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Your thoughts on a longer (23 day+) river cruise?


Smokeyham
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Hello,

 

Researching European river cruises and thinking that a longer cruise would be better especially if travelling from America.  I see that Viking offers a 23-day Amsterdam to Bucahrest (on the Rhine, Main and Danube) cruise that looks interesting.  

 

Here are a couple of questions.....

 

* Since there are no "sea days" does this get a bit exhausting, with a port of call each day?  Of course, you don't have to do an excursion every day, but if you just end up being sandwiched between two other ships in a port then being in your cabin or a public space if you choose not to go ashore does not sound like much fun either.

 

* Do the ships have laundry services for a journey of that length?

 

* Are there any other longer river cruises that you recommend?

 

Anything else we should be thinking about regarding a longer river cruise?

 

Thanks!

 

 

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You can send clothing out for laundry service with Viking---put it out when you leave for the morning excursion, and it's back before dinner.  Prices are reasonable.

 

Viking also has a river/ocean combo where one sails from Basel to Amsterdam on the Rhine, then get on an ocean ship for a Scandinavian cruise.  Not sure how many days that combo adds up to.

 

@Smokeyham, have you done a river cruise before?  I ask because some folks who are accustomed to ocean cruises do not adapt well to the more low key style of river cruises.  Many on CC have recommended a shorter (8 day) first cruise.

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3 minutes ago, sharkster77 said:

 

@Smokeyham, have you done a river cruise before?  I ask because some folks who are accustomed to ocean cruises do not adapt well to the more low key style of river cruises.  Many on CC have recommended a shorter (8 day) first cruise.

@Sharkster77

Thanks for the response.  I have not done a river cruise before (but have done a number of ocean cruises).   Thanks for the information about laundry services and also the advice to consider a shorter cruise for the first taste of ocean cruising.   

I was just watching Gary Bembridge's (Tips for Travellers) video about 14 things to be aware of on a river cruise, and he had some good points.

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26 minutes ago, Smokeyham said:

Hello,

 

Researching European river cruises and thinking that a longer cruise would be better especially if travelling from America.  I see that Viking offers a 23-day Amsterdam to Bucahrest (on the Rhine, Main and Danube) cruise that looks interesting.  

 

Here are a couple of questions.....

 

* Since there are no "sea days" does this get a bit exhausting, with a port of call each day?  Of course, you don't have to do an excursion every day, but if you just end up being sandwiched between two other ships in a port then being in your cabin or a public space if you choose not to go ashore does not sound like much fun either.

 

* Do the ships have laundry services for a journey of that length?

 

* Are there any other longer river cruises that you recommend?

 

Anything else we should be thinking about regarding a longer river cruise?

 

Thanks!

 

 

Our first river cruise was a B2B Bucharest/Budapest; Budapest/Cologne.  24 nights all together.  We had the same thought that you have, as long as we had to fly from the west coast USA we may as well take the longer trip.

 

Unlike an ocean trip, it doesn't really feel like "a port call every day".  In fact there are some days you are just traveling on the river, seeing the sights.  It's really more like you're staying in a moving hotel, and the day's excursions are usually not that exhausting that wears you out.

 

Rafting (tying up to another ship) is really not that bad.  Often there aren't many people remaining onboard either ship to seem crowded.  Now, if you have a lower deck room, yes, it's quite likely that your room/window will be looking directly into someone else's room.  But you can just hang out on deck (upper decks are pretty exposed) or in the lounge.  And having conversations with people on the other boat (if there are any) can be fun.  It's not a bad idea to be sure your curtains are closed in your room when going to bed the night before a stop (just in case you're tied up to another boat in the morning).

Edited by Shmoo here
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1 minute ago, Shmoo here said:

Our first river cruise was a B2B Bucharest/Budapest; Budapest/Cologne.  24 nights all together.  We had the same thought that you have, ......

@Shmoo here

 

Thanks....  I appreciate your perspective.

 

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23 days on the rivers is a long time. I loved my river cruise of 8 days and would gladly have one of 10 days. But longer I would struggle with. It is nice being pampered but after a while the "be on board by ..." and other reglementation showed me that I am used to being an individual car traveller most of the time.

 

You may love 23 days but I highly recommend reading the stickies at the top of the river cruising board before you book.

