The “Best Rated” reviews from among the River Cruise Lines

TOP RIVER CRUISE PROVIDERS

As reviewed and rated by Travel Truth and CruisewithMike!!

RATINGS: RIVER CRUISES Cruises along the interior waterways in Europe are hot. In fact, they now represent the fastest-growing segment of the travel industry. Some of the leading contenders, such as Viking River, Ama Waterways, Tauck and Peter Deilmann, can’t build new boats fast enough. Current shipyard orders are backlogged.The reasons seem obvious enough. Fewer than 200 passengers. All meals and shore excursions are included so the cost, in dollars, is a real value compared to independent travel relying on the dollar rate against the Euro.Each of the lines below is capable of providing a superior European River Boat experience. But like all other aspects of travel, there are qualitative differences. Here is how we rate the products available to our North American Cruisers. # 1 – Tauck World Discovery – Rating: 5 Stars+ . The Swiss Emerald is the best riverboat on the Danube. The newest in her fleet 118 guest Tauck Riverboat went into service in 2008. Luxury Suite cabins are just over 300 square feet. Wines are included and Tauck offers the most comprehensive and best-managed sightseeing programs. Four Tauck Directors accompany each sailing. Pre and post hotel stays are part of the package. Tauck offers an expanded array of sailings in Europe, (including 15 day Amsterdam to Budapest) as well as China, Egypt (along the nile),and while they cost a bit more, they are the best on the waterways at the current time.

    • “We thought the Tauck differences were evident in nearly every aspect of the ships operation. We met cruisers from one or two of Tauck’s major competitors and they simply were not receiving the services that we were. The Tauck escorts made a world of difference. The other lines seem just to use local guides.”
    • “They somehow have the same quality of service aboard the ship that we have always received on land-based Tauck Tours. Wine with dinner is nice touch as is the way gratuities are included. The lack of an early booking discount like Viking has is something of a disappointment.
    • We looked at other lines but we like the way Tauck packages in the hotel stays at either end. swayed us. We had been on two other river boat lines, Amadeus and Uniglobe, and Tauck’s guests, onboard service, and crew was better than anything we had previously experienced.

#2 -UniworldBoutique River Cruises Collection –Rating 4 ½ Stars.

     Offering their guests a wonderfully unique river cruising experience, Uniworld Boutique Collection boast some of the finest in appointments and amenities. Certainly one of the most elegant of river vessels afloat has to be the SS Antoinette, with it’s most impressive 10 foot blue Strauss Baccarat chandelier from New York’s famed Terrace on the Green, as well as the Brazilian Marble walls and floors reflecting a true air of grandur. Most assuredly a comfortable yet luxurious way to travel Europe and the World. Some of their many fine standard services afforded include:

  •  An intimate atmosphere with an average ship capacity of just 130 guests
  • Luxuriously appointed riverview staterooms—many with French balconies—handcrafted Savoir® of England beds draped in lavish linens, European duvets, cashmere/wool blankets, along with a menu of pillow options, and other modern conveniences such as flat-screen televisions with satellite, a vanity, generous built-in closets, hair dryer, safe, individual climate-control thermostat, direct-dial telephone, and bottled water in staterooms
  • Exclusive services and amenities in all suites with butler service on the S.S. Antoinette and River Beatrice. All suites have extra amenities and services, including: bottle of wine upon arrival; flat-screen television with DVD player; slippers; refrigerator; daily fruit and cookie plate; and morning coffee and tea, continental breakfast, shoe shine, and free laundry services
  • Additional ship amenities: 24-hour reception service, use of bicycles and Nordic walking sticks, and free Internet access and Wi-Fi
  • A certified Global Master Chef, Bernhard Zorn, leading a professional culinary team in the preparation of gourmet cuisine using the freshest ingredients, which are often brought onboard from local farmers markets
  • A distinctive wine program developed by Red Carnation Hotels’ renowned sommelier from their Relais & Châteaux member hotel
  • Complimentary fine wine, draft beer, and soft drinks with dinner onboard; and with lunch onboard, complimentary soft drinks
  • Bottled water in staterooms and 24-hour specialty coffee and tea bar during your cruise
  • A variety of dining experiences: al fresco dining “under the stars” and light-lunch dining on the sun deck, Captain’s Welcome Gala and Farewell Dinners, early-riser breakfast, and afternoon tea
  • NEW “Choice is Yours” shore excursions offering more sightseeing options for well-traveled guests. Including a “Go Active” program for more active guests, and “Gentle Walking” tours for a more relaxed pace.
  • Cultural enrichment programs with insightful Signature Lectures and local entertainment onboard
  • Airport transfers on arrival and departure days
  • An award-winning cruise linewith honors including:
    • Condé Nast Traveler’s “Gold List,” their Readers’ Choice Awards for “Top Small-Ship Line,” and “Top 80 Cruise Ships in the World,” with River Baroness and River Duchess ranked #1 and #2 respectively
    • Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Award for “Top River Cruises”
    • Zagat Cruise Lines Survey for “Top Cabins” and “Top Dining” in the cruise industry

