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ncLindaB

1st River Cruise - which 7 or 8 day itinerary? Which ship?

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Hey there! Hope I am posting on the correct board. We've done tons of cruising but never a river cruise. Instead of doing a 14+ day cruise, I think we should do a shorter 7 or 8 day itinerary to be sure we like river cruising. We are thinking to go somewhere in Europe. I can easily book my own air. 

The only river cruise line I am familiar with is Viking. What others should I look at for a first river cruise?

We like veranda staterooms and several options for dining...not even sure what else I need to say here. I just need a starting place....

 

Thanks! 

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I would read the "sticky's" at the top.  There are comparisons of the cruise lines there.  We have sailed on AmaWaterways twice and love the line.  I would either do the Danube or the Rhine as a first cruise.  Be sure and go a few days early so you can spend some time in the embarkation city on your own if you have time.

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48 minutes ago, ncLindaB said:

Hey there! Hope I am posting on the correct board. We've done tons of cruising but never a river cruise. Instead of doing a 14+ day cruise, I think we should do a shorter 7 or 8 day itinerary to be sure we like river cruising. We are thinking to go somewhere in Europe. I can easily book my own air. 

The only river cruise line I am familiar with is Viking. What others should I look at for a first river cruise?

We like veranda staterooms and several options for dining...not even sure what else I need to say here. I just need a starting place....

 

Thanks! 

I really feel that a veranda is not very useful on a river cruise. If you want to enjoy the scenery, you will want to go up to the sun deck or a lounge. Any space used for the veranda also comes out of room space, since the width is limited by the size of the locks. 

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River ships generally have 4 types of cabins:

•  'Aquarium Class' – cabins on the lowest deck that are mostly below the water line and have fixed windows near the ceiling that give you a view of the sky and the occasional swan's feet – many cruisers feel that these are the best value because, as gnome12 mentioned, you will want to do most of your scenic viewing from the top deck [360 degree views – you can see land on both sides on a river cruise!] or the forward lounge

•  'French Balcony' – cabins on the middle and top deck that have a full wall of glass with a sliding part [either sideways like a patio door or vertical like a car window] – I consider this the ideal configuration because it doesn't steal any room from the cabin, you have the full glass view in all weather, and you can get some fresh air – but note that on the Viking longships these are the smallest cabins because they moved the aisle off-center to give more space to the real balcony cabins

•  'Real Balcony' – where you can go outside your cabin into the air – but because river ships have to fit in the locks these cabins don't stick out and aren't very deep – and there are no 'sea days' to enjoy them for any length of time – so I consider these a waste of money

•  Suites – more room, usually more amenities [like a butler, room service breakfast] and a much higher price – also these cabins are almost always on the top deck, where you may have noise from the walking track above

 

My preference is for a French balcony cabin on the middle deck, for the best combination of room, views and air, quiet, and value.

 

The other things that distinguish one river cruise line from another are:

•  space – most river ships are the same size because of the maximum capacity of the locks [135m long or 110 m long depending on the river but some lines have as few of 100 passengers and others up to 200 on a 135m ship.  This affects both cabin size and public spaces.

•  inclusions – some lines claim to be 'all-inclusive,' although none cover every possible expense [Tauck comes close], but if you do the math you may find that less-inclusive lines actually give better value because you aren't paying for things that you won't use

•  quality – all river ships include all meals, some alcohol and most excursions – but the quality (especially of the food and included wine) will vary from acceptable to truly gourmet.

 

As to itinerary:  you are right that it's safer to start with a 7 day river cruise rather than 14.  Most people love river cruising and come back for more – but we do get posts from a minority of people who find that river cruising just isn't for them.  And they often figure this out by day 2 – imagine having 12 more days staring you in the face!  The Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel (with a post-cruise visit to Lucerne) is often suggested as the ideal first cruise [it was my first one, and was a terrific introduction].  Amsterdam is easy to fly to and navigate once you get there; the cruise covers several very different countries including Holland, Germany, France and Switzerland; there is one day of scenic cruising [the 'Rhine Castles,' which is amazing].  At the end I would spend 2-3 days in Lucerne and then fly home from Zurich [you can DIY, but I would suggest considering the post-cruise extension from your cruise line because Switzerland is very expensive and its nice to have you 'hand held']. 