 

One thing to consider is the seasons. There may literally not be enough water in the rivers. As a rule of thumb I would not do this cruise between end of September and end of October as the risk is high for low water in all three rivers, potentially at the same time. On the Main this does not really matter, but the Rhine and Danube (that one especially in Germany) can become impassable. Noone can even predict a month before you sail - you will get hints in the weather forecast two weeks out - if this scenario can happen. But especially Viking are good at dealing with this and coach rides and "ship swaps" will get you past the low stretches of river. Ship swaps means you leave one ship, take the tour bus and board another ship up or down the river to continue your trip. If you are fine with that, ignore the rivers ups and downs and enjoy the "adventure".

 

Have you thought of a shorter trip with DIY extension?

 

Have fun planning.

 

notamermaid

 

Edited by notamermaid
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If I am flying to Europe, it is going to be a minimum of 14 days. My last 2 trips planned for Europe (that didn't go) were around 23-30 days.

 

I would have no hesitations booking a 23 day trip. If I am paying for air and investing time to fly to Europe - I want to go for longer than 7-8 nights.

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Excellent question.  Our first ever river cruise was eight days in the south of France, five days cruising (mostly at night) and the rest docked. It was a good cruise but given the time, effort and cost to get to Europe from North America it was short. We knew we needed to add on some DIY vacationing at the end.  We learned that an eight day cruise was too short for us. 

 

So, for the next two years we booked 14-day cruises: Amsterdam to Budapest with a week first in Amsterdam; and, the second cruise was Budapest to Amsterdam with a week either side. That worked out much better because we had more time to explore Amsterdam & area, Prague & area and  Budapest.

 

We enjoy the destination focus of river cruises and although each day can be a little regimented it was not a deal breaker.  Now should river cruising get back on track we would definitely consider Amsterdam to Bucharest without hesitation.  Of course it all depends on your personal travelling preferences. We enjoy the guided excursions, meeting fellow travelers, trying new foods & wine and the amazing scenery plus new culturally events.

 

Whether it is an 8, 14 or 23 days cruise, everyday is an early start and if you are joining the ship's excursion the coaches leave around 8:30am so it is a bit up and at 'em. Back to the ship for lunch most days, out again and back for a hurried shower to get to dinner at 7pm. A busy day for the most part especially if you are going on a an evening excursion too. 

 

As an aside: One evening we spoke with a fellow passenger and simply asked if she was enjoying her cruise and she said, quite tersely, "No! There is absolutely nothing to do on this ship! No entertainment and you have to eat when they tell you".  Yikes! She still had 10 days to go before she could escape!

 

It is a good idea to read the reviews on this board and go ahead and post questions because travelers here are great and will happily give you the benefit of their experiences.  Enjoy your planning and research and hopefully we will all be back on the river soon or at least soon-ish.

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1 hour ago, Coral said:

If I am flying to Europe, it is going to be a minimum of 14 days. My last 2 trips planned for Europe (that didn't go) were around 23-30 days.

 

I would have no hesitations booking a 23 day trip. If I am paying for air and investing time to fly to Europe - I want to go for longer than 7-8 nights.

Your post reminded me of a former boss who retired and went on a trip to Australia from the US.  He was basically on a plane for almost 24 hours, AND ONLY STAYED IN OZ FOR A WEEK (!!!), then spent almost an entire day on a plane to come home.  I can't imagine how his internal clock dealt with that!!

 

We are starting to think like you---our 3 trips to Europe have been 7, 9, and 12 days.  We are now looking at tours of at least 2 weeks, rationalizing that we would essentially get two trips out of one set of flights.

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13 minutes ago, sharkster77 said:

Your post reminded me of a former boss who retired and went on a trip to Australia from the US.  He was basically on a plane for almost 24 hours, AND ONLY STAYED IN OZ FOR A WEEK (!!!), then spent almost an entire day on a plane to come home.  I can't imagine how his internal clock dealt with that!!

I went to Japan for 5 days once. Had an amazing airfare and the person I was traveling with only wanted to do that trip as a mileage run (she had to fly in order to keep her status with the airline).

 

It is amazing the stuff I would do when young but won't do now that I am old (turned 50 this year).

 

I fly out of a Midwest small airport. No direct flights anyway except for Chicago and Denver. It really takes me forever to get anywhere. I am 8-9 hours away from a major hub so driving there is not an option either. I envy those on the East coast who can easily fly to Europe.

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@Smokeyham, my advice is don't limit yourself to Viking when looking at longer river cruises.  Check out Tauck, Uniworld, Scenic, and Avalon, to name a few.  Viking gets all the press and does the most advertising, but they're not the only game in town.  

