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TA for a River Cruise?


Travel R
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Posted (edited)

I must admit to using  TA for travel all around the globe, even getting one to take over from my husbands company one when I had a sneaking suspicion that things weren’t going right, but I’ve only ever river cruised with Scenic and have dealt directly with their U.K. office each time ( okay so nothing happening during their recent hiccup) I’ve had nothing but superb assistance ever.

 

Australian guy going great guns in the individual high bar gymnastics commonwealth games!

Edited by Canal archive
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55 minutes ago, Gourmet Gal said:

Just want to mention that using the services of a TA who is also a friend could be awkward when something goes wrong that may be a result of that person’s inexperience or outright error.  That happened to me before my current TA and I find I can never talk about my travels around her lest she wonder why she doesn’t get to book it.

 

Agreed and something I have thought about. Over the years I have always avoided doing any type of business with family, however, have undertaken some business transactions and opportunities with friends. In my experience, a friend will sometimes go the extra mile as opposed to a stranger. A vast majority have worked well, but as you had eluded, if it goes bad it goes really bad.

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49 minutes ago, sharkster77 said:

I too am an overplanner but use a TA because my problems become THEIR problems to solve.

 

It's embarrassing when you know more than they do.  My TA jumped up and down insisting that the Blue Lagoon is a natural phenomenon.  It uses the effluent from a geothermal plant.  But she insists it's natural!

 

I like your thinking - "I too am an overplanner but use a TA because my problems become THEIR problems to solve." I guess it would reduce the stress factor (which is why I am an overplanner - to reduce the stress).

 

Yes, sometimes knowing more than the expert is self-satisfying, but may put you in an awkward situation.  We had a very knowledgeable tour guide in St. Petersburg. She made a statement that I knew was historically incorrect.  When I brought this to her attention, she doubled down on what she said and gave me a look of warning.  I then realized that she was providing the official view of the government and quickly understood that she cannot say otherwise, nor should I pursue the matter.

 

But you are correct, the hot water for the "Lagoon" is fed from a water plant not far away.  Iceland is a beautiful country and would like to return and wander beyond the Golden Circle.

 

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51 minutes ago, Daisi said:

One thing about the alcohol included part. Most lines have much more affordable (like you would pay in a restaurant) pricing, because you are more than welcome to bring your own alcohol onboard. We get our cabin attendant clear out our fridge, and stored our water, treats etc. in it. You may get a corking fee if you wish to have your wine served with dinner, but otherwise, you are free to pour yourself a drink and enjoy it outside or in your cabin. You can also ask for a glass of wine or beer at the end of your meal to enjoy up on the sundeck or in the lounge...as long as it's meal time, drinks tend to flow pretty freely. 

 

That's a difference from most mainstream cruise lines - 2 bottle limit and corking fee.

 

Before this allergy, I would have partaken in the beverages.  Which leads me to two questions:

 

1) Would they also make mocktails?, and 

2) I have this on my list of things to research, but how good are river cruises when it comes to handling allergies?

 

51 minutes ago, Daisi said:

If you are an avid tourer, your wife may not have time for a spa. The only real days you have onboard are either a long trip to the next port or a scenic area to view. We took every tour we could, so out from about 8:30/8:00 to 11:30, back for lunch, then out on another tour from around 1:00/1:30 to 4:00/4:30. Time to freshen up, have a quick briefing on what would happen the next day, and dinner.  We cruised the Rhine, and apart from the trip from Amsterdam to Cologne, and the Rhine gorge, we were off the ship all day.  Sailing is usually done at night.

 

I like the fact that there are no "sea days" - Our past Med and Baltic cruises were like that, except for only one sea day on the last day of the cruise. I am not sure about our friends, but myself and DW are also the type to take every opportunity to tour that we can.  Although a trip to the spa (and usually only for a single one-hour massage) is a cruise tradition, it has been broken in the past.

 

Our philosophy on cruises is that they are a great way to transport us from one place to another, the less we are in the stateroom the better.