 

Many people come here as you did, only knowing about Viking [because of their huge advertising budget].  But there are many river cruise lines and most passengers have a great time on whichever ship they choose.  So it isn't a question of having a good time or not, but rather doing your homework to ensure that you get maximum value for your cruise dollars.

 

Happy cruising!

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ncLindaB,

 

I think the previous posters have given you a great introduction into the planning. Perhaps one more thing to consider is season. You have not mentioned a preference, so if you are free to choose when you might like to go have a look around the stickies what they say. The Rhine and the Danube do not differ much from each other during the seasons. A time of year that sticks out on both those rivers and their tributaries is Advent when the towns have Christmas markets and are decorated for Christmas.

 

Have fun planning.

 

notamermaid

 

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Such great information from these replies! Thank you so much! 

I will look into AmaWaterways...I'd never heard of them. Any other river cruiseline you suggest I add to my research list? 

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7 minutes ago, ncLindaB said:

Such great information from these replies! Thank you so much! 

I will look into AmaWaterways...I'd never heard of them. Any other river cruiseline you suggest I add to my research list? 

 I'm partial to Uniworld. We usually cruise early season. Pricing has been comparable to the less inclusive lines. Some are put off by the decor, for us, it is part of the boutique experience. 

 

I would also recommend the Danube or Rhine for your first itinerary. We found the Danube to be more scenic.

 

Robin

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Posted (edited)

We really enjoyed Avalon.  Although wine & beer were only included during lunch and dinner, we didn't mind not having "all inclusive " alcohol as we really wouldn't have had the time to sit back and enjoy it.  We took in not only the included excursions,  but also the extra ones, so our days were packed and off the ship. 

Unlike the larger ocean liners, entertainment at night is very limited, we had a great piano player, so it was like going to a club after dinner, but we usually went up top to enjoy our evenings.  They did bring on some evening entertainment,  but after a busy day, a nice stroll around the top deck was about all we wanted to do before heading back to our room to prepare for the next day.

Dining was really enjoyable,  we met up with several other travellers to share our day,  and we were able to enjoy foods both new and familiar (I grew up with German & Swiss foods as comfort food), and because you can order anything,  if you don't like the food chosen,  they will bring you something else.  If you really enjoy it, they will also bring extra....which can get dangerous considering the deserts they had!

 

Have fun planning, it can be an amazing experience if you do enjoy it.

Edited by Daisi

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I am only familiar with Viking from one river cruise about five years ago, which we liked very much.  Your preference for  several options for dining will not be the same as on an ocean cruise. Again, I only know Viking, but there are really only two choices: the restaurant and the Aquavit terrace. The outdoor terrace is a small buffet style with a limited number of lighter fare choices. The restaurant usually had maybe five choices, three of which are the regularly available chicken, steak, and salmon. The other choices often include food local to the region. We had a chance to take a tour of the galley on the ship, and you would be amazed at the quality of the food they produce in such a small space. 

 

We love the variety of dining options on Viking Ocean, but are happily returning to Viking river next spring. If things have changed since our first cruise, I look forward to experiencing it next year.

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Figure out where you want to go first, then the time of year.....I do not think you need a balcony, you could be tied up to other river ships the whole time and not be able to use it in port.....Decide if you want all inclusive...Crystal, Uniworld, Scenic.....decide if you want to do pre and post visits.....We always do pre and post, we loved the Viking brand, and Crystal....The fun is in the planning, Good Luck!!

