This is a question I get from my clients all the time and to answer it would be like choosing which child was the best of your children!
They all have their redeeming qualities and differences and it could really depend on ones own preferences as to the outcome. Let me give you an example – Uniworld River Cruises www.uniworld.com has announced that they are going totally all inclusive for their 2014 European River Cruises (which means they will include unlimited beverages onboard including wine, beer, spirits, cocktails, soft drinks, juices, plus all shore excursions) which sounds the best except for the non-drinker who ends up paying more for their river cruise for those beverages they won’t consume. These people might think its best to choose Avalon Waterways www.avalonwaterways.com who only provide wine, beer and soft drinks at dinner which is reflected in the price.
Another example is with Viking River Cruises www.vikingrivercruises.com and all their brand new “longships” that they have recently christened. While it is so nice to be able to travel in the comfort of a new ship, in order to keep their pricing competitive, they made the decision to put in more staterooms which in turn hold more people. All river cruise ships that travel on the Danube are regulated and cannot be longer than 443 feet. The new Viking ships have 95 staterooms or 190 passengers where if you compare that to AMA Waterways www.amawaterways.com whose new ships are the same size, they only have 82 staterooms holding 164 passengers. So Viking River might have the best pricing, but AMA Waterways have more public space onboard.
Talking about having more space onboard brings me to Tauck River Cruising www.tauck.com/river-cruises as they step it up a notch with their new ships having larger rooms, more dining options and capping the passengers at 130 in 67 cabins to get the best space ratio category. They include all beverages, the gratuties, a signature special experience and all shore excursions.
Unique for 2014 is Scenic River Cruise www.us.scenictours.com introduction of their new lower priced line Emerald Waterways www.emeraldwaterways.com which will be a first in the industry where one company has two distinct types of river cruises to choose from. Scenic Tours originated in Australia selling package tours and is still privately owned there. Scenic also offers the all inclusive concept but Emerald will only have wine and beer with lunch and dinner. Their aim with the new Emerald line is to target a younger demographic with their two ships having swimming pools that inventively convert into a cinema and their open-air balcon system that allows you to enjoy it no matter what the weather.
A new player in the North American market is A-Rosa Cruises www.arosacruises.com which has been operating in Europe for years but has now picked a few of their departures to cater exclusively to English speaking passengers. It will be interesting to see if they are able to keep up with the other big operators.
So you can see that its tough to pick the “best” one as each has their own unique benefits. Viking River claims to have the “greenest” ships featuring diesel-electric hybrid engines specially designed for low vibration and minimal environmental impact. AMA Waterways is famous for their fresh food brought on from local ports. Avalon Waterways have the most innovative design in their cabins where they’ve turned the bed to face the french balcony sliding glass doors. Uniworld offers an interesting mix of programs for their shore excursions including Go Active, Gentle Walking, Do as the Locals Do and Village Day.
If you would like some additional information on any of these companies, ships or their itineraries, please feel free to drop me an email. If you’ve already sailed on any of them – which one was your favourite and why ?