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TA for a River Cruise?


Travel R
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1 hour ago, Travel R said:

Although I have researched the topic, and have heard very varying opinions as to which river cruise line has the best food. Although AMA seems to usually rank first, if not second on most lists.

 

Knowing that food is subjective, for those that have been on more than one line, which do you think serves the best food?

Food is very subjective.  Many people are brand loyal --> and this extends to food.

 

The thing about river cruises is that the kitchen is very small.  Often, when a chef is brought onto a certain boat, he will bring many (if not all) of the kitchen staff with him.  So - the food (in my experience) is only as good as the current chef. You will also find strengths & weaknesses in all kitchens.  For example, on one of our cruises, dessert options always included ice cream.  Lots of puddings also on that cruise - but very little cake - and no pastries to speak of.  We guessed that a pastry chef wasn't part of the crew on that sailing.

 

We have done 15 river cruises to date - with #16 & 17 booked. We have travelled with many of the main players (Uniworld, Viking, AMA, Avalon, Scenic and Emerald).  Food expectations (at least IMHO) cannot be tied in with the company - or the river.  Some of the best food we had was in Russia (after I had prepared by husband for a less than stellar dining experience).  On the Elba, our chef was of Czech descent - and he met a passenger with the same background.  They got talking - and he made "old favourites" for Sharon and her DH (and us - as we often ate with them!!).  So good. 

 

Surprisingly, our AMA cruise was not up to the level that many others have experienced --> but I felt it was the Cruise Director that was part of that problem.  The food was OK - but not as good as on other sailings.  It wouldn't stop me from sailing with them again, but my expectations are lower now.

 

Fran

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32 minutes ago, Travel R said:

 

[I don't know if my first river cruise will be on the Rhine or Danube, but I do know that if we like it, my second river cruise will be on the Nile.]

 

 

We have done the Rhine and Danube twice (at least, from Budapest to Nuremburg twice - the lower end of the Danube once so far...).  By sailing with different companies, it is the same river - but a different tour.

 

The Nile was awesome...  If you are looking into doing that, I would suggest you look for a company that gives you 7 nights on the river.  You get all of the same stops regardless of how many nights you sail (there are 3, 4 & 7 night sailings) but I imagine it could be a bit frenzied if you only sailed one way.  We had 7 nights on the boat (round trip from Luxor) and felt that there was lots to do - with some "down time" to be able to relax & reflect on the trip.

 

Fran

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2 hours ago, Gourmet Gal said:

Perhaps determine if they are a Virtuoso or Signature agency?  There are nice perks affiliated with those two  consortiums. 

AMEX also.

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14 hours ago, franski said:

So - the food (in my experience) is only as good as the current chef.

 

Thinking about it, especially since the galley crew are not employees, it would be a logical assumption that the food would be directly related to the chef on board.  Mainstream ocean cruises usually have a set menu throughout the entire fleet - with the same ingredients (if they can be found), prep and cooking instructions, etc.

 

This gives me a lot to chew on.  Although we have not begun choosing the line to sail, I was going to place some bias on the food - maybe I/we would need to re-think that approach, since it could be hit and miss depending on the chef and his crew at the time. Even if a current vessel has a great chef, we are going to book this year for 2024, and who knows who will be the chef when we sail.

 

As mentioned, I have read dozens of articles on river cruises, and most applaud the food aboard these ships as one of the highlights compared to ocean cruising (and the food on our last cruise was average at best). Thanks again, I am getting the real deal from this forum, and very much appreciate it.

 

14 hours ago, franski said:

Surprisingly, our AMA cruise was not up to the level that many others have experienced

 

Thanks for your honestly. In most articles I have read, AMA is touted to be the three-star Michelin restaurants on the rivers. I am glad I am getting a fuller picture.  As I had mentioned, I do have a culinary background (and shhhh.. . . I still write a monthly food and history blog), so although the line we chose will be a group decision, I have personally been drawn towards AMA because of the food.

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Another question - In the world of ocean cruising, some cruise lines are thought to be better to sail specific geographic locations. For instance, Holland America is known for cruising Alaska.  Can any similar distinctions be made for river cruising (i.e., Viking would be better for the Rhine, while UniWorld would be better for the Danube)?

 

The only related item I have found was that since Viking has so many ships, they have been able to swap passengers between two legs of a river when it gets to low or too high (although I have also read that it does not always work).

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15 hours ago, franski said:

By sailing with different companies, it is the same river - but a different tour.

 

Got ya.  If the river cruise bug bites, I am sure we will be back again, and again.

 

In mainstream ocean cruising, many people have asked on these boards, which cruise line is better. I have only been on a few different ones, and can tell ya, they are a lot more the same than different. There are those that are ardent loyalists towards a single company, but there really are not many differences. From what I have been gathering, there are differences between river cruise lines, but they too are more similar than not.

