Would you buy a river cruise without heated seats ?

Since my husband has been in the process of buying a newer car lately, it got me thinking about the similarities between purchasing a car and purchasing a river cruise.

It really depends on where you are in your life cycle that steers you towards a certain type of car or cruise. For instance, most cars do exactly the same things, they go forward, reverse, have windshield wipers, headlights and it will get to and from your destination. Same with a river cruise, most of the companies do the same routes on the rivers, stop at the same towns, offer meals, drinks and entertainment onboard and get you to and from your destination.

Now the “extras” are what sets them both apart.

For the cars, you can buy a basic one like a Ford Fusion for just over $20,000 that has power windows, locks, keyless entry and air conditioning. More upgrades would include a sunroof, navigation system, and that wonderful in winter feature – heated seats.

It’s a great car but you find many choosing the popular Audi A5 which cost wise with the prestige trim, will put you over the $50,000 range but comes complete with auto-dimming exterior mirrors, adaptive Xenon Plus headlights, a Parking System Plus with a reversing camera, and side assist blind-spot warning system, a 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system with Bluetooth capability plus more. (whew)

Well the same goes for river cruises, it is not as though one company is better than the other, some just offer more “extras” where everything is included.

For example, you could take a 7 night river cruise on the Seine with Avalon Waterways and it would be wonderful – they include wine/beer with dinner and include most excursions. Their ship holds 140 passengers and for some, they will purchase the optional excurions, everyone pays gratuities at the end and depending on how many drinks you’ve enjoyed throughout the week, will have a bit of a bar bill to settle.

Take that same cruise with Tauck and everything is included from the drinks, excursions, transfers to and from the airport or train station plus all gratuities onboard and on the tours. (they also include fancy extras like a private dinner at a chateau in Normandy) Their ship only holds 118 passengers for the same size of vessel so you’ve got more space. Plus they have 14 suites at 300 sq feet each compared to only 2 on Avalon’s (which are 258 sq feet) Tauck also has bicycles onboard that you can sign out on your own or on a bike excursion.

The price difference?

For a mid summer departure in 2015, the Avalon river cruise will start at approx. $3150usd, the Tauck one will start at $5990usd per person based on double. If you want an even longer experience where your ship is docked right at Honfleur (which is only a stones throw from the D-Day landing beaches) then a 10 night all inclusive cruise with Scenic cruises would be your choice and their starting price for this itinerary is $6330usd and up.

So it really does depend on where you are in life as to how much you want to spend on your river cruise. I find the older we get, the more we are willing to spend because frankly, we’ve earned it. We have worked hard all our lives starting out with the basics and now we are in a position where we can enjoy all the bells and whistles. (and heated seats !)

We were all taught the phrase ‘you get what you pay for’ and it is so true when it comes to river cruising, you can sail with many of the companies and it will be wonderful or you can sail with a few of the all-inclusive lines & the trip will be amazing.

Whichever one you choose, you will love the experience of getting into the heart of your destination.

What cabin should I book for a river cruise ?

I decided to write about what cabin you should book from having a conversation with my parents.  They received a brochure in the mail about a European river cruise and when I was visiting, they pointed out that the company was offering FREE AIRFARE for a few of their departures.  They exclaimed enthusiastically to get them booked right away to take advantage of the deal !

I then showed them the fine print which was that it was only applicable on their “window” category cabins.  To which they replied – “how bad could that be ?”

So I dug out my close up picture that I took of the outside of one of the ships when I was on the Danube  (plus also showed them on the front of the brochure they received)

Outside view of a river cruise ship

Outside view of a river cruise ship

When I showed them the very small window cabin located on the bottom deck of the ship, they understood.  I explained that these cabins are the hardest to sell because most people want either the French balcony or full balcony cabin to take full advantage of being able to open up the doors and experience the river going by.  Whenever you see a river cruise company advertising sale pricing, it is usually on these type of cabins because they are the only ones available.

The other point that they were shocked to learn was that the suite cabins are actually the FIRST to sell out.  This is because most ships may only have 2 suites and if anyone is crossing over from ocean cruising and used to a large suite, they also want one of those on the river.  Due to this fact, many of the companies are changing the way they build their ships.  Take a look at the new SS Antoinette that Uniworld built – they now have one huge Royal Suite at 391 sq feet, then 8 suites at 294 sq feet to tap into that market that is willing to pay for a larger cabin.  For comparison, their cabin sizes in category 1 through 3 are 196 sq feet and 4/5 are 163 sq feet.

SSAntoinette Uniworld

SSAntoinette

So to answer what cabin should you book for a river cruise ?     Well, that all depends on you – get the suite if you have the funds and book far enough in advance, get the French balcony for wonderful river views and get the window category if you want a bargain!    Whichever one you choose, you will love the experience of getting into the heart of your destination.

 

How to pack a carry on suitcase for a 3 week trip

When I met my travelling companion before the start of our Rhine river cruise and she showed up with this small carry on bag and backpack, was thinking that wow she’ll be wearing the same clothes every day. Well was I wrong and you can see in the video how much stuff she actually fits into this carry on. I was so amazed that I had to share this with to show you that it can be done and I’m going to try her ideas when packing for my next trip. Enjoy !

Which is the best River Cruise Company for Europe ?

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 ?

RiverCruiseLadyLinda

linda@therivercruiselady.com

 

River views right from your bed

It’s amazing to see how the river cruise companies come up with such innovative ways to design their staterooms. You’ll see in the video below how Avalon Waterways changed the configuration of the cabin and now have the bed facing the window – genius idea !

(I joked that maybe it was designed by a woman because the old way used to face the TV and now it faces the spectacular scenery going by)

Do all river cruise companies have bikes onboard ?

This is popular question that I get asked when clients are inquiring about European river cruising so thought I would post the answer here for others to benefit from.

 

No, all of the river cruise companies do not have bikes onboard in Europe so if this is important to you, then you’ll want to look at:

 

1) AMA Waterways
2) A-Rosa
3) Scenic Tours
4) Tauck Tours
5) Uniworld

 

Avalon Waterways and Viking River Cruises are the two that do not have bikes onboard.

 

Happy sailing and cycling !

 

RiverCruiseLadyLinda
www.therivercruiselady.com

Bicycles on river cruises

Bicycles on river cruises