European River Cruises

Old Apr 6th, 2019, 07:25 PM
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European River Cruises

Watched an episode of Samantha Brown's Places to Love which was about a Rhine River Cruise. (Samantha Brown have been hosting travel shows for about 20 years and Passport to Europe has inspired me to take several trips).

https://samantha-brown.com/episodes/...-river-cruise/

This show is sponsored by a European river cruise company but it's her first cruise. However, the host doesn't shill for the cruise company on the actual episode or even feature the boat or anything. Instead it centers on the towns along the cruise.

Anyways, it has probably made me interested in visiting some of these towns. When I visit the webpage for this episode at the link above, then it talks up the cruise a little bit and has a link to an cruise on the Danube in July which she will be on, so that's where the promotion of the sponsor is.

That link shows a 7-day cruise from Vilshofen to Budapest for $3749 a person and there are some additional fees like port taxes.

So that's well over $500 a day. It does seem to include everything, like meals on the ship, and all tours on land? I'd heard they nickel and dime and charge crazy fees for Internet access for instance.

But you have to imagine you can get a very nice hotel and have very nice meals, go on guided tours and so on for well under $500 a day per person?


So has anyone gone on these river cruises? I guess these cruises are positioned more as luxury vacations? They say "spacious staterooms" but is it more spacious and luxurious than good hotel rooms in this part of Germany and France?

Usually the money shot in the commercials for these cruises is the ship slowly drifting by what I believe is a brilliantly-lit Parliament building in Budapest. I guess that is their unique feature, moving across these sweeping vistas.

But are the prices worth it?
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Old Apr 6th, 2019, 07:54 PM
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Originally Posted by scrb11 View Post
Watched an episode of Samantha Brown's Places to Love which was about a Rhine River Cruise. (Samantha Brown have been hosting travel shows for about 20 years and Passport to Europe has inspired me to take several trips).

https://samantha-brown.com/episodes/...-river-cruise/

This show is sponsored by a European river cruise company but it's her first cruise. However, the host doesn't shill for the cruise company on the actual episode or even feature the boat or anything. Instead it centers on the towns along the cruise.

Anyways, it has probably made me interested in visiting some of these towns. When I visit the webpage for this episode at the link above, then it talks up the cruise a little bit and has a link to an cruise on the Danube in July which she will be on, so that's where the promotion of the sponsor is.

That link shows a 7-day cruise from Vilshofen to Budapest for $3749 a person and there are some additional fees like port taxes.

So that's well over $500 a day. It does seem to include everything, like meals on the ship, and all tours on land? I'd heard they nickel and dime and charge crazy fees for Internet access for instance.

But you have to imagine you can get a very nice hotel and have very nice meals, go on guided tours and so on for well under $500 a day per person?


So has anyone gone on these river cruises? I guess these cruises are positioned more as luxury vacations? They say "spacious staterooms" but is it more spacious and luxurious than good hotel rooms in this part of Germany and France?

Usually the money shot in the commercials for these cruises is the ship slowly drifting by what I believe is a brilliantly-lit Parliament building in Budapest. I guess that is their unique feature, moving across these sweeping vistas.

But are the prices worth it?
I’m off to watch that episode—I love Samantha Brown! Thanks for posting!

My aunt and uncle did one of these last year as a group thing with a bunch of former frat brothers and wives. They did find it worth the money, but from what they told me, it depends on what kind of traveler you are. They’re not the sort of people who enjoy packing up and moving every few days, and although they said the food is good, I know we have very different definitions of “good food”. So I’d be interested to know what Fodorites think. I think my relatives primarily enjoyed it for the organization and because of the group they were traveling with.

I think the perspective was cool, though—I think I would have enjoyed the aspect of arriving at all of the cities via boat.
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Old Apr 6th, 2019, 08:18 PM
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I took my very first European river cruise over Christmas - and it was much less than $500 per day.

I was on Vantage which is lower cost than say Viking and quite a bit cheaper than the really upscale companies. Mine was approx $325 per day in a single cabin. Single cabins ARE small but the regular cabins are comparable to an ocean liner with small balconies etc.

>>I'd heard they nickel and dime and charge crazy fees for Internet access for instance.<< There were very few 'extras'. Wine and beer were included at lunch and dinner -- drinks/cocktails (full bar) at other times were for pay. Internet was free -- though spotty when traversing some locks. Port taxes/fees were included. All sightseeing with exception of one optional day tour was included . . . and that day trip was cancelled because the water levels meant we had to change part of the itinerary at the last minute so anyone who had booked it was refunded. I did pay extra for a (WONDERFUL) massage, and a bottle of champagne to toast one of my table mate's birthday on Christmas Day. Other than group gratuity at the end of the cruise (they give you one suggested amount to cover everything -room steward, cruise director, waiters. bar staff etc etc which I thought was very reasonable -- - mine was about €13 per day and with almost one crew member per passenger the level of service was superb).