 

15 hours ago, franski said:

The Nile was awesome...  If you are looking into doing that, I would suggest you look for a company that gives you 7 nights on the river.  You get all of the same stops regardless of how many nights you sail (there are 3, 4 & 7 night sailings) but I imagine it could be a bit frenzied if you only sailed one way.  We had 7 nights on the boat (round trip from Luxor) and felt that there was lots to do - with some "down time" to be able to relax & reflect on the trip.

 

That must have been awesome.

 

Egypt is at the top of my bucket list. I have always enjoyed history and even wanted to be an archeologist when I was so much younger than today.  The couple we are travelling with are relegated to travelling at the end of August, and it will just be too darn hot (and some river lines do not begin their season on the Nile until September).

 

 

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14 hours ago, Gourmet Gal said:

Perhaps determine if they are a Virtuoso or Signature agency?  There are nice perks affiliated with those two  consortiums. 

 

[I will be honest, until moments ago I did not know what you were referring to - I had to Google those terms.]

 

11 hours ago, Coral said:

AMEX also.

 

Very good questions. 

 

I just took a quick look at their website and it does not look like they are a member of those organizations.

 

 

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Note: I have been capturing the data procured on this thread (among other places). I hope to sort and combine all of this information into a single "differences between ocean and river cruising." Yes, there already dozens upon dozens upon dozens of similarly titled articles and videos on this subject, they usually mostly cover the same major issues, but omit the minutia, which I have been learning from this thread. This information can be used for future river cruise virgins [can I write that?]  My research and gathering of data is still in its infancy, so the list is still a ways off from being created, but when it is completed, I shall share publish it for public scrutiny, then revise it for accuracy to help those lost river cruise soles such as I.

 

If I have not said it enough - thank you to everyone for your helpful comments and suggestions!!!

 

[As an aside, eluding to another thread in this forum.  I will be giving back - once I complete our river cruise, I will provide a detailed review so others can not only enjoy the story of our adventure, but so than others can learn from what we did correctly, but also from what we did wrong.]

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Looking forward to seeing your report, and also hearing about what line/river you end up choosing. 

 

The main thing to do is ask questions, so if you have any others, don't hesitate.

 

Have fun, planning is only part of the game. 😉

 

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1 hour ago, Travel R said:

 

[I will be honest, until moments ago I did not know what you were referring to - I had to Google those terms.]

 

 

Very good questions. 

 

I just took a quick look at their website and it does not look like they are a member of those organizations.

 

 

Perhaps just ask what sort of perks, especially for hotel and cruises they have.  For hotels you should expect early check in, late check out, breakfast, free upgrade, cash credit for dining or spa and when I book bigger trips I usually receive a hotel night gratis.  Amex Platinum cards also have quite a few perks.

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11 hours ago, Travel R said:

 

[I will be honest, until moments ago I did not know what you were referring to - I had to Google those terms.]

 

 

Very good questions. 

 

I just took a quick look at their website and it does not look like they are a member of those organizations.

 

 

I wouldn't rule out a good agent if they didn't belong to one of these. It just adds additional perks and sometimes better pricing (at times). Many of us think a good agent is worth their weight in gold. If everything goes well, you may not notice how valuable they are. If things go wrong - this is when you realize having an agent on your side can make life so much better!

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22 hours ago, Daisi said:

Looking forward to seeing your report, and also hearing about what line/river you end up choosing. 

 

The main thing to do is ask questions, so if you have any others, don't hesitate.

 

Have fun, planning is only part of the game. 😉

 

Thank you very much.

 

As you can see so far, I am not shy about asking questions. Please expect more in the future.

 

I do enjoy the planning aspect of not only cruises, but all vacations. The fact that river cruises are new and different is not daunting to me, but a challenge I look to conquer.  In my signature next to the listing for this cruise is a Pre-Review (entitled the 99 Day Journey), where I went through all of the planning I did for the recent Alaskan cruise - how I planned, why I planned, and all the other things (budgets, personal, etc.) that go into the vacation experience.  I know others that just hate this aspect of vacations. My DW, for instance, is not a planner. She will be on the big decisions, but would rather not deal with the details. She leaves those to me, and I have never disappointed.

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21 hours ago, Gourmet Gal said:

Perhaps just ask what sort of perks, especially for hotel and cruises they have.  For hotels you should expect early check in, late check out, breakfast, free upgrade, cash credit for dining or spa and when I book bigger trips I usually receive a hotel night gratis.  Amex Platinum cards also have quite a few perks.

 

Thanks - I will keep those in mind when I talk to the TA.

