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.
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:
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)
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org . 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
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