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


As reviewed and rated by Travel Truth and CruisewithMike!!

RATINGS: RIVER CRUISES Cruises along the interior waterways in Europe, Africa, Asia, and even now in South America are hot. So hot in fact, that it is typical to find a particular sailing completely “sold out” as far out as six to eight months before sailings nowadays. River Cruises 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 -Uniworld Boutique 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. Although not in First Place in my ratings countdown, this river cruise company is absolutely “Hands Down” MY PERSONAL FAVORATE when booking a River Cruise. And what I would rate Best Overall Value for your river cruise dollar!

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) . AMA’s latest itinerary introduction is a Fabulous AFRICAN Wilfelife viewing Safari and River Cruise down the Chobe river. This sailing features a newly custom redesigned “Zambezi Queen” which is a truly first of it’s kind eco friendly, solar powered river cruise vessel especially configured to leave the slightest footprint in this fragile eco environment possible. This is more like the cozy feel of a barge sailing as the ship only accomodates a maximum of 28 passengers. This is definately a must see and do sailing to a land that offers unparelled majestic wildlife and scenery. This sailing is certain to become one of the most sought after river cruises to be offered.

# 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 or reasons that you do not see them listed here. Please DO NOT send me a comment asking why a Particular Cruise Line is not mentioned. Here are just some of the many that could be.

1. They are/may not even be a stand alone cruise provider – such as the actual “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.

2. Often the case is that such providers do not work with Cruise Counselors and Travel Agents, (people like me), so I have no real means of verifying how well they stand behind their product, as I have not riden on them, nor any of my customers.

3. 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.

4. They may be totally foreigned owned. As many locations such as Africa, Russia, Austrailia 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, knowing 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. And who in general have a proven tract record of marketing to the North American Marketplace where the bulk of my readers and customers are located.  I hope that this 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

at or check out more details to come about this cruise opportunity at . You can follow mike on twitter at . Join our Travel Club at Mikes web site can be found at .

Follow Mike’s blog (or subscribe to it) at  (or merely click on the subscribe button above to have daily delivery to your email). View all of Mikes uploaded Flickr Photo Galleries at . Mike also edits his own twice daily e-newspaper called “The Compass Headings” you can see (or subscribe to) it free! at

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




About cruisewithmike

Mike is a Professional Cruise Wedding Planner, Wedding Officiant,and owner of CruisewithMike Wedding Planners. With over 20 years of experience in the Travel Industry, as an Independant Travel Consultant, Customer Service Agent, and a retired Va. Magistrate, and Clergy. 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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90 Responses to The Top Five “Best Rated” reviews from among the River Cruise Lines

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  2. It is good that we get to know your thoughts and opinions of common, day to day items and issues regarding travel. When making important travel decisions we often only have the recommendation of the service trying to close the sale. How safe is that? Thank you for your valuable insight and for being here as a resource. I definately appreciate your site.

  3. tom says:

    nice job mike but what about the other cruise lines vantage and grand central tours how do you rate them.

    • Dear Tom,
      Thanks for your question. There are literally hundreds of “tour operators” that book space with vessels to provide river cruise package prices. Vantage being one of them. These are not River Cruise Lines, that offer scheduled service with fleets of ships that they own, or completely lease themselves. One should always be extreamely careful of knowing precisely what you are purchasing, as it is the #1 cause of travel disappointments. Also you need to do a lot of research, especially when making a purchase through a tour operator type arrangement. While they control taking your money, they actually are nothing more than a group sailing, or maybe a full ship charter. While it could be nice, most folks are more interested in dealing with a River Cruise Line, that stands accountability with their Agents who book them. Sorry to say I am not familiar at all with Grand Central Tours, but from their name, one could infer that they too are merely a tour company, acting as an “river cruise tour operator”. So the short answer is we cannot begin to rate cruise products or services that we don’t actually ride ourselves or book clients and customers on. Hope I was able to clarify what our article was about.-CruisewithMike

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      • BRYAN says:





