River cruise recommendations (Europe)

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Small Law Survivor
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River cruise recommendations (Europe)

Post by Small Law Survivor » Wed Oct 04, 2017 5:07 pm

So, everyone keeps urging me to spend some of that hard-earned retirement savings, and not be the richest guy in the graveyard. A friend keeps joking that he's "spending his kids inheritance" every time he spends money on his guitar/amp setup.

My wife has expressed the desire to go on a river cruise in Europe. Her mother did that shortly before she passed at 90 (Danube trip), and maybe that's playing into it.

I'm thinking France with a few days in Paris at either end of the trip.

An acquaintance that has gone on a lot of river cruises recommended Uniworld, Ama Waterways and Abalon as cruise companies.

Of course, there are a ton of companies that do this, and all kinds of things to think about (dates, length, type of cabin, type of cruise company, cost).

Any thoughts on how to get a handle on this (maybe even a travel agent), would be much appreciated.

Thanks!

123
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Re: River cruise recommendations (Europe)

Post by 123 » Wed Oct 04, 2017 5:19 pm

My understanding is that since river cruises use much smaller boats then ocean cruise ships the passenger capacity is a lot less. As a result you will likely have a lot more interaction with the same other passengers since you are all "in the same boat" and can't get lost in the crowd like on a large ocean cruise ship. Some people might thrive on such a small boat experience and find it wonderful, others might prefer the options that are available on a much larger ship.
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CyclingDuo
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Re: River cruise recommendations (Europe)

Post by CyclingDuo » Wed Oct 04, 2017 5:54 pm

Small Law Survivor wrote:
Wed Oct 04, 2017 5:07 pm
So, everyone keeps urging me to spend some of that hard-earned retirement savings, and not be the richest guy in the graveyard. A friend keeps joking that he's "spending his kids inheritance" every time he spends money on his guitar/amp setup.

My wife has expressed the desire to go on a river cruise in Europe. Her mother did that shortly before she passed at 90 (Danube trip), and maybe that's playing into it.

I'm thinking France with a few days in Paris at either end of the trip.

An acquaintance that has gone on a lot of river cruises recommended Uniworld, Ama Waterways and Abalon as cruise companies.

Of course, there are a ton of companies that do this, and all kinds of things to think about (dates, length, type of cabin, type of cruise company, cost).

Any thoughts on how to get a handle on this (maybe even a travel agent), would be much appreciated.

Thanks!
Having lived, worked, traveled and spent a couple of decades of our lives in Europe - we would highly recommend against any river cruises. It's not the best way to see Europe.

Consider trains - or even a car rental. Or jet travel between major cities. Spend time in one area (at least 2 days to a week) to absorb the culture before moving on to the next town/city/country.

epictetus
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Re: River cruise recommendations (Europe)

Post by epictetus » Wed Oct 04, 2017 6:20 pm

I have a friend who has taken several Viking river cruises in Europe and she has been very pleased with her experiences.

Avalon is a division of Globus tours. Although we have never taken a river cruise we have taken a few Globus tours and have been pleased with them.
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fishandgolf
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Re: River cruise recommendations (Europe)

Post by fishandgolf » Wed Oct 04, 2017 6:49 pm

An acquaintance of ours did a 10-day river cruise in France a few years ago. Don't know the name of the cruise line but he said the pinnacle of the trip was a day spent at Normandy Beach....very emotional.....very moving. If you're into the WWII stuff (I am), might be a place to check out.

This past spring my wife and I tentatively signed up with a local group for a 10 day river cruise in France. After running the numbers.....all of them....the cost was just north of $14,000.00; we dropped out. Not that the $14K was the main reason; after reviewing the 10-day itinerary, the only thing that was of interest to me was the day at Normandy Beach; the rest of the stuff didn't seem all the interesting.

birdy
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Re: River cruise recommendations (Europe)

Post by birdy » Wed Oct 04, 2017 6:58 pm

Have been on ocean cruises (6) and river cruises (3). I like the more intimate river cruise. Have been on Uniworld and Globus and both very good. Pick a trip according to your interest in going to certain places, then check the reviews. I live in Dallas, TX and use Sharon Carr travel. They organize travel groups and offer trips with more "customized" trips than you can buy from a brochure. Have been going on their trips since the 1980's. We also travel on our own, but prefer to do the group "thing" due to the cheaper cost and no hassle of having to plan everything on my own. I know many people don't care for group travel-----but I DO!