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We've done 3 river cruises w/ Uniworld & have been thrilled w/ them all.  Everything from the staff, ships, food & excursions are top notch & just seem to be getting even better.  We chose Paris & Normandy as our first river cruise. We're WWII buffs & the beaches were the main draw but we also loved Monet's Givernay & the visit to Versailles.  Of course it also includes time in Paris & that's awesome in itself!  A bonus for us was a direct flight both ways (we're from NY).   Do your research, enjoy your planning & I bet after your first time on the river you'll be as addicted as the rest of us here on the river cruise board are:)

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We really liked Scenic and made use of all the amenities. We like the way the balconies can be configured in the suites - there are inner glass door and an outer window that can roll down, so the space can be either part of the cabin or closed off from it - handy if one of you wants fresh air and the other doesn't. They truly are all-inclusive; you could leave your wallet at home except for souvenirs or airport expenses before you get picked up or after you get dropped off. Not cheap, but we think they provide good value. 

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Posted (edited)

I am one that doesn't think it is important to get a balcony. Though some of the "window cabins" are half under water. That bothers some.

 

When the ships are in dock, they can be "rafted" next to other ships which means that 2-3 ships can be docked parallel to each other and you must walk through the other ships to leave. This also means that if you open your balcony, it maybe 12" from the next ship. So while in dock, you may not be able to use your balcony in "privacy" or to see things.

 

River boats are small. Many don't have "extra restaurants". For "extra options for dinner" it maybe possible you are in port late or overnight and can dine in town. Some lines don't post their hours so it is difficult to figure out if you leave late at night or early evening. Some lines even have set times for dinner.

 

Crystal did have open dining - you can go to dinner anywhere from 7-9 pm. She ship I was on did have other restaurants but that ship is changing lines after this year so it is worthless describing that option.

 

Look at each line and see if tips are expected or included, are drinks included all the time or just at dinner, are most excursions included or just one per day, do they include transfers and if so how much, etc....

 

Uniworld, Scenic, Tauck and Crystal seem to be the lines with the most included (I believe). I did not spend a cent with Crystal while on the ship. People say this also with the other lines I just listed.

 

There seems to be a line for everyone. I would order catalogs and read Host Jazz's notes at the top of the forum.

 

My first trip was 14 days and my 2nd one was 10 days. I would never fly to Europe for 7 or 8 days so if you do one of those trips, definitely stay pre and post cruise to justify the airfare!

 

The main people I hear who hate river cruising are those who cruise when the rivers are too low or too high and the trip becomes more of a bus trip.

Edited by Coral

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Posted (edited)

We took our first river cruise in May.  We've done many ocean cruises, and knew we'd need to have a different expectation.  I'll just say that we can't wait to do another river cruise!  While you'll save money with an aquarium room, keep in mind that when you traverse locks and bridges, the sun deck often has to be down.  On our 15 day cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest, it was not available for several days.  We had a balcony and sat by the full window while cruising.  Great choice for us.

 

We had looked at Viking, AMA, Avalon, Emerald, and others.  We took Emerald and loved it.  The crew was wonderful, the ship was great, and there were no "extra fees."  Beverages with meals (really good wines), tips onboard and for tours, at least one tour in each port, port charges were all included.  For many cruises, AIR is included.  Emerald's tours are all conducted in English.  

 

Unless you cruise for the casino and the various bells and whistles, you'll love river cruising.  Don't be afraid of a longer cruise.  As others have said, flying to Europe for a one-week cruise isn't a great idea unless you're time-constrained.  And you might choose another cruise line, but do take a look at Emerald.  FYI, it's part of the Scenic family.

Edited by lenetere
Add item.

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On 6/5/2019 at 10:37 PM, texasstar said:

I would read the "sticky's" at the top.  There are comparisons of the cruise lines there.  We have sailed on AmaWaterways twice and love the line.  I would either do the Danube or the Rhine as a first cruise.  Be sure and go a few days early so you can spend some time in the embarkation city on your own if you have time.