        DEAR BRYAN – Unfortunately Cruise line Profit Models are chiefly designed around two people to each stateroom, hence the discounted cruise fares for 3rd and more passengers in a room together, and also the rationale for the single supplement fare for solo passengers.
        AIR FARES to get to and from your departure/arrival destinations are NOT normally included. So trust me when I tell you if it is, then you are looking at some pretty hefty cruise prices, and I am only aware of one river cruise company that does this which is Rosa, but then they are more costly that choosing someone like AMA and paying for your own air costs. Hope this helps – CruisewithMike

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  24. David Harrison says:

    With Tauck and Ama Waterways are they just for the US and Canada markets and not UK

    • Not at ALL David!
      Both Tauck and AMA are Worldwide River Cruise service providers. They deal with customers from just about anywhere!
      Thanks for your question!-CruisewithMike

  25. Karl Euler says:

    Great Info! How do you rate Grand Circle?

    • Dear Karl,
      We are asked about Grand Circle River Cruises often, and unfortuantely we are unable to give you an honest rating as we ourselves have not sailed on Grand Circle nor would we, as they DO NOT work with professional cruise consultants, nor travel agents which are the backbone of River Cruise Reservations. You should ask why would a company choose not to work with such travel professionals. I can say I have seen several complaints with Grand Circle, generally having to do with making last minute cancellations on their paid in full customers and not providing them with proper refunds or credits towards future sailings. You should know that most travel cruise and travel professionals would never choose to work with a company that wont stand behind its product.You should be aware that Grand Circle would be considered more as a tour company, rather than a river cruise provider. As I understand, the vessels really are not owned by Grand Circle but contracted by them. Also you want to be sure that you have fully English speaking crew members, and not “a translator” arrangement. Remember what happened on the Costa Concordia. Just be sure as this is a MOST IMPORTANT SAFETY CONCERN, as you are placing your very life in the hands of a ships crewmembers. There are literally hundreds of “tour operators” that book space with vessels to provide river cruise package prices. Grand Circle offers scheduled service with fleets of ships that they contract out, or completely lease themselves. One should always be extreamely careful of knowing precisely what you are purchasing, as it is the #1 cause of travel disappointments. Also you need to do a lot of research, especially when making a purchase through a tour operator type arrangement. While they control taking your money, they actually are nothing more than a group sailing, or maybe a full ship charter. While it could be nice, most folks are more interested in dealing with a River Cruise Line, that stands accountability with their Agents who book them. Sorry this may not have been as helpful as you might desire but the short answer is we cannot begin to rate cruise products or services that we don’t actually ride ourselves or book clients and customers on. Hope I was able to clarify what our article was about.-CruisewithMike

  26. Bob Hillman says:

    What do you think of the we Viking Longboats?

    • Dear Bob,
      Sorry, but I am NOT A FAN of Viking. Used to be a wonderful line, but has changed drastically over the past decade. And not for the better I am sad to say. Sorry to disappoint you – CruisewithMike

  27. Carey says:

    Hi Mike Do you hane any information on the European Waterways cruises? In particular the ones in France

    • Carey,
      European Waterways are ” River Barges”, which differs a good bit from “River Cruising”. I would suggest maybe checking with Cruise Critic, or Google for some reviews that may be helpful. Above everything BE SURE TO RESEARCH YOUR TOPIC WELL BEFORE YOU BUY.
      Sorry I couldn’t be more helpful. – CruisewithMike

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  29. David Tonks says:

    Just been on a river cruise with the River Cruise LIne, Market Harborough, LE16 9HW. It was dreadful, Main Deck cabins about 3m by 2m, smelly toilets, cheapest food you could buy supplied the boat was 120 years plus old. If you appreciate decent standards avoid this cruise along the Rhine.

    • David Tonks,
      Thank You for sharing this information with our readers. I am saddened to hear of your disappointing experience, as a River Cruise should be more of a life time experience for sure! I hope that our readers will take this information to heart and remember how important it really is when buying travel to know the company you are thinking of buying from, and they their product or service is up to speed with the industry standards! Research, and Read Reviews, and if you can’t find any, that should be a “red flag”.-CruisewithMike

  30. Steve says:

    Hi Mike, We are looking to do a Grand European River Cruise in 2014. I think the Tauk Tours may be a bit expensive for us. What do you think of the line called A-Rosa? Have not seen much in the way of critque on this line. We were considering Viking, but based on your (and others opinions) we are now reconsidering (although we hear the CHINA cruise is better than Europe). How does A-Rosa compare with Uniworld or AMA? Appreciate your response.

