Is a river cruise for you?
I cruised from Amsterdam to Vienna in 14 days and loved it! I’m sharing my recent experience (July, 2014) and opinions of river cruising vacations. This is just part of my review of my Rhine River cruise.
Look for upcoming posts where I’ll be passing along which travel tips worked for me and tips to save money on a cruise. I also discovered some beautiful frugal crafts on the trip with photos to inspire!
First, some of the great things about river cruising! (I receive no compensation for my review and all the opinions are my own. No one asked me to write this; I just wanted to share with you.)
Top 10 Best Things About River Cruising
- It’s the easiest way to travel to a new place. You don’t have to worry about the details of the trip. It’s all taken care of for you. They will even make your plane reservations if you like. Plus you don’t have to speak the language of the country you are visiting. If you need something you have a ready translator in your tour guide. Just bring your passport and luggage!
- Unpack once! No time wasted getting to, checking into and out of hotels over and over during a trip. Less stress and more time to enjoy the area!
- You can do as little or as much as you like. At each stop there is an included walking tour (sometimes combined with a bus tour) that you are free to join or skip. You can either explore on your own or relax on the ship during that time. If you take the guided tour, you will see more and experience more than if you attempted to tour totally on your own. We found this to be true when we explored on our own in Amsterdam. We had time to do this after arriving in Amsterdam and leaving our luggage on-board. We wandered around the city for a couple of hours. The next day our tour guide took us to much of the same area, but with explanations about what things were. We had the “A-Ha moment” several times and felt that we had really seen something when we finally knew what it was!
- You can easily plan your expenses. All three meals are included in your overall price, so you know what your food expenses will be. You can eat on shore for at least one meal a day if you wish, at your own expense. The cruise line lets you know before your trip how much you might want to leave as a group tip to the crew. It is optional to tip, but advisable. You can decide ahead of time what you will probably leave as the group tip. Optional tour prices are listed months before the trip so you can decide which ones to take ahead of time.
- You can be healthy on a river cruise! Meals are high quality with healthy choices available at each meal. Breakfast had plenty to tempt in the way of pastries, but yogurt, oatmeal, whole grains, fresh fruit, and omelets made to order were available every morning. Lunch always included a wonderful salad bar. Dinner entree choices were always a meat dish, a fish dish, and a vegetarian entree. They often include foods that are specialties of the area the ship is near. (Look for an upcoming post all about the food!) The staff handled various dietary restrictions easily and remembered who got what. People with special dietary needs said they were very pleased with the quality and variety of the food they received. Health conscious travelers can use the on-board gym if they feel they don’t get enough exercise walking around the towns. I ate ice cream and drank wine (unlimited free wine with dinner) every day and still lost 10 pounds because of all the walking I did. That must be the secret of the Europeans who eat so well and keep a healthy weight. Of course they also bicycle a lot. Who knew exercise was so good for you?! Ha-ha.
- You have the opportunity to chat with a local family in their home, an experience that is difficult if not impossible to arrange on your own. This is arranged by the cruise company for 6-10 passengers to visit in a home for about 90 minutes of cake, coffee, and conversation. This was one of the highlights of the trip for many people.
- Between ports you can enjoy the passing scenery of small towns and rural life. You can see this from your cabin, the dining room, the lounge, and the sun deck. Many people who have been on ocean cruises said this was so much more interesting than looking at the ocean all the time. We saw vineyards, charming towns, rock formations, and the winding of the river through hills dotted with castles on the Rhine.
- You will not get seasick. No need for patches or pills. The river is experienced as flat, not wavy. I did not hear of one passenger of the 150 on-board that had any motion sickness. Not one.
- Everything is well organized for your exploration of a town. You get an easy-to-read map of a town the night before you dock there. It includes all the main sites clearly marked. Usually there is a guided tour in the morning and you can explore on your own in the afternoon. If you’ve explored a town/city on your own, your tour guide will be watching for you to make sure you catch the bus back to the ship in time before the ship’s departure. Every night before dinner we had a 15-minute “Port Talk” going over the next day’s schedule and activities as well as a brief summary of attractions. That way you can decide if you want to explore on your own or join the tour.
- You will be well cared for. A cruise company representative will look for you at the airport to assist you in making your connecting fight as expeditiously as possible. They know the shortest routes and turned a stressful situation into a manageable one for me. If you get sick, the crew really looks after your needs, including bringing meals to your room, if needed, at no extra charge. They know doctors in the port town that can see you or even come to the boat to see you if you can’t make it to town. I had a sinus cold starting up strong that could have really ruined my second week of the cruise. One of the tour directors personally went to a pharmacy and bought just what I needed so I didn’t have to try to make myself understood at the pharmacy. She did this while I was taking a walking tour, so I didn’t miss a thing on our schedule. We felt that the entire crew of the ship bent over backwards to make sure that we were having a great time. Some of the crew we were sad to leave at the end of the two weeks. There was a feeling of being among family there.
My cruise was through Grand Circle Cruise Lines, but I have no affiliation with them other than being a passenger paying regular rates.
Click here for the negatives to river cruising: http://squarepennies.com/2014/09/10-reasons-take-river-cruise.html