# 3 -  AMA Waterways - Rating 4 Stars

AMA Waterways (formerly known as Amadeus) is one of the most talked-about companies on the rivers of Europe and Asia. In a relatively short time, the line has emerged as one of the leaders in the upscale category with the most modern fleet of ships cruising the European waterways.

There are several features and inclusions that mark the AMA difference. These include:

  • The youngest of fleets afloat (with most new builds not just re-builds) with a decidedly modern look and flair. Decidedly longer ships which means….
  • Some of the Best Stateroom Sizes offered in River Ships sailing today
  • 82% of the fleet’s stateroom feature French balconies (with some true balconies being offered on her newest ships)
  • AMA has invested in hotel-quality bedding.
  • State of the art in-room “infotainment” system including Movies and “FREE” in-room internet access, which is important to the business owner/entrepreneur traveler.
  • Food is better than that found on many competitors including wine, beer, and sodas with all dinners, complimentary espresso’s and cappuccino’s, and daily champagne at breakfast, with daily replenished complimentary bottled water included.
  • Complimentary Sightseeing (with local guides) at most cruise stops.
  • Complimentary bicycles for guests with all excursions included in the fare.

AMA has designed very affordable Air programs and early booking incentives to help fuel its growth and launch of new ships. The line does the traditional Danube schedules but has also pioneered more creative itineraries such as Portugal and Spain and the Douro River Valley.

The line is also pioneering a new itinerary on the newly refurbished 92-Guest La Marguerite, in Vietnam, and Cambodia, including Pre/Post offerings in China and Ho Chi Minh City. This unique Mekong River itinerary will enable guests to see Vietnam as well as the “must see” Angkor Wat in Cambodia. (See a video on AMA Waterways here)

# 4 – Avalon Waterways – Rating 3 Stars

This is the riverboat firm owned by giant mainstream tour operator Globus. Their newest boats are the Tranquility and the tough-to-pronounce Imagery. Avalon is a well-managed company that has grown by 50% in the last 24 months. The line claims that its new Silent Drive System makes for a significantly quieter ride for guests. Early reports indicate that the system is quieter. Routes include all of the main central European waterways with emphasis on packaging pre and post night tour stays. While Avalon is not five-star it continues to improve and the line is backed by one of the industry’s largest and most stable brands.

# 5 – Viking River Cruises – Rating 3  Stars

 

The largest European River Boat company, Viking offers a mainstream product throughout western and eastern European Capitals. They also operate in Russia and they have two new boats offering comprehensive programs in China on the Yangtze. Viking River is reliable but customer service standards are not up to some of their major competitors. . Air schedules can be less than desirable so guests may want to consider doing their own air. The onboard product is definitely upper class but those who have sailed on any of the top ten cruise lines in our traveltruth ratings are likely to be disappointed with both services and amenities. . The major criticism of Viking River is the pace. Guests who do the line’s China program will need a vacation when they return. But if daily sightseeing in Europe is your thing, Viking represents the best cruise for the money provided you book early enough to take advantage of early booking discounts. Their China program is more upscale than the line’s cruises within Europe.