    • Dear Steve,
      There is a very good reason why you DO NOT SEE ANY RATINGS for A-ROSA!!! They only began selling to the North American Market since Oct of this year. And they currently appear to be marketed under a private marketing firm which at present is not set up to do business through cruise consultants and travel agencies. So I cannot help you. I do not read anything that would make ME want to try them. I don’t like to be the first to try an unproven product. Also you need to be very careful in your consideration. Remember that GOD forbid an emergency occur will you be able to understand directions from crew members, or worse yet will the captain even be there overseeing the evacuation. Never forget what happened to those poor people on the COSTA Concordia, yet most all of them booked on Costa for the deep discount on the price without thinking of their safety. Just something that may be of importance to you. I can ONLY recommend service providers that provide English speaking crews, and are proven providers of good service to my customers and to my readers! DO YOUR RESERACH BEFORE BUYING!!-CruisewithMike

  31. I really seem to go along with every thing that was put into writing throughout “The Top Five Best Rated reviews from among
    the River Cruise Lines | Cruise with Mike”. Many thanks for pretty much all the actual advice.

    Many thanks,Stormy

  32. Merlin Coughlan says:

    We are considering a 14 night European River cruise with Scenic – what are your thoughts.

    • Dear Merlin,
      Please read my entire Article for Comments on other lines!!-CruisewithMike

      • Merlin Coughlan says:

        But Scenic doesn’t fit any of these categories – they own and operate their own boats, they have ENglish speaking crews and, yes they are Australian owned, but operate their own vessels from Europe.

  33. Marian Spence says:

    Any updates on your Top Five rated River Cruises. You didn’t say much about Avalon. Can you expand?

    • Marian,
      I personally am not a big fan of Avalon. I prefer AMA ALWAYS, unless I have money to burn and wish to go first class then I consider Uniworld. Maybe some other review sites might lend more information you are looking for regarding AVALON.-Thanks CruisewithMike

  34. Tom says:

    What about scenic?

    • Dear Tom,
      Please read the entire Article!!!-Thanks-CruisewithMike

      • Tom says:

        I did read the entire article, and still do not understand why Scenic Tours is not included in the listing. They own their boats, have all English speaking crew, and have been in business a number of years, with mostly positive comments from passengers—more than Viking for sure.
        Thank you

        SORRY TOM, one of the most frequent reasons is that Cruise Providers do not work with Travel
        Agents and Cruise Counselors (like me), which was the case when Scenic first came upon the scene. Scenic is a luxury aimed product which offers air included in most of their cruise fare offers (Like Rosa does) but neither I, nor any of my customers have desired to chance them. I have priced them out for customers but their prices were higher than a competitive product which customers were comfortable in and purchasing their own air were typically 1500-2500 less than what scenic priced at. Without personal or customer feedback how can I possibly rate them. There is a great deal more regarding this specific line I could say, but this is not the forum for such. Thanks – CruisewithMike

      • Tom says:

        For personal reasons I had to stop my search last year, but am again in a cruise mode. Have just now read your response to my comments about Scenic from last year. I would like to know what forum you would discuss what you know about this line as I can find nothing negative about them or their service. I would very much appreciate further comment from you about what you know that is negative.
        Thank you very much,

      • Tom, You are communicating via my Blog site comment section. Pls Email me at Thanks Mike

        Sent from my iPhone

  35. I once travelled in Ama Waterways with my husband to meet Belgium. It was fantastic, I highly recommend it!

  36. Ces says:

    Hi Mike your comments look good if like us you are just strating to look at a river cruise.
    Can you advise a good cruise say 3 to 4 star, not to expensive, in late May 2014 Amsterdam to Budapest (or reverse). Cabin type with an open able window or door.
    Also many seem to have very high cancellation cost (unless you pay for insur’ cover) and also high deposit !! Are they all like this ?? ( Maybe due to very high demand/boat shortage ??)
    Thanks Ces Melbourne Australia