River cruises & ocean cruises have their down sides. In my opinion, you get a taste for a place but not a feast! Ports are short time stops. If you don't mind that (you can always go back if you liked the place for a longer stay!) then you will be happy! I also prefer talking to fellow travelers which seems easier on a smaller vessel where you see each other more often. The food on the river cruises has been more limited than on an ocean cruise. There was only one place to eat. Also, on the trips we took, breakfast and lunch are buffet. Dinner is sit down but with only 3-4 choices of entree/appetizer/ dessert. The evening entertainment (if there is one) is not a big Vegas production! On our river cruises people went to bed fairly early due to the early tours in the morning. I have never been on a European river cruise but they are more formal trips. We enjoy a more relaxed ship with no coats/ties or fancy dresses. Each to their own! Also, we travel during shoulder season (not peak/prime times) and get less expensive prices but still good weather. I think the most we paid for a 10 day river cruise was $4,000 each (including airfare). Pays to have a great travel agent!!!!

birdy

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Re: River cruise recommendations (Europe)

Post by Beck49 » Wed Oct 04, 2017 7:21 pm

We did the Prague to Paris Viking tour this summer. The service experience on the boat was everything you could expect. I couldn't recommend it highly enough. Here is what I would be very aware of before doing another river cruise. How much time are you traveling by bus to see the day's destination. On this tour there was way too much of that. A good example was our "arrival" in Paris. Well, the river really ends in Germany, so it was an all day bus ride to Paris. We stopped in Luxembourg for the 10th walk around a walled city, see the big church, grab a quick bite for lunch, on the bus, stop at American cemetery (wonderful experience) and arrive in Paris at 5:30 pm. Personally, I would only go on another river tour where most of the stops were in major towns where you could investigate on your own and return to the boat as you chose. In our case, there were too many times when the boat pulled over in "nowhere", to a line of waiting buses, and then the boat proceeded farther down the river, where it was later met by the returning buses. Absent mechanical breakdowns and water level issues, my sense is that other Viking cruises are less bus extensive. Just be ready for what the guides call "ABC", another big church. Enjoy.

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Re: River cruise recommendations (Europe)

Post by oldcomputerguy » Wed Oct 04, 2017 7:32 pm

epictetus wrote:
Wed Oct 04, 2017 6:20 pm
I have a friend who has taken several Viking river cruises in Europe and she has been very pleased with her experiences.
+1.DW and I just did a Viking river cruise this past spring, starting in Zurich and ending in Paris. Loved it, already looking forward to the next one.
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Re: River cruise recommendations (Europe)

Post by Mel Lindauer » Wed Oct 04, 2017 9:00 pm

Look into Vantage River Cruises. I took two 11-day back-to-back cruises. The first one started and ended in Paris. Took the bullet train across France to the second cruise which included a memorable day in Normandy.

I've done both river and ocean cruises and much prefer the smaller river cruise trips. In Europe, you get to sample a different city/adventure each day, since many of the cities were established on the rivers.
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Re: River cruise recommendations (Europe)

Post by RudyS » Wed Oct 04, 2017 9:16 pm

We took the Tauk Tours cruise around Iceland this year on the recommendation of a friend. loved it! Having the boat as your hotel without needing to pack/unpack was wonderful. Tauk is expensive, but I'd go with them again in a heartbeat. They have several river cruises available, but most are already sold out or close to it for 2018.

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Re: River cruise recommendations (Europe)

Post by Mel Lindauer » Wed Oct 04, 2017 10:34 pm

RudyS wrote:
Wed Oct 04, 2017 9:16 pm
We took the Tauk Tours cruise around Iceland this year on the recommendation of a friend. loved it! Having the boat as your hotel without needing to pack/unpack was wonderful. Tauk is expensive, but I'd go with them again in a heartbeat. They have several river cruises available, but most are already sold out or close to it for 2018.
I second that part about not having to pack and unpack to see all of the cities on the river cruise itinerary. It's like having a traveling hotel that moves you from city to city (much of the travel is at night while you sleep).
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SueG5123
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Re: River cruise recommendations (Europe)

Post by SueG5123 » Thu Oct 05, 2017 6:06 am

We have taken four Viking river cruises (Paris-Normandy, Rhone-Saone, Rhone (alone), Christmas markets) and have a fifth scheduled for 2018. We like Viking; it is a viable way for people to be introduced to Europe in a way more intimate than an ocean cruise and less wearing than a land trip. (We have done those, too.) Viking is a small (less than 200 pax) experience, and we enjoy all the "included" features, such as free wifi, free excursions in every port, free wine and beer at meals, etc. we have had a couple of hiccups with trips, too, so nothing is perfect -- but, on the whole, we have been exceedingly pleased with river cruising in general and Viking in particular. Feel free to PM if you want further particulars.

