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Talk to me about river cruising: All recommendations welcome!


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Good afternoon fellow forum members, I am looking for some advice/recommendations on river cruising. It's a completely new realm to me so open to all suggestions. I am currently researching a vast amount of river cruise lines looking at the services they offer, itinerary choices and of course reputation for key features like accommodation and dining.

 

In terms of itinerary, the Danube is high on my to do list and I have been particularly taken in by Crystal Mozart's roundtrip sailing from Vienna that looks quite appealing. On the other hand, I am also intrigued by the Douro. Very different style of holiday to the Danube but nevertheless attractive as I'm a fan of certain Portuguese wines and would like to explore the vineyards along the river.

Any help/suggestions/advice is welcome..

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I would recommend a Rhine cruise and would love to go back.  To be honest I didnt think I would like it but went with an open mind, I can honestly say its the best cruise ive ever been on.  Two highlights on it were Boppard, amazing little town and Marksburg castle in braubach.  Rudesheim aint bad either.

 

I like a tipple of the grape but never been a fan of German wine, but when you drink it in the cellar of a small vineyard down the Rhine it truly is amazing

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Hi  I have undertook two river cruises (Nile and Rhine) and I am going on the Danube later this summer.  I enjoyed both itineraries.   On the Nile we sailed from Luxor to Aswan and back visiting most of the major sites, this was in late January and the weather was very good for sightseeing.  The food served on the ship wasn't of the highest quality.  On the Rhine voyage I sailed from Basle to Cologne, the tours included Titisee , Interlaken, Strasburg, Spayer, Rudesheim and Cologne.  On both cruises the included excursions were very good and well organised.  The food served on the Rhine cruise was extremely good (fresh ingredients) although the choice compared with that offered on Ocean cruises is limited.  Obviously the evening entertainment on board is limited but after a full day sightseeing a relaxing evening it isn't too much of a hardship but at some ports we were moored overnight so I took the opportunity to visit the local watering holes  (as htutrle suggested  Rudesheim is very lively at night).  There are a vast number of cruise lines to chose from but I selected Riviera Travel for the Rhine trip.  It is one of the cheaper ones (tips and alcoholic drinks outside mealtimes are not included in the boarding fare) but as all the guests are nearly all from the UK meant that the tour guides did not have to repeat their information in multiple languages.  As I am going with them to the Danube I thought they offered a good well priced product with a large number of regional airports or rail travel to pick up the vessel.   

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I'll follow this post with interest as a river cruise is on my to do list also. I agree that Crystal do look attractive based on the ships and the fact that it's Crystal so you know the service will surely be excellent but I find their itineraries a little underwhelming compared to others. I'm sure the Crystal itineraries will also come with a much higher price tag than many others too. Interesting to see some lesser known to me river companies being mentioned on this forum. I had never heard of Riviera Travel for example, nor had I heard much about Emerald Waterways or Uniworld but I see both have received compliments on here at one time or another. 

 

I hope you are happy with what you book and enjoy your holiday. I'll keep reading as I'd love to see a review.

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We have cruised the Nile, Danube and Douro. Each was very different.  The Nile we did with Sovereign Holidays quite a few years ago. I can't remember which boat. The boat and food were excellent, but Egypt is not my thing. Dirty, smelly and full of old buildings. I only went because friends wanted to go.  

 

The Danube with Ama Waterways was wonderful. The Amacello was a beautiful boat. The food, accommodation, entertainment, staff, and tours were 1st class.  Wine with dinner each night was chosen from the region we were sailing through.  Drinks pre dinner or through the day had to be purchased, otherwise all included.  We had 3 nights in Prague then  sailed from Neurenburg to Budapest. Prague and Budapest are very interesting cities, well worth visiting. During the cruise we visited Vienna, Melk,Regensberg and other places.