  • “Deluxe cabins are well laid out but let’s face it, you can’t throw a frisbee with only 154 square feet.”
  • “We loved the fact that shore excursions were included but that Euro 4.50 bottle of water for sale next to the ice bucket was insulting.”
  • “The bathroom generally worked but the shower is quite tight. Best to bring your own toiletries”
  • “When boats are full main dining room tables seem close together. The observation lounge gets a bit claustrophobic in the evening when nearly everyone shows up for the port talk on the next port. Arrive early for best seats.”
  • “Food was fine but never really memorable. Breakfast and lunch buffets plus menu selections. Chilled sparkling wine for morning mimosas is provided but bar drinks start at about four Euros. We really liked the coffee and tea served aboard ship. The luncheon salad bar changed a bit each day, something we appreciated.”
  • “Those considering Viking should be advised that, unless the boat is not operating at full capacity, it is difficult to get a table for two.”
  • “Dinner service was quite good and you can find, and stay with, a waiter team when you find a good one. Dinner begins at 7:00pm and the crowds form early. You get a choice of appetizers, soup, usually of the cream variety, salad, and a choice of two main courses. There are also two desserts to choose from. We were pleasantly surprised to find that one of the two entree options was always fish, the second rotated between beef or chicken. Several guests were complaining that the beef was undercooked. They are happy to take things back and cook them a bit more.”
  • “We thought was quite good given the cost of the cruise. Some complained about limited choices and small portions, but for us it was just perfect.
  • Dinner menus are hit or miss with no particular rhyme or reason. Far too many Eastern European dishes.
  • We absolutely loved the included walking tours. They were always led by colorful locals who really knew how to give us their take on both history and local politics.
  • The coffee service was non-existent in the evening. These waiters are so poorly trained that they have no idea how to serve coffee with dessert.
  • A great cruise for the unmitigated, unsophisticated, and those who want to be treated like children.
  • We absolutely loved our Viking River cruise in China, and couldn’t imagine seeing as much any other way and the boat was truly beautiful. Good service and we loved their versions of Chinese food. Highly recommended.

What about other providers?Well folks, there is a reason(s) you do not see them listed here. Here are just some of the many that could be.

1. They are/may not even be a stand alone cruise provider – such as Grand Circle . They are actually a “tour company provider” that have entered into charter agreements with river boat owners. So you may have some real concerns to ponder like, refunds as a result of early cancellations by you or the tour provider. There are several horror stories you can read about on various internet review sites. Also as is often the case with such providers they do not work with Cruise Counselors and Travel Agents, so I have no real means of verifying how well they stand behind their product.

2. They may not provide English speaking crews – such as many of them that you do not see listed here. This is a VERY IMPORTANT issue to consider. One of the early issues that has surfaced from the horrible and tragic event of the COSTA Concordia (resulting in more than 30 lives lost) off the coast of Italy was that of the misunderstanding between English Speaking Guests, and the few Crew Members that were avaiable during the evacuation period giving instructions.

3. They may be totally foreigned owned. As many locations such as Africa, Russia, and Asia those countries REQUIRE that the Cruise provider use locally owned vessels some just for a few years until the provider establishes a tract record of safety, while other countries require it in general. Also when it comes to ocean going vessels, only those who are members of CLIA subscribe to a stringent safety drill requirement with every passenger on board knowing where life preservers are located, knwoing their muster station locations, lifeboat proceedures, and just being able to decern the evacuation instructions.  This point too can be a problem, especially if the cruise provider is not sufficiently insurered and bonded when it comes to liability in the event of a complete loss of life. Take for instance the case of the horrible accident which occured on the Volga, in July of 2011 aboard the ill fated BULGARIA, which resulted in the loss of more than 130 (27 of which were children).Turned out the Rusian owned vessel was not officially seaworthy and possessed of the requesit license to carry passengers for hire. You might not even be able to even know about this information. So BUYER BEWARE when it comes to River Cruising and Cruising with foreign entities.