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Posted (edited)
30 minutes ago, Canal archive said:

Luckily never had the problem of family in the travel business but have you noticed how female dominated it is.

 

All of my parents (really my mom's) friends that were TA were female.  In my experience, most of the people I know in that industry ae female. A quick look on the internet shows that 78.7% of (corporate) travel agents in the US are female.

 

In Alaska we went on a whale watching excursion. One of the reasons I chose the company to take us on the tour was because they were female-owned and captained - in a field dominated by men.

Edited by Travel R
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Okay I have only traveled on Scenic, all inclusive. Do other lines charge for soft drinks? Every day the bar staff have a cocktail of the day and believe it or not a mock tail of the day. Your in room the mini bar is filled with beverages of your choice be they non or alcoholic. My butler brings our morning coffee or tea on the dot. The bar staff are only to pleased to provide you with the beverage of your choice be it alcoholic or not and they will remember your preference. Now this most probably happens with other lines but at the moment I really don’t want to find out.

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1 hour ago, Travel R said:

 

That's a difference from most mainstream cruise lines - 2 bottle limit and corking fee.

 

Before this allergy, I would have partaken in the beverages.  Which leads me to two questions:

 

1) Would they also make mocktails?, and 

2) I have this on my list of things to research, but how good are river cruises when it comes to handling allergies?

 

 

I like the fact that there are no "sea days" - Our past Med and Baltic cruises were like that, except for only one sea day on the last day of the cruise. I am not sure about our friends, but myself and DW are also the type to take every opportunity to tour that we can.  Although a trip to the spa (and usually only for a single one-hour massage) is a cruise tradition, it has been broken in the past.

 

Our philosophy on cruises is that they are a great way to transport us from one place to another, the less we are in the stateroom the better.

 

 

Yes, I think all lines would do their best to make non-alcoholic cocktails, and also, most will do their best to work around allergies. I know the line I cruise with is great for celiacs, and other allergies....in fact I'm a fussy eater, and it took our server 2 meals to automatically reply "without onions and peppers?" whenever I ordered something. It's amazing, considering they feed the whole ship at once, have a tiny kitchen, but can still handle special requests. I know a friend who sailed on our line met with the chef every morning after breakfast to go over the menus to know what they could eat as they are celiac...and she had absolutely no problems with cross - contamination either. 

 

Most people refer to the river cruise ships as a floating hotel, which fits for you. You can relax onboard while others are touring, but to be honest, I'd be afraid of missing something. 🙂

 

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Posted (edited)
34 minutes ago, Daisi said:

Most people refer to the river cruise ships as a floating hotel, which fits for you. You can relax onboard while others are touring, but to be honest, I'd be afraid of missing something.

 

Sorry if I misspoke/wrote. We are just the opposite.

 

Myself and my DW are in port at every opportunity. Staterooms, to us are just for sleeping and showering. On ocean cruises, unless there is an early tour, I am up and in the gym or on deck running by 6AM, and only returning to the cabin to shower and change. I've got a back yard to relax (for free), so when on vacation, we are in port (or doing some activity ashore). If they offer three tours a day, we will most likely be on all three - unless I feel that a DIY would suit us better. [As mentioned, we have taken many port-intensive ocean voyages, and have so far avoided any of the corporate cays (private beach resorts owned by the cruise lines).]

 

Edited to add . . . however, a nice lounge or somewhere on the ship would be nice to relax during the evenings. [One of the first things brought up in many ocean vs. river cruising articles is that the entertainment will be a lot more low-key than what we are used to. But remember, there are also many smaller lounges, even on the big cruisers where the entertainment is a sole pianist or guitarist.]

 

Edited by Travel R
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2 hours ago, Travel R said:

 

Agreed and something I have thought about. Over the years I have always avoided doing any type of business with family, however, have undertaken some business transactions and opportunities with friends. In my experience, a friend will sometimes go the extra mile as opposed to a stranger. A vast majority have worked well, but as you had eluded, if it goes bad it goes really bad.

When I had an airline issue, my friend who booked the trip for us told me she’d get back to me when she finished her tennis match!  A professional TA would at the very least not tell me if she had a tennis match to finish…LOL.