    • Dear Ces,
      While I am not sure what you mean by high deposit. Many lines will charge you from $400-$800 per person depending on the line and cost of your cruise. I highly recommend AMA Waterways, and definitely purchase their insurance plan as it costs, only about 1/2 of the best price I can offer and the coverage is very reliable as Travel Insurance goes. Hope this helps!!!!-CruisewithMike

  37. Amanda says:

    Dear Mike, thank you for the article. Have you heard anything about Euro River cruises? Website:
    I like that they have shorter cruises: all the ones you recommend are 7-8 days minimum. If you don’t recommend Euro River cruises, do you know of any good lines that have shorter cruises? THANKS!!!

    • Dear Amanda,
      My customers are from the United States, most all of which would never consider the costs associated to flying to Europe for anything less than a 7 day river cruise, and most are actually booking 14-21 day sailings or longer. Sorry I am unable to advise you as to shorter river cruises!

  38. May I simply just say what a relief to discover somebody who really knows what they’re discussing on the internet. You certainly realize how to bring a problem to light and make it important. A lot more people have to read this and understand this side of your story. I was surprised that you are not more popular because you certainly possess the gift.

  39. Dan Darragh says:

    Getting ready to line up my first river boat cruise and found your information most helpful. What I have been searching for — to date unsuccessfully — is how necessary is a french balcony or regular balcony? I was thinking we would likely be on an observation deck most of the time rather than in our room, due to the fact that there always seems to be something worth seeing port and starboard.

    • Dan,
      Trust me when I tell you the observation deck can get quite windy, and chilly unlike having a real or French balcony. Besides you probably wont want to run up to the observation deck every time you want to catch the splendor of what is passing you by. Not the same when looking through a window for sure! CruisewithMike

  40. Ces says:

    Hi Mike,’ do you know of any river cruises (Amsterdam to Prague or opposite way) which have OPTION of shore excursions ( or not company provided in total price) shore excursions ??
    Reasons – these can be very tiring/long days + you may wish to do something else + makes it far more expensive when included in total fare + if include in total fare you feel compelled to get your money’s worth.
    Thanks Chris – Australia
    DEAR CHRIS – Thanks for the question. Most All River Cruise providers now offer their shore excursions now as an included part of the price of the cruise. This is due to some a few years ago that were offering as part of the cruise price, and those that were not were getting booking bashed for it. It’s not really an added cost to the cruise fare, but just something there for you to do if you wish it. – CruisewithMike

  41. Martin Narey says:

    Here’s my reflections on a Viking Invar cruise, August 11 – 23, 2013. Your caution about this line was justified:


    This was a holiday which included some unforgettable experiences; not only in St Petersburg and Moscow, but also in places like the delightful Yaroslav and Uglich which we visited en route. But there were some disappointing elements too. Overall we thought the cruise provided relatively poor value for money. Although some of the cruising along the Volga, particularly on the approach to Moscow, was very enjoyable more of it, near to St Petersburg, was monotonous with little to see other than miles and miles of unchanging birch forest. The fare we paid would have allowed us instead to stay in very good St Petersburg and Moscow hotels and travel between the cities on the vary fast (4 hour) express train.

    The Ship (Viking Ingvar)

    Although being recently modernised with the additions of balconies this is still an old ship. Built in 1989 it shows its age, not least in the considerable vibration to be felt, even on the upper deck, in the rear of the boat. It’s terribly bland with the public areas more closely resembling a decent cross channel ferry than a cruise liner. It’s also very small and those who aren’t happy reading or otherwise making their own entertainment will sometimes be bored, particularly when poor weather forces you in from the sun deck or balconies. There are two bars – one generally open during the day and the other during the evening. They’re functional but dull. There’s no gym and nowhere to walk (the decks having been given up to accommodate balconies). The rooms are fine, albeit small. There are no stewards and no room service although the housekeeping is of a very high standard. We would have found the journey altogether too claustrophobic without a balcony and it was significant that those in rooms only with windows struggled to find somewhere quiet and comfortable to sit during the day.