>> . . . what I believe is a brilliantly-lit Parliament building in Budapest.<<

There wasn't a lot of 'brilliantly-lit' anything in December LOL but I really enjoyed the whole trip.

The food was almost without exception really good. And the choices were vast. Buffet and cooked to order at breakfast; Choice of buffet, pretty extensive regular menu, and a casual cafe at lunch. And at dinner each night a different 'formal' set menu with at least 3 choices for each course, or a regular abbreviated menu of other dishes which were offered every night plus the casual cafe. Choice of at least two reds and two whites each night,

It wasn't a 'bargain' trip but IMO very reasonable for what I got.

I may take another one or two in the future -- I'd like another Christmas market itinerary, and maybe a vineyard/winery-focused summer one in France
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Old Apr 7th, 2019, 02:47 AM
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I've done a rhine cruise and I've cycled down many german, hungarian, czech rivers. Hotels are generally cheap, public transport is easy to find and food good/low cost 500 a day sounds extra-ordinary . For that I would want a spa, free booze and hot chamber maid.
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Old Apr 7th, 2019, 03:28 AM
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I think you could do a land trip for quite a bit less but on the cruise you unpack one time - it's a trade off, plus many details like walking tours, transportation, entrance fees, etc. are pre-arranged and included. We did one on the Danube and one in France on I think, Vantage. I enjoyed both - felt we covered alot of ground more comfortably than if we had to have packed up and taken trains. Cabins were decent sized - food not as pleasant as on a land trip. We did extend both trips with a few days more at beginning or end (Budapest on the Danube, Nice on the French trip). I'd suggest trying it once and see if you like it.

After a decade or so of taking quite a few cruises (river and sea) we are switching back to land trips but very slow travel ones where we stay at least four nights in a location.
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Old Apr 7th, 2019, 07:00 AM
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We went on the Viking Rhine Getaway River cruise in August 2018 and I posted a trip report that describes our adventure and some of our impressions plus a few pictures (see links below). Overall, we had a great time.

I had not tried to calculate the total cost but decided I would make the attempt to see just what it did cost the two of us. I looked at Viking charges ($12,700 includes extensions in Lucerne and Amsterdam, airfare, upgrades to Comfort Select seats, Silver Spirits package, tips and three optional excursions), restaurant/bar charges when not on the boat ($1100) and various entertainment charges ($500 includes Viator tour, museum tickets, canal rides, tram passes).

The total is about what I thought it would be - $14,300 give or take a few bucks. I did not include personal charges like gifts and souvenirs. Not cheap, but like suec1 and janisj say, there is a tradeoff and you need to decide if it is worth it for you.

Viking Rhine Getaway River Cruise – August 2018

Lucerne and Mt Pilatus 2018 pics https://rhinerivercruiseaugust2018.shutterfly.com/pictures/11

Rhine River Cruise 2018 pics https://rhinerivercruiseaugust2018.shutterfly.com/pictures/32

Last edited by john183; Apr 7th, 2019 at 07:17 AM.
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Old Apr 7th, 2019, 08:33 AM
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So 12-day trip including airfare for $14k for two people.

How would you compare the qualify of the accommodations and the food you had on board to what you might have gotten on land?
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Old Apr 7th, 2019, 11:03 AM
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If you only look at the quality of accommodations and food, for this kind of money, land would win every time. Rooms on the boat are reasonably comfortable and the food is quite good (at least it was for us) if not great. On land you could get excellent food for every meal and spacious, luxurious rooms (that could include bilbo's requirement of a spa, free booze and a hot chamber maid). HA!!

Where it gets tricky is trying to compare the entire cruise experience with the entire land experience. The cruise trip was pretty much already completely planned and included all transportation, lodging, transfers and several good tours at each location - all of which can be very attractive to some. On land you have to plan and execute every one of these things on your own.

As it was said above, there are a lot of tradeoffs and you have to decide if the positives outweigh the negatives. You pay a lot of money upfront (almost everything was included except a few optional excursions we chose to do) and hope everything works out. For many, including us, it did work out and we enjoyed it quite a bit. And finally, as Dukey1 said, there's something great about simply gliding along.
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Old Apr 7th, 2019, 11:26 AM
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I've done one river cruise and many, many land-based trips in Europe - a couple were organized tours, but most have been self-guided and planned. I much prefer the land-based trips, and the self planned over the organized tours - although I do enjoy taking part in occasional day tours with local guides when I arrive in a new city.

