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About TravelerThom

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  1. Although Prague is often offered as a hotel stay at the beginning or end of Danube and Main River Cruises it is several hours from either of those rivers and not even in either watershed. Prague is on the Vltava River which flows into the Elbe. A Prague to/from Berlin trip offers some great stops, but unfortunately has some of the least reliable water levels in Europe (I was lucky enough to have no water issues when I did this cruise). I concur with choosing the Rhine for a first cruise, based on the large number of scenic castles, the passage through the Middle Rhine Gorge and the typical end points of Amsterdam and Switzerland. I enjoyed the cruise out of Bordeaux with its wine chateau but sailing is relatively short and in tidal estuaries. The Rhône in Burgundy is a strong second choice as is the Danube.
  2. OAT is the part of Grand Circle Travel that specializes in small groups (generally 16 or less). GCT has been in business over 50 years, sells only directly to customers (not through travel agents) and has many loyal repeat customers. They focus on local culture and encourage interaction with the locals through occasional dinners with selected families etc. Their vessels and hotels are quite comfortable but are generally first class rather than deluxe or luxury. Most of Grand Circle Cruise Line river boats in Europe have fixed (non-movable) twin beds, but I’m pretty sure the vessels OAT use in Egypt has twin beds that can be moved and made up as a double. Most cabins are a rather small 150 square feet, but my experience on other OAT ships has been that they were quite efficient. I have been to Egypt several times, but traveling on my own, not with OAT or GCT. I have been on a number of GCCL vessels in Europe and 3 times on OAT vessels in the Mediterranean. I like that the guides that have been assigned on these trips stay with your group the entire trip (supplemented by local guides), and they have been without exception outstanding. I have been very pleased with my multiple trips. ADDED: Doing a little more research what I read is that OAT uses the Aliya and that GCCL (somewhat larger group size) uses the Nefertiti.
  3. US Navy aircraft carriers go in harms way far more than either river or ocean cruise vessels. They have a projected lifetime of 50 years, although they do have a 4 year(!) scheduled mid-life Refueling & Complex Overhaul (RCOH). Of course they are no doubt build to more rigorous standards than River Cruise boats.
  4. Viking offers a good quality and gets many repeat customers, but is certainly would not be considered “high end”. Viking’s total square foot per passenger is smaller than most river cruise lines. The average age of Viking passengers is higher than most other river cruise lines. Viking’s offerings for athletic endeavors is less than most other lines. All in all doesn’t sound like the best match for the group you describe.
  5. Selecting any product because one likes their ads is a pretty poor start. I will give you credit for coming to the river cruise board to get a better understanding. I don’t there is any river cruise line who caters to “Very fussy eaters who won't eat bread & desserts, nor cakes & cookies” and also want 24 hour pizza. It is not just that Viking is not the right river cruising line for them, there is IMO no river cruise line right for them.
  6. I experienced no choppiness on my Yangtze River trip. I’d be a lot more worried about altitude sickness flying to 12,000 feet without acclimation at intervening altitude levels.
  7. Russia is by far the largest and probably the most diverse country in the world. A land tour staying in Moscow and STP is great for seeing those two cities and their museums and monuments but you will have seen only a very, very tiny portion of Russia. Napoleon thought that by capturing Moscow he had conquered Russia; he was disastrously wrong. If you truly want to see Russia (and not everyone does) you cannot do that by confining yourself to two metropolitan cities.