So please bear in mind, that while you may encounter offers or deals from other providers that might even offer you wonderful prices and ammenities, that the companies that I recommend are proven river cruise providers, who  own and operate safe and sound river vessels crewed by trained, english speaking mariners that work in an environment where your comfort as well as your safety are paramount. I hope that may help to clarify!!

In Summary: The River Cruise Industry is growing by leaps and bounds, with everyone trying to up their games, and are presently in a state of remolding just exactly what their brands should stand for. So at least for the forseeable future we believe that the consumer will be the winner. (Click here) to see my Blog Article on River Cruising. Shop, Compare, and above all seek the assistance of a professional!

For more information on River cruising, contact Mike via email mberryhill@cruiseholidays.com  . You can tweet (or follow) Mike at http://www.twitter.com/cruisewithmike  . To “Join” our Travel Club go to  http://meetup.com/Sun-Cities-Travelers-Group/  Mikes web site can be found at  www.mberryhill.cruiseholidays.com .  Follow Mike’s blog (or subscribe to it) at http://www.cruisewithmike.com  (or merely click on the subscribe button above to have daily delivery to your email). View all of Mikes uploaded Flickr Photo Galleries at http://www.flickr.com/photos/cruisewithmike/ . Mike also edits his own twice daily e-newspaper called “The Compass Headings” you can see (or subscribe to) it free! at http://paper.li/CruisewithMike

Please feel free to leave a comment below on this articles’ contents. We are always looking for ideas or suggestions to expand and improve on our content! If you found the information helpful why not include (a tweet to followers) or (share a like) with your facebook friends, that they might benefit from the information as well. Thanks For Visiting, and please come back often to this daily Blog. – Mike

 

 

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About cruisewithmike

Mike is a Professional Cruise Wedding Planner, Wedding Officiant,and owner of CruisewithMike Cruise Planners. With over 20 years of experience in the Travel Industry, as an Independant Travel Consultant, Customer Service Agent, and a retired Va. Magistrate. Mike has a very unique perspective on Customer and Wedding Service Needs and strives to provide custom service that's "TOPS" Totally Outrageous Professional Service, with every customer he works with.
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12 Responses to The “Best Rated” reviews from among the River Cruise Lines

  1. Pingback: Top Recommended Cruise

  2. Frannie says:

    I feel so much more knowledgable now about this. Thanks!
    REPLY: Thats is great to hear Frannie.Please come back often.-CruisewithMike

  3. AsiaM. says:

    What a joy to find such clear and concise content. Very Nicely Done. Thanks for posting!
    REPLY: Asia, Thanks so much for your comments.CruisewithMike

  4. Alberta Maxell says:

    Thank you for the marvelous writeup. It was most informative. Would like to read more on River Cruising in the future.

    REPLY: Alberta, Glad you found the article helpful. We will indeed have more posts on this subject in the future. Please visit back often. -CruisewithMike

  5. Joseph R Gates says:

    Thank you for your concise reviews. Have you ever reviewed Vantage River Cruise Lines? I am on a planning committee for our travel club and we want to take a european river cruise (10- 12 days Rhine and Danube) in 2012. We live in a 55 and over active retirement development and have started looking into the 5 river cruise lines that you reviewed above plus Vantage. We have done some internet research, obtained their brochures and I have also spoken to company reps but it is very difficult to judge from “company marketing.” Are there any other companies that we should consider and what do you think would be the best value for our money? Thanking you for response in advance.

    Joe G

  6. flannel says:

    I’m glad that I’ve found your cruisewithmike.com blog. Thank you for sharing your talent and useful information with us. You are a bright light!

    • Dear flannel,
      Appreciate your kind words, and we are most pleased to hear you find our site helpful. Hope you will spread the word for us, and Please visit back often!-CruisewithMike

  7. Pingback: Winfred

  8. Jim Hamill says:

    Hey Mike,
    Loved this blog. Have you tried Grand Circle Tour river cruises?

    Jim Hamill

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