 

I like Gary Bembridge's videos, and think he gives accurate and realistic information about river cruising and cruising in general.  Just be aware of what you're signing up for.  I like both ocean and river cruising, but they're different experiences involving traveling in a vessel on a body of water. 

 

This is a very friendly and helpful forum, so ask away if you have questions.

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2 hours ago, Coral said:

I went to Japan for 5 days once. Had an amazing airfare and the person I was traveling with only wanted to do that trip as a mileage run (she had to fly in order to keep her status with the airline).

 

It is amazing the stuff I would do when young but won't do now that I am old (turned 50 this year).

 

I fly out of a Midwest small airport. No direct flights anyway except for Chicago and Denver. It really takes me forever to get anywhere. I am 8-9 hours away from a major hub so driving there is not an option either. I envy those on the East coast who can easily fly to Europe.

Out of Boston, we have flown round trip to Dublin, Reykjavik, and Zurich for less $$ than flights to Calgary for a Canadian Rockies tour that (maybe) will occur in the fall.

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Thanks everyone for the great feedback.   

 

Definitely will consider all of the feedback that has been provided.   We really enjoy ocean cruising and especially the relaxing sea days so @Bake apple's comment about the days involving "the coaches leave around 8:30am so it is a bit up and at 'em" might not really be our style, so a shorter cruise might be a better fit.

Research will continue........

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There are very few "relaxing sea days" on the rivers, as you mainly cruise at night, and tour by day.  As @Bake applesays, tours generally start at 8:30 or even a bit earlier, and then back to the boat for lunch, and often back out in the afternoon for another tour.  

 

The Rhine cruise (Amsterdam-Basel) will have a morning or afternoon of touring the scenic Middle Rhine where the castles are.  We left Amsterdam on ours at dinner time, woke up the next morning and cruised until about lunch when we arrived in Cologne.  That day, we had a tour after lunch, then left around 11:30.  That was also our only real night in Port.  We are taking a Danube cruise next, and there will be a day sailing from Budapest to Vienna, and another part day through a scenic area.  Other than that, we are touring in the ports.  We tend to do both the morning and afternoon tours to pack in as much as we can.

 

Entertainment onboard is generally as good as your keyboardist.  We had a good one who could play several types of music so it was nice to sit in the evening and have a drink with friends when we wished.  Mostly though, we were back in our cabin after dinner to catch up on news from home, send e-mails, and get ready to get up for the next morning.

 

I haven't toured with Ama, but got an e-mail this morning where they are having select tours 2021-2022 that are offering a free added on land tour.  You may wish to look into that if you aren't comfortable touring on your own.  Gives you a bit more time overseas, but at a ending or beginning pace you can set yourself.  

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56 minutes ago, Smokeyham said:

Thanks everyone for the great feedback.   

 

Definitely will consider all of the feedback that has been provided.   We really enjoy ocean cruising and especially the relaxing sea days so @Bake apple's comment about the days involving "the coaches leave around 8:30am so it is a bit up and at 'em" might not really be our style, so a shorter cruise might be a better fit.

Research will continue........

There isn't much to do on the ship on sea days..... Often if there is a sea day or portion of the day, there maybe scenic sites outside to see.

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2 hours ago, sharkster77 said:

Out of Boston, we have flown round trip to Dublin, Reykjavik, and Zurich for less $$ than flights to Calgary for a Canadian Rockies tour that (maybe) will occur in the fall.

I have a Boston friend that seems to go to Iceland all the time.

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2 hours ago, Coral said:

I have a Boston friend that seems to go to Iceland all the time.

Our Boston to Reykjavik flight was just a little over 4 hours.  Left Boston on a 90 degree day, arrived to 45 degree temps!!  Plane had been uncomfortably warm, so the cold was refreshing!

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I think you're on the right track to start with a 7 night cruise and time spent on each end, since it will be your first river cruise.  I think there is something interesting at the starting and ending spots of most cruises, and European trains are easy to figure out and go about anywhere.

 

We do like the longer 2 week cruises, but the cities can become a blur, and a bit tiring.  Relaxing on the boat and skipping a tour is a nice option if you like reading or some alone time.  We were on a 12 or 13 night Vantage, Budapest to Bucharest cruise, and a few couples had boarded in Amsterdam.  Their time on board was 26 nights.  For me, way too long to be in a group.

