River cruise | Choosing your Europe river cruise
River cruise season is here again and if you’re still undecided on whether to do a river cruise, it’s not too late! Before the world was turned topsy-turvy by this economic downturn, it would have been impossible to book a cruise at this time of year as many of the popular cruises are already booked a year in advance. The situation has changed.
These days, there are so many more river cruise tours available and what with all the discounts being thrown in at the moment, the choices are overwhelming. Should you go for the offer of a free flight for the second person or is the offer of $2,000 price reduction per couple for the cruise a better deal? Mme, how does one go about deciding?
It would be a mistake to base your decision by discounts offered alone as you may end up going on a cruise that’s disappointing. If this is your first river cruise and you’re not likely to do too many cruises in the future, then it’s important that decisions are based on what will make your trip an enjoyable experience, one that exceeds your expectations and one that will give you many years of happy memories.
There are so many different rivers that you can cruise on in Europe, the Rhine, Danube, Rhone, Elbe, Po and so on. The essence of a river boat cruise is that you do make quite a lot of shore excursions. Your river boat will be making several stops along the way and passengers will be able to do sightseeing in the towns and villages along the river. So scrutinizing the itinerary and ensuring that the places visited are what you want to see is an important consideration.
Would you like a cruise that will take you through a few countries, like the very popular Amsterdam to Budapest cruise or would you prefer to immerse yourself in the culture of one country only and therefore do a river cruise within that country, for example the Rhone River cruise within France only.
Which company should you travel with? The major players in European river cruising include:
- Avalon Waterways (now part of the Globus Group)
- Viking River Cruises
- Peter Deilmann Cruise
- Tauck World Discovery
The Europe river cruising market is very competitive which is good for ensuring quality for the customers. Compare the brochures from a few of the above companies before deciding. All the information are available on-line.
Weather is another important consideration. You can’t always predict the weather. When we did our Amsterdam to Budapest river cruise in August, we had such magnificent weather that even the captain and tour director were amazed. They were amazed because the cruise before ours had two weeks of non-stop rain and the rivers were flooded.
However, if you choose a winter cruise, which is usually cheaper, then you can expect to be indoors a fair amount of the trip and it gets dark early. So choosing the right location and time of year is important for river cruising as it’s preferable to be outdoors, on the sun-deck enjoying the beautiful scenery along the riverbanks rather than huddled indoors. Some operators may offer you a free flight for a winter cruise, but the cost of the cruise itself is pegged at the high season fare.
How much can you afford?
What’s your travel budget and what length of cruise are you looking for? The price range of cruises depends on a number of factors such as season, duration of cruise and your cabin type.
- the cabin type that you choose makes a big difference to the price. Most river cruise boats are designed so that rooms on both sides of the boats have views, but on some boats the lowest deck and cheapest rooms are at water level. The best cabins are those ‘staterooms‘ on the upper deck with French balconies. These are great as you can relax, read or watch the passing scenery from the comfort of your suite if you didn’t feel like going on the sun-deck.
- check to see if the on-shore excursions are included in the price of the cruise or do you have to allow extra budget for some of the visits that you’re interested in.
- on many cruises, you have to pay for your wines and drinks at meal time, however there are cruises that provide complimentary wines as part of the package. Look out for these!
- port charges and tips for the crew will all need to be considered in your budget.
So, as long as you’ve taken some of these main points into your decision making, you should be on your way to a pleasant cruise. Bon voyage!