 

Douro, again with AMA, was totally different. We had 3 nights in Lisbon, a fabulous city, then sailed from Oporto up river and back. The tours were to vineyards, Sandemans, Mateus etc.   3 different climates along the way.  We didn't go on the tour one day and had the boat to ourselves. We sailed up the largest lock in Europe which was an unexpected experience.  We love River Cruising and recommend AMA Waterways.

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Currently I am on the Emerald Star, one of the excellent ships owned and operated by Emerald Waterways. The food is some of the best I have ever had at sea and the service is excellent. The ship unlike many other river ships has an indoor swimming pool with retractable roof. At night the pool covers over and becomes a cinema. Wine, beer and soft drinks are included at lunch and dinner. Electrically operated sliding windows turn part of the cabin into a full balcony with table and chairs. In inclement weather close the window but keep the view. This cruise covers the Main, Rhine and Moselle from Nuremberg to Trier. Have also cruised with Scenic who are a true 5 star river cruise line. Butler serviced cabins, all inclusive, speciality restaurants, impeccable service. I would have no hesitation in recommending either of these companies.

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We love river cruising, having enjoyed a Nile Cruise many years ago (organised by Jules Verne).  More recently, we sailed from Moscow to St Petersburg with Viking.  We have also cruised on the Rivers Rhine and Danube with Scenic (three cruises) and on the River Douro with AMA Waterways.

 

Always research your itinerary and the ships very carefully.  How large are the cabins?  Some cabins are very small - and accommodation on the lowest deck usually has one window at ceiling height, just above the ship's waterline.  For passengers with limited mobility, does the ship have a lift?  If amenities are important to you, do the ship's facilities include features such as a fitness room or swimming pool?  When comparing prices, check what is, and most importantly, what is NOT included in the cost of your cruise.  Do the fares include port charges, transfers, gratuities and Wi-Fi Internet?  Does the itinerary include all shore excursions (with a choice of excursions from some ports), or will you have to pay a supplement for the more popular excursions?

 

For the Nile, always select the highest category ship available - and be very careful with hygiene. More than 50% of the passengers on our cruise contracted "Pharaoh's Revenge" and even though we did not eat or drink anything ashore, my wife still succumbed to a violent tummy upset, which prevented her from joining the shore excursion to Abu Simbel.

 

We were not overly impressed with our Viking river cruise in Russia, due partly to the hidden extras.  Consequently, I doubt whether we shall book another Viking cruise.  We received complimentary drinks with lunch and dinner.  The standard of the food and drinks was acceptable, but not particularly memorable.  The cruise line appeared to have purchased cases of a rather ordinary Spanish table wine, and they offered no other choice throughout the cruise.  Restaurant staff came from several nations (very few Russians) and appeared inexperienced - although that might be a reflection of Russian service standards, rather than Viking.  Bar prices were astronomical.

 

Viking provided at least one "free" excursion in every port.  In Moscow, one of the free excursions was a visit to the Kremlin.  However, it did not include entry to the Treasury Museum, which is one of the most important aspects of any visit to the Kremlin. Passengers who wanted to see the Treasury had to purchase an expensive optional excursion.  Most other cruise lines, including Scenic, include all excursions in the price.  British passengers might also be surprised by the level of recommended gratuities (€2 per day for the Cruise Director, €12 per day for ship’s crew, €2 per day for local guides and €1 per day for drivers).  That adds up to €408 per couple for the 12-night Russian itinerary.  I am not commenting on the rights and wrongs of the tipping policy, although I do believe a cruise line should pay a proper wage to the cruise director.  However, passengers should be aware of the likely cost, when comparing cruise lines.