Of course it all depends on your comfort level (on an organized tour or a river boat, there shouldn't be any glitches or undesired surprises), and your ability to research and plan an itinerary. I get a lot of enjoyment out of planning a trip - I usually travel with my husband, and we almost always go for at least three weeks, often longer, and setting up the apartments/hotels, exploring what there is to see and do, and checking out restaurants is fun for me. When traveling on one's own, there is room for spontaneity and unexpectedly wonderful adventures. And sometimes there can be glitches that you have to sort out, too. Traveling on a boat gives you automatic traveling companions - sometimes good sometimes ... well, you get it. Independent travel means you will have to take the initiative to seek out interactions with other people if that's something you are interested in.

The only thing I will say about the river trip I went on (it was in the Netherlands and Belgium) and some I have observed when traveling in other European countries is that it seems that many of the boats are docked side by side along the river - so when in port you would be looking out your cabin window directly into someone else's cabin window - literally inches away. When they show those beautiful videos of the ship gliding past the gorgeous world capitals, I think it's misleading - as you will more than likely be docked in those cities, not just passing by in the middle of the day. I much prefer to be standing along the side of the river, watching the boats glide by, as I ponder what little village or castle or park I want to visit that afternoon.
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Old Apr 7th, 2019, 11:35 AM
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We have a river cruise books for this summer. We are using Gate 1. The cruise is 9-days from Amsterdam. We end with a two-day extension to Lucerne. I checked our invoice and it is roughly $6,500. for the two of us. This includes the cruise, airfare, the extension at the end, and travel insurance which was optional. It includes transfers to the airport at the end of the extension. We also signed up for several optional tours and that is included.

It doesn't include our hotel in Amsterdam before the cruise and a transfer to the ship at the beginning. We thought we could do that more cheaply on our own.

I have a friend who did the same cruise a couple of years ago and she was very pleased with it. It is cheaper than Viking, but she commented that she couldn't imagine what else you could add.

If you keep your eyes open and are flexible, travelzoo sometimes offers sales on river cruises. We got a travelzoo discount of a few hundred dollars, but I think they sometimes have them more cheaply yet.
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Old Apr 7th, 2019, 11:46 AM
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Just a quick note . . . I would NEVER do a river cruise instead of doing land travel. And I would not compare a group coach tour to a cruise.

I have been to Europe countless times - always independent except for the odd day tour, and one small group tour in the Outer Hebrides. I have only done one river cruise. it is apples an oranges. I would not substitute one for the other. A river cruise is not cheaper than land based (though of course you can REALLY splurge on land too). f it was one's only trip to Europe I would not recommend a cruise -- but the gliding down the river, riding bikes from the boat along the canal paths, having convivial evenings in the Lounge on the upper deck, sitting on the bow with a cocktail watching the castles and vineyards on land . . . it is a restful and enjoyable option. It is NOT a substitute for a well planned independent trip to most anywhere.

Like the difference between a Caribbean or Hawaiian Cruise and a land based trip to the same places.
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Old Apr 7th, 2019, 11:46 AM
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To compare the two really is sort of apples to oranges - I have liked the cruises for covering more ground comfortably than I would on a land trip. The Danube cruise started in Budapest, stopped in Bratislava, then onto Vienna, and several other stops before finishing with a bus trip up to Prague. So I went to a variety of places unpacking once. We wanted to visit Bratislava / Slovakia because of my husband's heritage but did not want an exteneded stay in that part of Europe.

I would say the the cruises, river at least, the food was not as enjoyable as on the land. Accomodations probably about the same but I do not stay in very high end hotels, but cabins and beds comfortable. But the cruises include so much more than just a place to sleep and food. Both our river cruises included one tour, usually walking, a day, and then afternoon time, on our own. That was ideal IMO. But as another poster mentioned, as the popularity of these cruises have increased, now the ships often tie up next to each other when they dock. They do usually dock very near the city center which makes the sight seeing convenient.

Cruise Critic has a section on river cruising - you might want to look there for more info there.

Last edited by suec1; Apr 7th, 2019 at 12:31 PM.
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Old Apr 7th, 2019, 11:57 AM
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Cruises can be cancelled on short notice-last year my friend was set to go on a Danube cruise and just a few days before it was cancelled due to high water - sure you get your money back but so you're left high and dry for the planned vacation.

Most Americans go to Europe on group trips or business - sometimes Fodorgarchs forge the angsts many novice tourist may have - a group trip is an OK way to go first time - but of course easy to do on own but some folks like to socialize with other cruisers than be in a hotel room much of their down time perhaps.
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Old Apr 7th, 2019, 12:43 PM
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I couldn't find a previous thread on it other than some people mentioning that they may try it out.

Well I didn't search the Europe forum, to be fair.
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Old Apr 7th, 2019, 02:00 PM
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We've had many good trip reports about boat tours and some not so positive.
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