 

We will be staying in Roma for a few days before flying to whatever port we are departing from (and will also need a hotel for at least a day prior to cruising), so whatever perks they have will be a nice benefit.

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12 hours ago, Coral said:

I wouldn't rule out a good agent if they didn't belong to one of these. It just adds additional perks and sometimes better pricing (at times). Many of us think a good agent is worth their weight in gold. If everything goes well, you may not notice how valuable they are. If things go wrong - this is when you realize having an agent on your side can make life so much better!

 

Hopefully the later will not come to fruition, but good to have them there just in case it does.

 

Although not an agent in the traditional sense, if I did not book the flights to our last cruise via Air2Sea, we may have missed the cruise altogether.

 

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3 hours ago, Travel R said:

 

Hopefully the later will not come to fruition, but good to have them there just in case it does.

 

Although not an agent in the traditional sense, if I did not book the flights to our last cruise via Air2Sea, we may have missed the cruise altogether.

 

Never sailed RCCL  before but their booking engine for flights looks excellent.  Would hope they roll the Silver Sea Air department into it.  SS Air is terrible.

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3 hours ago, Travel R said:

Thank you very much.

 

As you can see so far, I am not shy about asking questions. Please expect more in the future.

 

I do enjoy the planning aspect of not only cruises, but all vacations. The fact that river cruises are new and different is not daunting to me, but a challenge I look to conquer.  In my signature next to the listing for this cruise is a Pre-Review (entitled the 99 Day Journey), where I went through all of the planning I did for the recent Alaskan cruise - how I planned, why I planned, and all the other things (budgets, personal, etc.) that go into the vacation experience.  I know others that just hate this aspect of vacations. My DW, for instance, is not a planner. She will be on the big decisions, but would rather not deal with the details. She leaves those to me, and I have never disappointed.

I enjoy the planning process, too and create spreadsheets, detailed itineraries, etc.  Contrast that with many cruisers I’ve encountered who book on an impulse, show up and still have a great time. But there’s  really nothing daunting about river cruises once you know which river you’d like.  

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9 hours ago, Gourmet Gal said:

I enjoy the planning process, too and create spreadsheets, detailed itineraries, etc.  Contrast that with many cruisers I’ve encountered who book on an impulse, show up and still have a great time. But there’s  really nothing daunting about river cruises once you know which river you’d like.  

 

Although, I have talked about going to one of those mystery trip companies (you tell them how much you want to spend and answer your questions and you do not know where you are going until you get to the airport), and we have taken many road trips on the spur of the moment, I am not sure I like the idea of taking an impulsive cruise (although our Canada cruise was booked within three weeks of the sailing).

 

One thing I have been thinking about when it comes to a river cruise is that many sites and videos state that a river cruise is very "regimented."  I like to plan things, but may need to pull back on my reigns when it comes to the river cruise itself.

 

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3 hours ago, Travel R said:

One thing I have been thinking about when it comes to a river cruise is that many sites and videos state that a river cruise is very "regimented."  I like to plan things, but may need to pull back on my reigns when it comes to the river cruise itself


I’m not certain that a river cruise is that much more regimented than an ocean cruise when it comes to time off the ship. On board, your schedule will be less flexible as there are briefer time windows for meals and there may not be food availability outside those times. Docking times and boarding times are constraints on any type of cruise.
 

While you probably need to pull back on your planning reins, you don’t need to come to a complete stop. There is time to explore on you own in many of the stops; more time if you stay in town for lunch and for as long as you can before the port talk. And that assumes you do the included activity that is typically in the morning. With a research and planning there are possibilities to visit museums and other tourist sites as well as travel to nearby towns or even just get off the beaten path and explore.

 

 

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My DH and I have during our longggggggg married life have traveled the U.K. and World extensively in earlier years even when travelling for his company I planned minutely trying to cover ever aspect. What I realise now is this is not really necessarily needed as the travel world has evolved amazingly. We have only done one very short ocean cruise, just enough to put his lordship off for life (it was a business do) so to comment on those would be, well not right. Now river cruising I can comment on and I know we’ve only been with one company and to my mind reading these boards it’s one of the best. Your right in a certain respect it is somewhat regimented. Remember hear I’m an ex Guide Guider and one who took Guides camping.  Meals at set times - look at the galley facilities- how do they do it? Excursions herding various nationalities into transport to arrive at a booked destination on time, obvious. Following a tour guide lose the guide they lose their job! Getting back to the vessel on time - the next lock is booked you being late, backs up all the vessels following yours! Now I travel with an all inclusive company if you consider enjoying arranged excursions do the same but you don’t have to go on their excursions, otherwise buy into excursions if and when. BUT and this is a big one if you don’t want what some call regimented be it on all inclusive or not go with your flow don’t forget to be back on board before departure time and enjoy the friendships made with your fellow cruisers. I travel with a company that will even make up a picnic for you to go off into the wide blue yonder with.