  8. I’m definitely with Fran on this. Moscow and Saint Petersburg are quite interesting cities with great attractions, and worthy of more time than any river cruise is going to give them, but nothing prevents you from extending in both cities. Those cities hare horrendous traffic, but their metros can get you to almost any city location (I don’t speak Russian but had no problem handling the Metros on my own). But I feel only by getting out of the large cities into the countryside, seeing the flooded villages from Stalin’s 5 year plans, etc do you truly get a feel for the country. I have run (at different times) into two different couples from England who had been to the US 5-6 times and therefore felt qualified to speak about the US; nothing totally off base, but not terribly knowledgeable. After talking for awhile it turned out that one couple had been to Las Vegas (and nowhere else in the US) 5 times; the other couple commented on how clean the US was after having been to Disneyland 2 times and Disney World 4 times. Had they seen the US? Certainly not IMO. But different people have different objectives in their travels, and selecting what YOU want to see is paramount. Since the Lower Danube has been mentioned, that river cruise has some similarities to the Russian cruise: lots of miles populated with relatively poor farms with no major attractions, towns 25 years from Communism and still in recovery; helpful in understanding the past and present in East Europe, but few Instagram moments. I have done a number of rivers in Communist/ former Communist countries (Volga, Lower Danube, Elbe, Dniepr, Yangtze, Mekong) and am happy to have done so, but they are considerably different than doing “Castles on the Rhine”. Fortunately we have choices.
  9. There are multiple possible ports for buses to Heidelberg. I’m guessing you are on Scenic and will be doing Mannheim to Heidelberg. The actual road time for that should be just under half an hour, but with city traffic on both ends, parking etc might be an hour. Enjoy your cruise!
  10. I think that the primary boats AMA uses on the Main (AMADante, AMASiena) are split level where the forward ~1/3 of the boat is half a floor below the aft 2/3. The top of the side rails on the forward 1/3 are at the same elevation as the floor of the aft 2/3. For much of the Main the aft 2/3 rails are dropped and the chairs are stored. The forward 1/3 rails and chairs are left in place. The cleared aft 2/3 just makes it under some bridges, and the clearance above the forward 1/3 sundeck is ~3-4 feet. Passengers will be asked to leave the forward sundeck when a low bridge is approached, but are allowed to return after the low bridge is passed. The boat wheelhouse will be lowered in order to clear the bridge (or certainly should be lowered; Viking lost a wheelhouse and 2 crew members who did not lower the wheelhouse in time). There is a definite advantage having a split level boat on the Main.
  11. Many river and ocean cruise lines offer deals on air that IMO often vary depending on how well they are meeting their sales quotas. It is a way of offering a discount on slower selling trips while still officially not lowering their prices. People who bought at full price (ie no special airfare deal) seem less perturbed at someone getting a special air deal than they would be at a reduction in the cruise list price below what they paid. In the end for a given set of products (comparable cruise and air) what really matters is what your total expenditure is no matter what accounting slights of hand have occurred.
  12. Strasbourg to Kehl is maybe a 15 minute bus ride; you will spend more time assembling and getting on and off the bus than in actual transit. Note that Strasbourg will be on itineraries to/from Basel; it will not be on Mosel-Rhine-Main cruises. The longish (an hour or slightly more) bus rides I recall on either of these itineraries are to Luxembourg, Heidelberg, Baden-Baden and Rothenburg; these tours if offered are optional ($$) on many lines, none of these towns being on the river you are cruising. Bamberg and Nuremberg on the Main are each maybe half hour rides. If your itinerary starts or ends at Paris or Prague those are multi hour rides.
  13. I sailed Bordeaux on GCT River Chanson in 2015. GCT picked up the boat second hand from River Cloud and the boat was easily the most elegant of any of the half dozen GCT boats I have sailed on. Our PD was the best I have ever had and the others were very good! A great trip, BUT the River Chanson is scheduled on the Rhône in 2020, and I see nothing listed for GCT in Bordeaux in 2020. Did I just miss seeing something?
  14. I find this “Live” thread somewhere between confusing and misleading. I initially thought the writer had recently boarded the boat, but then there are references to towns beyond Moscow. I finally had to go to CruiseMapper.com to figure out what was going on. The post was dated yesterday, but the lead picture (Kizhi) is a location the Akun arrives at tomorrow. I might have more faith in the expressed opinions (which sound as if they were lifted from a Viking sales brochure) if the facts were correct. The Akun is NOT the stated 115 passengers (that is the crew size; passenger double occupancy is 204).
  15. While I don’t know, I’d bet that Viking’s position is that they have already performed the (deviation) service you paid for and there is no refund or credit. Count yourself lucky if they don’t charge you an ADDITIONAL fee to change your existing reservation.
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