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9 minutes ago, Travel R said:

 

Sorry if I misspoke/wrote. We are just the opposite.

 

Myself and my DW are in port at every opportunity. Staterooms, to us are just for sleeping and showering. On ocean cruises, unless there is an early tour, I am up and in the gym or on deck running by 6AM, and only returning to the cabin to shower and change. I've got a back yard to relax (for free), so when on vacation, we are in port (or doing some activity ashore). If they offer three tours a day, we will most likely be on all three - unless I feel that a DIY would suit us better. [As mentioned, we have taken many port-intensive ocean voyages, and have so far avoided any of the corporate cays (private beach resorts owned by the cruise lines).]

 

Edited to add . . . however, a nice lounge or somewhere on the ship would be nice to relax during the evenings. [One of the first things brought up in many ocean vs. river cruising articles is that the entertainment will be a lot more low-key than what we are used to. But remember, there are also many smaller lounges, even on the big cruisers where the entertainment is a sole pianist or guitarist.]

 

On river cruises the lounge is open after dinner and in my experience with Tauck and Uniworld there is always some sort of entertainment even if it’s just piano music.

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As to pre-booking tours on DIY, be very careful. Harbour masters control when and where the ships moor, and for how long. Viking I believe has a lot of it's own docks, but they are the exception, and with the low waters out now, I've heard that even they are "sharing". You usually don't know until the night before what port times are, which is why it's so good that there are organised tours, they get you out and about and back without worrying about missing the ship. Most lines have at least one included tour per day, some lines have optional ones in the afternoon that you pay extra for. The line we sail with has the optional ones, but they also often have choices of different tours to take in the included ones. Nice if you are on a part of a river that you have been on previously, you can take the "general history" tour, or one more geared to a special interest. Sometimes it's a hard decision to make. 

 

If you are lucky, there will be stops that don't leave until late in the evening, and if you really want to experience local life, you can go ashore for a lot more free time. We found that after the hour - 1 1/2 hour walking tour of general history, there was usually a 1/2 hour of free time to sit and enjoy the square, shop, or wander more around the town....and we took the slow walker tours because I like to take pictures and our guides could walk & talk at the same time. Started off with a group of about 6, ended up with a group about 15 once others caught on. 

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26 minutes ago, Daisi said:

As to pre-booking tours on DIY, be very careful. Harbour masters control when and where the ships moor, and for how long.

 

This is something I had discovered, with a warning about going off on your own, is that the place you go ashore may not be the same berth you embark in the afternoon/evening. A very strange concept to us ocean cruisers. However, I will more than likely have some DIY walking walking tours for the just-in-case scenarios; there may be a site or two in some ports that are not going to be on the day's walking tour that I (or another in my party) would like to see.

 

Question, does anyone on here have any experience with taking the bikes out for a spin (if available on that particular vessel)?

 

 

27 minutes ago, Daisi said:

we took the slow walker tours because I like to take pictures and our guides could walk & talk at the same time. Started off with a group of about 6, ended up with a group about 15 once others caught on. 

 

I guess we will play it by ear, but the tour we take will most likely be based on what we want to see and what tours are available or not full. [If a tour is complimentary, it is only more the reason to take it, than not.] 

 

 

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26 minutes ago, Travel R said:

 

Question, does anyone on here have any experience with taking the bikes out for a spin (if available on that particular vessel)?

 

 

We were just on the Romantic Rhine and Moselle cruise with Scenic in June.  We were very excited about their electric bikes and the fact that about every other day they offered a cycling tour because we bike a lot in California and wanted and needed the exercise.  We realized that, after the third bicycling tour, we just weren't seeing enough of the towns and cities that we were visiting.  I'm sure it was for safety reasons but all of the bike tours that we went on tended to take you out into the countryside into rural settings where you saw farmland, horses, cows and sheep.  Not exactly the great European architecture and history that we were looking for.  After that we chose the city tours.

