the church and then bought a local savoury pastry to eat on the deserted top boat deck washed down with a bottle of Bulgarian beer, we had bought at a previous port. A good choice of day, as that day was a long drive to the tour destination.

 

Viking do have very high suggested tips, but can opt out of having them deducted from account and do your own thing, which we did.  Wine always included with meals, but other drinks charged for apart from tea/coffee which you get from a self service point that also had snacks available.  No kettles in cabins.  Things may have changed or be different on the other boats, so will need to check. 

Edited by tring
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1 hour ago, jeanlyon said:

Interesting reading.  We did one some years ago and it was awful.  Our cabin smelt of bilge water.  We had to eat at 6.30 or even earlier every day, then nothing to do afterwards, apart from one bloke playing keyboards.  We said never again.  That said, I would imagine the very expensive ones are  not like that.  The food was very average as well.

 

Meals were usually early, possibly 7pm, but as I said a rush to get there if been out and Viking do not produce daily sheets, but like to gather people together half an hour before dinner to talk at them about the next day, which we found irritating at times.  Most people pretty tired after their meals so a sit in the lounge for a while was fine and there were always fellow passengers to chat with and not many hung around.  With a busy itinerary it is easy to become brain dead, which I must say affected me, but not so much my husband who has a big interest in things like history etc.

 

Viking boats we travelled on, along with the food was fine and when you consider what you can pay for wine with dinner and tours from an Ocean ship I do not think our low season travels were expensive, for the itineraries we did.  Prices rise massively in high season and will be pretty hard going in the heat for many people as well.  Food can be quite iffy on some other Russian cruises from what I have read, so would keep to a good company there.

Edited by tring
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CAnt really add more to whats been mentioned other than make sure you check the river level charts on the river cruise section of this board and the best time to cruise - One thing to be aware of is that your cruise wont cancel if the levels are too high (cant get under bridges) or too low (basically to shallow water) - instead it will either stay docked all week (or length) and you will become a floating hotel (that could never move) and bus to the locations - or you will  boat swap by sailing to a location where you can swap boats.

 

Its very (very) rare so dont panic - but its good to avoid certain rivers at certain times if the rain has been heavy or the ice melt is above norm.. Or early spring stick to those based more around canals/or heavily controlled with locks  such as Dutch based or further afield Nile etc.

 

Im tempted myself by Sagas new ship for the Spring if there is nothing happening.

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7 hours ago, Eddie99 said:

Thanks

IF we ever get round to doing it, it will be with a 5* line - Viking etc.  I’m hoping that would mean more space, meal choice etc?

 

My wife and I did a River Cruise down the Danube to Budapest with Viking 18 months ago. Its a very different experience from Ocean cruising and not really comparable. Food and Service where excellent and definitely a step up from P&O. Rooms were not much smaller than a typical inside cabin. As already mentioned stopping in the middle of the towns and cities is great and the free included tours where all excellent. You also get plenty of freetime to explore as your generally in one place for the whole day.  The intimacy of a small boat is a bit of a double edged sword. Its great that you get to know more of your fellow passengers but as you generally only have one bar and restaurant you can tire of dining with other people after a few days.

Entertainment was very limited. Some were the kind of acts you would expect to turn up at a care home on a Tuesday Afternoon. That said the average age on our cruise, I would say was around 70 and most seem to enjoy it. 

Overall it was a great experience and I would do it again , however my wife was not so taken with it. 

Would highly recommend Viking if you are going to do it. 

Edited by Bobblehat71
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