 

Scenic is an Australian company, so many of their passengers come from Australia.  Although they also sell their cruises to American and Canadian passengers, they advertise a no tipping policy for everyone.  Their prices for river cruises worldwide include all alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks (and not just at mealtimes), gratuities, all shore excursions (including tips to the guides and drivers), and unlimited free Wi-Fi, etc.  Scenic also arrange special events, such as a superb private orchestral concert in Vienna - all included in the price.  You pay for what you get.  Scenic is not a cheap option but standards are superb.  However, passengers who do not require unlimited drinks might prefer a competitor that offers similar standards, such as Emerald River Cruises (under the same ownership as Scenic), which offers complimentary drinks with lunch and dinner only.  Just compare the prices, because the lesser option is not always cheaper

 

We have just returned from a cruise on the River Douro from Porto with AMA Waterways.  Overall, this was a great itinerary, with excellent meals and complimentary drinks with lunch and dinner.  Experienced Portuguese waiters served a different local wine with each meal - a choice of red or white (or Mateus rosé).  We were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the wines.  Passengers also received a complimentary glass of port after dinner every evening.  Bar prices were very expensive (a Gin & Tonic cost €8).  There was no charge for Wi-Fi Internet throughout the ship and a large screen TV in every cabin offered a good selection of sports and news channels, including Sky News, BBC World and several American channels.

 

The daily shore excursions were superb and there was no extra charge for any of the optional excursions, available from a few ports. Tourist guides in Portugal must undergo extensive training and there is a shortage of licensed guides.  Consequently, it is important to distinguish between AMA and several other cruise lines (including Viking), which employ tour escorts (a much cheaper alternative to licensed guides).  A good guide is essential, so beware of the word "escort", in the cruise description.  A team of three knowledgeable licensed guides, who spoke excellent English, accompanied us on every trip.  Many AMA passengers come from Canada and the USA, so the tipping poilcy is similar to Viking.  Again, I am not commenting upon the rights and wrongs of the American method of rewarding staff.  I merely remind passengers to consider the cost, when comparing cruise lines and prices.

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Thank you very much for your thorough input BobTroll, it is greatly appreciated. Your reviews of the cruise lines are great and I'll take that into consideration when we look into it in more detail. I've had my eye on Crystal River Cruises for a while now and it was your point on cabins that intrigued me initially. I liked the look of Crystal seeing as they are all suite staterooms and all fully above water level. 

 

The more I read about Viking the less inclined I am to consider booking with them. On the surface they seem an excellent cruise line and they are certainly in your face at the moment with the amount of advertising they are doing but I've heard mixed reviews and they don't strike me as offering the value for money others seem to provide. Of course that's just my perception. I have not travelled with them to the reality might be different.

 

I have narrowed my choices down to three now following the extensive recommendations of Emerald Waterways on here, Scenic and my original attraction, Crystal. I plan to do more research and attempt to figure out which one suits me best but from what I have read, I dare say that whichever one I opt for, I will enjoy. Let's ope so anyway.

 

Thank you all again for your great input.

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I share your enthusiasm for Portuguese wines Starboard. That would be a temptation for me to consider a Douro cruise. Having read the thread, I think you've narrowed it down to three excellent cruise lines. Emerald Waterways appear to be given a huge thumbs up from Old World Traveller and based on the experiences he's shared on this forum, he knows a thing or two so I think it's wise to consider them. Scenic have had a few mentions on here too and they do look lovely. You have a difficult decision to make but a nice one nonetheless. 

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An excellent post I thought by Bob Troll. 

I sailed with Scenic last year on the launch of their ship Scenic Jasper and it was an excellent cruise. Where they excel is with the butler serviced cabins, speciality restaurants and all inclusive drinks. Having said that I found Emerald Waterways to have the same excellent standard of service and food. They also have an indoor swimming pool with retractable roof which covers over in the evening to become a cinema. This area also has its own bar. On the top deck is a putting green and a BBQ area. Both have electrically operated glass panels that slide down to form an open balcony area in the cabins. Gratuities are all included as are the tours. Watch out for the addition of Scenic Eclipse in 2018. An expedition ship of the highest standards in safety and luxury. I attended the press launch and it looks amazing. 2 helicopters to fly you over Antartica and a 12 seat submersible to carry you under the ice.   Sorry drifted off the subject. 