Could you please explain what the "sticky's" are?  

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14 minutes ago, CoLeLe said:

Could you please explain what the "sticky's" are?  

They are the posts at the top of the page, with "locks" and green "thumbtacks" next to them. 

Robin

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I've taken two river cruises so far with two more booked. I love river cruising. So much so I have two more booked. Our first was with Avalon. We had a great time but if I had to do it over again with Avalon make sure it's one of their newer boats. We went with the Luminary and wasn't crazy about this boat. The other one we did on the Danube was with Viking. We loved everything about that trip. Food and service was fantastic. I love the clean lines with Viking as well. Along with another Viking cruise I'm trying Uniworld for the first time. 

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Regarding food choices - as mentioned, there aren't a lot of dining locations on most  river ships.  There just isn't enough room for multiple venues.  There is also a difference between lines as far as the one dining room goes.  Some lines have little to no choice on what is being served (same meal for everyone with an option to "opt out" for a chicken breast instead.)  Some lines have a wider menu to choose from, some lines have a timed dinner seating, others are come and go.

 

I think one of the biggest differences is evenings.  There just is very little to do on a river cruise if the ship is underway.  If shows, etc, are a big part of your vacation, you will be disappointed.  Some lines set sail before dinner and you are effectively a captive audience until after breakfast, with limited options between - go to your room, sit in the lounge, perhaps enjoy a small concert or talk in the lounge if  it's offered.  Other lines stay in port until after dinner or  overnight.  For me, I prefer that, where I have the chance to try local restaurants, explore a bit, etc.

 

Agree a verandah can be very hit or miss.  We had a french balcony, and it was great to lay in bed  and see out the window - right up until we woke up one morning 18" from the Tauck ship moored next to us.  There is always ample seating on the top of the ship to enjoy the scenery.

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Thank you, everyone! I appreciate all the information!

I'm thrilled to say that we booked on a Scenic River Cruise that leaves August 19th! So excited!

We took your advice and are doing the Pargue to Budapest itinerary on the Danube with 3 days in Prague before and 2 days in Budapest afterwards. 

Can't wait to learn more about river cruising!

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6 minutes ago, ncLindaB said:

Thank you, everyone! I appreciate all the information!

I'm thrilled to say that we booked on a Scenic River Cruise that leaves August 19th! So excited!

We took your advice and are doing the Pargue to Budapest itinerary on the Danube with 3 days in Prague before and 2 days in Budapest afterwards. 

Can't wait to learn more about river cruising!

Congrats!! Sounds like a great trip! Please post your thoughts when you return.

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On 6/8/2019 at 10:17 AM, ncLindaB said:

Thank you, everyone! I appreciate all the information!

I'm thrilled to say that we booked on a Scenic River Cruise that leaves August 19th! So excited!

We took your advice and are doing the Pargue to Budapest itinerary on the Danube with 3 days in Prague before and 2 days in Budapest afterwards. 

Can't wait to learn more about river cruising!

Great choice, and great choice.  We have travelled with almost all of the major lines - and have not been disappointed with Scenic.  We did Budapest to Nuremberg with them (stayed longer in Nuremberg instead of going to Prague as we had been there before....) - and had a great trip.

 

I think it is good to do Prague with the cruise line - as it can be a bit of a challenge to get from Prague to the Danube.  Budapest is very easy to do on your own - but Scenic will probably have some great options for tours there.  If you are looking for a dining option, I would suggest Café Kor.  One of our favourite restaurants...  But - you need reservations (popular with the locals as well as tourists),  they aren't open Sundays and only accept cash.  But, good, reasonably priced Hungarian food.

 

Enjoy!!

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Glad you decided on the Danube.....and you will be glad you chose to do Prague pre cruise....also coming into Budapest at night is spectacular, and glad you are doing post in Budapest!!  ENJOY

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