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3 hours ago, jimmymac613 said:

We were just on the Romantic Rhine and Moselle cruise with Scenic in June.  We were very excited about their electric bikes and the fact that about every other day they offered a cycling tour because we bike a lot in California and wanted and needed the exercise.  We realized that, after the third bicycling tour, we just weren't seeing enough of the towns and cities that we were visiting.  I'm sure it was for safety reasons but all of the bike tours that we went on tended to take you out into the countryside into rural settings where you saw farmland, horses, cows and sheep.  Not exactly the great European architecture and history that we were looking for.  After that we chose the city tours.

 

Thanks for the info.  I am also a biker. Although it would be great to see the countryside, I agree, it is the history and culture that we are going on a river cruise. But something to think about (and the rest of my party are not really cyclist).

 

I am guessing that they are electric assist bicycles, not full electric.

 

Thanks again,

 

Travel R

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3 hours ago, Canal archive said:

With the latest scenic walki talki thingamys they are loaded with tours of the various towns so biking with them is far more straight forward and you don’t need to do the organised tours. 

 

Correct, I have an App on my phone where I can either follow a pre-made route, or create my own.

 

Once we book a cruise and know what ports we will be visiting, I can determine if I would rather see the town or cycle off to parts unknown.

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15 hours ago, Travel R said:

Thanks.

 

I did find a website that lists all of the Berlitz ratings - very good information to have.

 

Although I will note that from how I interpreted the Berlitz ratings, they seem to place a heavy bias on the alcohol being served.  I unfortunately cannot drink alcohol (due to an allergy) and my DW is a very light drinker. On the the other hand, our friends are not heavy drinkers, but can put it away. Finding the right median will be interesting - especially, as I have noticed the cost of the cruise lines seems to be directly in-line with their alcohol offerings.

 

I actually don't drink alcohol either. Though - it seems some of the higher end lines include more things. So one that includes alcohol may also include tips and more excursions. Definitely look at the whole picture. One thing that surprised the heck out of me on my first river cruise was how much more the tips are compared to ocean cruises. And often you tip the cruise director (or similar title) - they plan a far more greater role on river cruises than ocean cruises.

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Okay, you’ll get fed up with me but the only member of the ships compliment on a Scenic vessel employed directly by Scenic is the cruise director. On one cruise it was suggested that he got a special tip from the cruisers, don’t forget this is with an all inclusive company. Us as it were old hands were horrified, luckily one of our Aussie friends actually had an in with the ultimate main man and sorted the situation. 
Some time ago there was a comparison made of the various costs of inclusions, extras etc., if I remember correctly the costings came out closer than you would have expected.

There was a reason I asked about the inclusion of soft drinks, at one time they were far more expensive in Europe than alcohol!

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3 hours ago, Canal archive said:

Okay, you’ll get fed up with me but the only member of the ships compliment on a Scenic vessel employed directly by Scenic is the cruise director. On one cruise it was suggested that he got a special tip from the cruisers, don’t forget this is with an all inclusive company. Us as it were old hands were horrified, luckily one of our Aussie friends actually had an in with the ultimate main man and sorted the situation. 
Some time ago there was a comparison made of the various costs of inclusions, extras etc., if I remember correctly the costings came out closer than you would have expected.

There was a reason I asked about the inclusion of soft drinks, at one time they were far more expensive in Europe than alcohol!

On my Ama cruise -there were 2 employees who were actual Amawaterways employees. Everyone else was not.

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Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, Coral said:

So one that includes alcohol may also include tips and more excursions. Definitely look at the whole picture

I have begun to create a spreadsheet (color-coded) that compares all of the US-marketed lines so we could make a side-by-side comparison on what each. It is interesting to see how much some lines include (or do not). I am also tracking and comparing things like room sizes, fitness centers (which I know are small), ratings, etc.

 

8 hours ago, Coral said:

And often you tip the cruise director (or similar title)

I was an early proponent of prepaid gratuities on ocean cruises - which also goes to workers behind the scenes.

 

I do not know enough about the pay structure on river cruises, but would have thought that staff such as cruise directors would be making enough salary not to be requiring tips. But what do I know?