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We have just retured from our first river cruise, which was with Riviera on the Danube.  We flew in and out of Budapest and spent the week sailing up to Linz and back, seeing Erzstragom, Bratislava, Melk, Vienna and Salzburg.  It was a thoroughly good cruise and I wholeheartedly recommend Riviera for river cruising.  It was recommended to me by someone who had used Viking and Riviera and who felt Riviera was better value for money than Viking.  I'm sure we'll enjoy more river cruses.  They're less formal than ocean cruises and yet still have all the main benefits.

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After 16 ocean cruises decided to try a river cruise. On Bolsover's recommendation went on a Danube cruise with Ama Waterways on the Ama Serena. The ship was only 2 weeks old.

Had 3 nights in Prague then sailed to Budapest, could not fault anything.

The ship, dining, inclusive day trips and wines with lunch and dinner made for a wonderful cruise.

Will definitely go another one.

.

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Well after spending the majority of the weekend going over and over different cruise lines and itineraries in our heads, my wife and I eventually realised we had reached an impasse. Upon realisation of this, we acknowledged there was only one thing for it, we needed to book two smile.png

 

We spent a long time mulling over different cruise lines but eventually narrowed it down to two and in particular, two itineraries that we were both keen on. We have now booked the Crystal Mozart 'Treasures of the Danube' for April next year and we will also be travelling aboard AmaVida in September for the 'Enticing Douro' itinerary. We've booked the cruise and stay option for this and will spend a few days in Lisbon before taking the train to Porto to board the ship. 

 

Immensely looking forward to both cruises and our first foray into river cruising. Let's hope we enjoy it!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Other than a fabulous Nile trip back on the old 'Soliel': Luxor to the Aswan Dam and return, in the late '90's', I've yet to do a European river cruise. 

So whilst  cannot help or offer a personal opinion, my sister and Bro-in-Law went with Emerald last year (as first timers) and absolutely loved every aspect of the River Cruising.

So much that they've just been again (with Emerald! sister ship apparently) to celebrate a very special birthday for my sister (between 6&8) ending in 0!

 

Peter.

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A few observations on the posts here as we have now been on 16 river cruises with 7 different operators and covered all routes in Europe plus the Nile and the Mekong.

We haven`t had a bad cruise and have enjoyed all but some more than others.

It is important to compare apples and apples. Some have drinks with lunch and dinner included. A few have 24 hour drinks (Scenic and APT).Some have tips ,many do not eg Viking and AMA. Some operate 2 brands ie Scenic own Emerald and APT own Travelmarvel. The deals on their second brands are cheaper because the offerings are slightly different.

APT and Scenic are Aussie firms so you do get many of their fellows as Passengers as a consequence.Viking and AMA get  many US and Canadians.

Riviera is a British company,very good,nearly all new boats but almost exclusively Brits onboard.

Crystal are new to the rivers.Mozart is a 30 year old ship stripped out and wholly rebuilt inside. Their ships due from next year will be purpose built.

We prefer to be on deck 2 of a 3 deck boat and housed in the rooms closer to the middle of the ship ie adjacent to the atrium/reception area--primarily because if you are travelling at night the rear of the ship and the lower deck can be noisy due to engine noise and other traffic--particularly the Rhine as it is very busy 24/7.

Be aware that sometimes a balcony or even a French balcony is of no use as you may be next to the quay wall or another ship may be tied up next to you or you to it.

We have been on 6 with Viking and have no problem with their offering and will return. Opinions differ--there are no rights and wrongs, it is what suits you that matters

Invariably we have had good service and any issues(all minor) have been resolved pronto.

It is a lovely way to travel and with several operators on most rivers we have repeated some routes with a different one as if you research beforehand you will find some that do the same or similar stops but with a choice of excursions whereas eg with Viking the trip is the trip so that you would be repeating the same one if you went back.

Enjoy!

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