 

Basel to Amsterdam was a nice 14 nights cruise, and with time on each end we were overseas 24 nights, and 2 of our kids joined us for 8 of those nights off the boat wandering Belgium.  That was the gold standard of tour lengths, especially as my wife and I both work.  Plus, I only have to do 1/3 of the planning, the cruise company has the rest.

 

Plenty of lines to chose from, and the 'sticky threads' up top of the river home page are a wealth of info, as are the folks here, as you've seen.

 

Enjoy whatever you choice, it really is pretty sweet.

 

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There are a lot of 8-day European river cruises which I think is a great way to start.  My first was Budapest to Passau on Uniworld and loved it.  Glad I spent time beforehand in Budapest, arranged by my TA.  

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In 2018 we did the Bucharest to Amsterdam (24 days) on Viking.  Other than a 5 day Yangtze River cruise as part of a 21 day trip to China, this was our first river cruise.  We are Holland America 4* Mariners, and have done 5 transatlantic.  We like our sea days.  We had been traveling in Italy and France for the previous month so we made all our own travel arrangements to Bucharest and from Amsterdam to the US.  

We had to change boats in Budapest, which meant that we spent two nights in Budapest in a Viking supplied hotel.  Budapest was one of the highlights of our trip.  

 

Food on Viking was comparable to Holland America, except that beer and wine were included with all meals.  We ate most of our meals on the forward Aquavit Terrace.  While the Terrace menu was more limited, it provided excellent views.  In Nuremberg we skipped the ships tour and paid for a private tour.  Because we were a group of four, we were able to see more that if we used the boat's excursion.  

 

Sometimes we skipped the boat's tour, went into the city, explored on our own, and usually ended up sitting at a sidewalk cafe people watching.  In one city we noticed a riverside Chinese restaurant, so we skipped the boat's lunch and had a very good Asian lunch (the owners were Vietnamese) that catered to German tastes.  

 

We used the ships laundry, and while pricey, met our needs for some clean clothes.  

 

We  were traveling in early June,  There was lots of daylight, especially in Germany.  Bring some rain gear, since there were several rainy days. 

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Our first Viking river cruise was on the Danube from Passau to Budapest but started in Munich for two nights, then two nights in Salzburg, almost two weeks - it was wonderful, some folks stayed in Budapest for a few more days (which I would highly recommended).  We did Viking's France's Finest which is one week on the Seine, transfer from Paris to Lyon to do another week on the Rhone, we loved it!  Great itinerary combining both rivers.  

I would try to do at least two weeks and then maybe add an extension afterwards.  

We had created our own b2b river cruises by combining Viking's Elbe river cruise ending in Prague, spending an extra night in Prague, then doing the Cities of Lights from Prague to Paris w/ an extension in Paris.  Almost a month and yes, I was stressing over the laundry being done while being gone so long.  Unfortunately after all that planning, it was canceled this past April 2020 due to the pandemic.  In hindsight I think I was trying to do too much in one trip but I really hate flying and was trying to make it worth our while going to Europe for a longer period.

 

Viking is now offering river ocean cruise combinations - may be worthwhile to do a rive cruise first, lots of touring each day and then get on the ocean cruise for a more relaxed itinerary (and self-service laundry facilities!).

 

 

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Do your research!  Our first and only river cruise was Budapest to Amsterdam with a couple of days on our own at each end.  We were exhausted by the end and skipped some of our last day plans as we were just too tired.  (60/61) and active.  Our feet were tired too! We loved every minute of it though!

We thought the same as you....its a long way and we wanted to see as much as possible.  We have done 40 ocean cruises.  We call those vacations.  We love our sea days to relax.  River cruising is a trip.   Very little down time on a river cruise and the entertainment is minimal. Both are great just different.  

I wouldn't hesitate to do 23 nights but you'll need to pace yourself a bit.  Pick  a day or 2 to take off from touring and rest. Or you'll be really grumpy at the end.  And you do need to get up in the morning.  We didn't find it an issue because by 10 pm the whole boat is in bed. If you want to be up later then that you'll be up by yourself as we were.

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Excellent advice from @cruiselvr04.  We loved our 8 day (with a 2 day pre cruise and 1 day post) cruise, but by the time we were on the plane home, we were glad to have a day of just sitting there relaxing.  Our post day was taking a train back to Amsterdam by way of the river, so although relaxing, we did have to change trains a number of times.  We were planning where to go next on the plane home, but really needed the extra time we had booked off work to get our breath back.  

 

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