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Re: River cruise recommendations (Europe)

Post by tigermilk » Thu Oct 05, 2017 6:20 am

MIL and wife did Prague to Paris, and MIL did another one (started in Budapest and ended somewhere in Germany). MIL loves them (they were Viking). Wife hated it. It depends on the kind of traveler and adventurous you are. If you don't mind limited visits to cities, the strong likelihood of not seeing what interests you, and having no flexibility, the river cruise is for you. It's akin to being on a bus tour of a city - you get the highlights but not the details.

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Re: River cruise recommendations (Europe)

Post by Hayden » Thu Oct 05, 2017 8:59 am

I've done three. I loved Viking Bucharest to Budapest. The guides were excellent and I learned a lot.
The other two cruises, not so much. I would have preferred to spend more time in each major city, and taken a plane/fast train between the cities.

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Re: River cruise recommendations (Europe)

Post by midareff » Thu Oct 05, 2017 9:33 am

We used Viking for Amsterdam to Budapest and it was terrific. Excellent cabin, great service, food and wines, included tours at every stop with wireless receivers so you could hear the guide clearly, free wi-fi ... and a great crowd of active friendly people. Lots of anniversary and just retired people. We liked it so well we booked Moscow to St. Petersburg with them and everything was just right again. We have two more cruises booked with them, one river (Odessa to Kiev) and one ocean (Montreal to NYC), and am looking forward to booking two more as soon as they are available for 2019. They sell out early, some need to be booked nearly a year in advance. They also have some excellent pre and post cruise extensions that can turn your trip into truly memorable. Heartily recommend Viking.
Last edited by midareff on Thu Oct 05, 2017 9:38 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: River cruise recommendations (Europe)

Post by SueG5123 » Thu Oct 05, 2017 9:35 am

Only because someone suggested that a river cruise limits what you see ("If you don't mind limited visits to cities, the strong likelihood of not seeing what interests you, and having no flexibility, the river cruise is for you. It's akin to being on a bus tour of a city - you get the highlights but not the details.") I wanted to add that you will get as much out of these cruises (or ANY trip for that matter) as what you put in. Sure, you can coast through the cruise and have a fine time. So much better if you put in a few hours work on the front end, though. We exhaustively research our stops and most times depart the "basic excursion" provided by the ship and see the things that we want to see. We've done wine-tastings in Budapest, seen the Treasury jewels in Vienna, visited Bastogne's fabulous WWII museum, etc., all on our own, "off the beaten path" as Rick Steves might say.

BTW, if you have a hankering to add a few days before or after your cruise, strongly suggest you skip the cruise-line offered plan and coordinate something on your own. It is much easier than you think, and you will enjoy having taken a more active role in your travel entertainment.

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Re: River cruise recommendations (Europe)

Post by midareff » Thu Oct 05, 2017 9:40 am

SueG5123 wrote:
Thu Oct 05, 2017 9:35 am
Only because someone suggested that a river cruise limits what you see ("If you don't mind limited visits to cities, the strong likelihood of not seeing what interests you, and having no flexibility, the river cruise is for you. It's akin to being on a bus tour of a city - you get the highlights but not the details.") I wanted to add that you will get as much out of these cruises (or ANY trip for that matter) as what you put in. Sure, you can coast through the cruise and have a fine time. So much better if you put in a few hours work on the front end, though. We exhaustively research our stops and most times depart the "basic excursion" provided by the ship and see the things that we want to see. We've done wine-tastings in Budapest, seen the Treasury jewels in Vienna, visited Bastogne's fabulous WWII museum, etc., all on our own, "off the beaten path" as Rick Steves might say.