 

 

 

 

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Posted (edited)
On 8/7/2022 at 1:27 AM, CPT Trips said:

On board, your schedule will be less flexible as there are briefer time windows for meals and there may not be food availability outside those times

 

Thank you for your comments. 

 

I know that on some lines there is a daytime cafe (e.g., Scenic and Uniworld), and most others will usually have coffee and some type of small snacks during the day.  For most lines, is there coffee available 24/7? If I get up at 5 AM and want to take a stroll, will there be java waiting for me anywhere on the ship? [Yes, depending on my time lag, I may just do that. Sometimes the best time to be atop the ship looking at the sites as the ship passes them by.]

 

Talking about early morning . . . . I tend to exercise in the early mornings.  I head that some cruises have a walking/jogging track, but people are asked not to run/jog before 8 AM [I will respect that], but I began looking into the time that the exercise rooms open (if one exists, and I know that they are small).  Would anyone know what time the fitness centers on river cruises generally open?

 

 

Edited by Travel R
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On 8/7/2022 at 3:21 AM, Canal archive said:

My DH and I have during our longggggggg married life have traveled the U.K. and World extensively in earlier years even when travelling for his company I planned minutely trying to cover ever aspect. What I realise now is this is not really necessarily needed as the travel world has evolved amazingly. We have only done one very short ocean cruise, just enough to put his lordship off for life (it was a business do) so to comment on those would be, well not right. Now river cruising I can comment on and I know we’ve only been with one company and to my mind reading these boards it’s one of the best. Your right in a certain respect it is somewhat regimented. Remember hear I’m an ex Guide Guider and one who took Guides camping.  Meals at set times - look at the galley facilities- how do they do it? Excursions herding various nationalities into transport to arrive at a booked destination on time, obvious. Following a tour guide lose the guide they lose their job! Getting back to the vessel on time - the next lock is booked you being late, backs up all the vessels following yours! Now I travel with an all inclusive company if you consider enjoying arranged excursions do the same but you don’t have to go on their excursions, otherwise buy into excursions if and when. BUT and this is a big one if you don’t want what some call regimented be it on all inclusive or not go with your flow don’t forget to be back on board before departure time and enjoy the friendships made with your fellow cruisers. I travel with a company that will even make up a picnic for you to go off into the wide blue yonder with.

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you for your insight.

 

When taking excursions on ocean cruises, over the last few years I have tended to opt for either going out in the port ourselves or using a third party vendor.  For a little more $, the third party vendors provide much smaller private/semi-private tours where get to see and do more.

 

I have begun looking at some tour companies that cater to the river cruises and will practically guarantee that you will make it back onto your ship (same with the 3rd Party vendors for cruise ships). [Since we do not know yet which river (or ports), I have only been looking generally.]

 

What I am thinking (and have not talked to my DW or friends yet), is to take the included tour in the morning and consider taking a 3rd Party tour in the PM if one is not offered from the ship. As I had mentioned previously, I also like to go off on my own, especially in these little towns - so will also keep that as an option depending on where the ship drops us off and picks us up. The planning may be for naught, but at least it will keep my mind busy, and I will learn about the history of the town we are visiting.

 

[PS: I just received an email that AMA is opening up reservations for Asia in Summer 2024, so the European calendar may be available soon.  I read in more than one place that the 2024 season may open sooner than later due to companies wanting to line up their expected revenues for 2024 sooner than later (of course, that all depends on when they are able to schedule their port and lock times).]

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Some lines have already opened up sailings for 2024, I know Avalon has, and I think I have seen others. Most lines have morning and afternoon tours, just some are referred to as optional as you pay extra for them. Usually, the only time you are onboard during the day (other than if you choose to be) is if there is a distance between ports (Amsterdam and Cologne, Budapest and Vienna} or if sailing through a scenic area. Otherwise, you are free to tour on your own or by the companies tour.

 

Have you narrowed down a river yet? We can probably provide more details once you do.

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Posted (edited)

Look in depth at the different providers, excursions are fine but you may get offered an on board exercise not always napkin or towel folding although some of those can be quite good over a cocktail or two.

On board exercise Scenic ask that the walking track not be used before 8am it but I’ve taken an early morning stroll with my coffee to find at least 10 individuals practicing their Tai Chi on the top deck. On our two last cruises the on board instructor took early morning yoga and Pilates one morning loads went off with their walking poles, I didn’t realise you needed instructions on how to use them!

Edited by Canal archive
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Included excursions and not having to do a lot of planning, research, and booking on my own is one of the reasons I choose river cruising.  

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