 

 

Edited by Travel R
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4 hours ago, Canal archive said:

There was a reason I asked about the inclusion of soft drinks, at one time they were far more expensive in Europe than alcohol!

 

I remember a trip to the UK in 1992 when the exchange rate was 5 to 1 between the pound and the US dollar.  A can of soda in London was $5 US.

 

But you make a good point - most of the lines I have researched do specify either "all beverages" or "wine, bear, and soda/soft drinks" - but I will go back to ensure that soda is included with at least lunches and dinners.

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Posted (edited)
7 minutes ago, Travel R said:

 

I do not know enough about the pay structure on river cruises, but would have thought that staff such as cruise directors would be making enough salary not to be requiring tips. But what do I know?

 

 

Honestly - I am one that agrees with auto-tipping on ocean cruises and I do tip above to those who made an impact on me which is usually my room steward and wait staff.

 

Yes - the pay structure is different on river cruises and the cruise directors play a different role. I was shocked at how much more tipping was on my first river cruise. This was awhile ago. On my second cruise, I scored a great deal on a cruise that included tipping, all drinks and almost all excursions. All the excursions I wanted were included. I did tip extra on that though (I could use OBC and had OBC I couldn't spend elsewhere).

 

I just googled and found a CC article with tips (it is not dated) and it seems more reasonable now that the Euro and dollar are equal but at the time, my river cruise tips were almost double what I paid on ocean cruises.

 

This is from Amawaterways:

 

EUROPE

7-Night Cruise

Ship’s Crew: The entire amount will be divided equally amongst all crew members. Recommendation: 100 Euros per 7-night cruise, per guest. (AmaMagna 120 Euros per 7-night cruise, per guest)

Cruise Manager: Your Cruise Manager is not part of the ship’s crew and is the AmaWaterways representative who also accompanies you on any pre- and/or post-cruise hotel/land extensions you may have booked. Recommendation: 25 Euros per 7-night, per guest; 4 Euros for each additional day, per guest for pre- and post-cruise hotel/land extensions.

 

10-Night Cruise

Ship’s Crew: The entire amount will be divided equally amongst all crew members. Recommendation: 143 Euros per 10-night cruise, per guest.

Cruise Manager: Your Cruise Manager is not part of the ship’s crew and is the AmaWaterways representative who also accompanies you on any pre- and/or post-cruise hotel/land extensions you may have booked. Recommendation: 36 Euros per 10-night, per guest; 4 Euros for each additional day, per guest for pre- and post-cruise hotel/land extensions.

 

11-Night Cruise

Ship’s Crew: The entire amount will be divided equally amongst all crew members. Recommendation: 158 Euros per 11-night cruise, per guest.

Cruise Manager: Your Cruise Manager is not part of the ship’s crew and is the AmaWaterways representative who also accompanies you on any pre- and/or post-cruise hotel/land extensions you may have booked. Recommendation: 40 Euros per 11-night, per guest; 4 Euros for each additional day, per guest for pre- and post-cruise hotel/land extensions.

 

14-Night Cruise

Ship’s Crew: The entire amount will be divided equally amongst all crew members. Recommendation: 200 Euros per 14-night cruise, per guest.

Cruise Manager: Your Cruise Manager is not part of the ship’s crew and is the AmaWaterways representative who also accompanies you on any pre- and/or post-cruise hotel/land extensions you may have booked. Recommendation: 50 Euros per 14-night, per guest; 4 Euros for each additional day, per guest for pre- and post-cruise hotel/land extensions.


 

PORTUGAL

 

Ship’s Crew: The entire amount will be divided equally amongst all crew members. Recommendation: 100 Euros per week, per guest.

Cruise Manager: Your Cruise Manager is not part of the ship’s crew and is the AmaWaterways representative who also accompanies you on any pre- and/or post-cruise hotel/land extensions you may have booked. Recommendation: 30 Euros per week, per guest; 4 Euros for each additional day, per guest for pre- and post-cruise hotel/land extensions.

Edited by Coral
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