BTW, if you have a hankering to add a few days before or after your cruise, strongly suggest you skip the cruise-line offered plan and coordinate something on your own. It is much easier than you think, and you will enjoy having taken a more active role in your travel entertainment.
Agree with Sue on off the beaten path. Viking even has a Concierge on-board to help you with any special activities or make reservations for you. We had several activities set up for us by them.

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Re: River cruise recommendations (Europe)

Post by Gnirk » Fri Oct 06, 2017 12:33 am

I've been on 3 river cruises, and 3 ocean cruises. I much prefer the river cruising to ocean cruising. My cruising has been on Viking. The river vessels are much smaller--150-200 people on board. You don't have to "tender-in" to the shore or dock if your ship can't get moorage in the smaller harbors and there are no longs lines for embarking and disembarking.On the other hand, there is no casino on board, no movie theatre or musical shows, etc. No midnight buffets, and no one constantly inviting you to bid at an art auction or buy overpriced jewelry. And, importantly for me, I don't get seasick!! :mrgreen:

River cruising is quiet and more intimate. Meals are served at specific times, one sitting for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There is a coffee bar/ hot chocolate and pastries available in the afternoon. The food quality and service on our river cruises has been excellent, and Viking includes local wines and beer with dinner. And maybe lunch, I'm not sure.
At least one shore excursion per day is included, using knowledgable local guides. Some ports have additional optional excursions, paid for separately.
Tips for onboard services and excursion guides and coach drivers are not included. We have sailed on three 7 day cruises, and enjoyed each one: The Seine, roundtrip from Paris to Normandy. The Rhine from Basel to Amsterdam. And the Danube from Nuremberg to Budapest. Our favorite was the Rhine cruise. On each trip we either stayed several days before the trip, or several days after the trip. In our case, Paris, Amsterdam, and Nuremberg.

We have friends who prefer Uniworld, which, I believe is all inclusive, has a bit more formal atmosphere and "luxury" cabins, and includes premium liquor in the cruise price. Viking doesn't allow passengers under the age of 18, by the way.

But be aware that some of the rivers can have unusually high or low water levels during certain times of the year which can affect your itinerary. Our September 2015 Danube cruise was one of those because there had been a drought in that summer, so there were areas of the river that were impassable. However, Viking bused us from one port to the other, bypassing the low water area, and put us on an identical sister ship and in our same cabin number. It did however shorten our time in Vienna and we missed the daylight cruising on one of the most beautiful parts of the Danube. I felt the cruise line handled it very well, and have no complaints.

Small Law Survivor
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Re: River cruise recommendations (Europe)

Post by Small Law Survivor » Fri Oct 06, 2017 7:32 am

This is all very interesting and informative, thank you all. To those who say, "travel with your feet, and get off the beaten path," I agree 100%, and that is how I prefer to travel. However, my wife likes an organized tour, and we both appreciate educational programs and guides that help us appreciate the area we're traveling in. One of our best travel experiences was a trip to Israel where we hired a guide to travel with us the entire time.

So, with all these river cruises comments from BHs on this thread, I'm still not sure how to chose one over another. I rarely use travel agencies, but I think it would be good to use one for this purpose - any recommendations, esp. in Boston?

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Re: River cruise recommendations (Europe)

Post by Ron » Fri Oct 06, 2017 8:48 am

We've just returned from a Viking Cruise, Paris to Normandy (bus to D-Day beaches) in mid-September, and have already booked our next trip for late next year - Lyon to Avignon.

Since I spent a lot of time in Lyon for work a few decades ago, I'll get to see if my usual "haunts" are still serving, especially Paul Bocuse's. While my wife/me have spent time in Lyon on our way to Chamonix/Mt. Blanc, and spent time in Monaco (via cruise ship) we haven't seen the countryside in the south of France. While we chose the latter part of the year to avoid the crowds, we also will miss the lavender in bloom. Oh well, we have our own plants in our yard :wink: .

As far as river cruising vs. ocean cruise, I like to look at it as being in a big city (NYC, LA, etc.) vs. your own neighborhood. Some like big cities, some don't. We enjoy the "neighborhood" that a river cruise gives you. Sure, you can meet/greet folks on a big ship, but we're "small town" people. That's why they offer both types of cruises; whatever "floats your boat" :mrgreen: .

This will be our fifth river cruise (various companies). We've also have gone on large ships (Caribbean, Med, etc.) but from here on out, we probably will stick with the smaller boats.

FWIW,

- Ron

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