    It’s important to be aware that the boat is a riverboat, certainly not equipped for poor weather. Unfortunately, crossing Lake Lugado (the biggest lake in Europe) at night we met a strong wind hitting the port side and waves of about two metres. The boat pitched from side to side in dramatic fashion and a number of people were ill and quite a lot of damage occurred in the kitchen. The Captain told us that such weather was not particularly exceptional and they cross the lake even when the waves hit three metres.


    The food ranges from the very good to the mediocre. Breakfasts are generally excellent with eggs and omelettes cooked to order as well as a full range of bacon, sausage and so on along with continental alternatives. Lunches and dinners were variable. Salads were somewhat monotonous and the fish generally uninspiring. But the steak –available every day – was very good indeed. In comparative terms we would place the standard of food as significantly below, say, Cunard or Holland America and a little below Princess.

    There is no fixed seating which we regretted. It meant that waiters did not generally have the opportunity to get to know us, and us them. The service was generally very willing but inconsistent and it was sometimes necessary to be very assertive to get a waiter’s attention. Obtaining anything out of the ordinary took some patience (initially, about fifty per cent of our requests for hot milk to be served with our coffee were unsuccessful).

    Other facilities

    The library was very poor indeed amounting to no more than a single bookcase of books almost all left by previous customers. In addition there was a selection of board games. The shop was worse, selling almost nothing other than the usual Russian souvenirs (stacking dolls and Amber jewellery) all extravagantly priced.


    These were mixed. Stops in Yaroslav and Uglich, both “Golden Ring” cities were particularly good and with the visit to a Russian home in Uglich, for breakfast, particularly fascinating. The island of Khizi with the Church of the Transfiguration – a World Heritage site – was also really worth seeing. But Mandrogy is no more than an entirely synthetic tourist market with innumerable stalls selling the same mass-produced trinkets, which they pretend to manufacture in various faux craft rooms. It’s pretty insulting. And a visit to a school at another intermediate stop just seemed like laziness on Viking’s part when the visit was on a Saturday in August and to a school more or less deserted other than for builders.

    Excursions in St Petersburg and Moscow were variable. We found many of our fellow passengers – particularly the Americans – to be very nervous travellers and so, for example, we spent quite a lot of time near Red Square waiting for fellow passengers to pay a visit to the bathroom. Some of them needed the guide to provide them with the necessary Roubles, being surprised that the attendants were not much interested in accepting US dollars for their admittance. But it’s generally easy to detach yourself from the guides – essential at places like the Hermitage – and the transport to and from the various venues was very good with lots of coaches and lots of space.

    In Moscow, a folkloric concert – of which we expected very little – turned out to be outstandingly good with talented and skilled young people playing Russian instruments both individually and in orchestra. But the visit to the Ballet in St Petersburg – an expected highlight of the trip for my wife – was very disappointing. My own experience of ballet is extremely limited but even I could see that some of the performers were past their best and much of the dancing of the corps de ballet poorly synchronised. The only other customers at this performance (in a Theatre you will not find listed in any St Petersburg guide book) were other River Cruise and Ocean Cruise customers. There were no Russian spectators.

    Entertainment and Lectures

    There’s a singer in the evening bar after nine and she was quite good although generally ignored by the handful of customers. On one evening there was a brief and enjoyable operatic performance by visiting singers and on another one of the cleaners gave an enjoyable if somewhat hesitant piano recital. Lectures – which used to be delivered on Viking Cruises by experts in their field – were delivered by the three resident tour guides. They were poor and characterised by some tendentious interpretation of recent Russian political history.


    Overall, this represented poor value for money. Those who enjoy the relative luxury and facilities of a mid range cruise liner will find the accommodation and facilities on the Viking ships to be very basic and, in poor weather, claustrophobic. We will be most unlikely to use Viking again.

    Dear Martin – Thank You so much for taking the time to give us your feedback from your recent Viking cruise. I trust our readers will take this information to heart. Price doesn’t always tell the story!!- CruisewithMike

  42. Sandra Dee says:

    What about Scenic cruises Mike ?

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