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samrothstein

Considering a 1st river cruise - is it right for us?

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We are in the very early stages of planning our next big trip in 2022, and are considering between a land tour of Italy (Venice/Florence/Rome/?) and a river cruise. For the river cruise, the Amsterdam to Basel itinerary looks good for us, but we're open to suggestion! We've done Caribbean cruises with Carnival, and have been to London and Paris and enjoy both styles of vacationing. One gripe with land vacations is that my wife likes to have plenty of time to relax and do nothing, which will be hard to do when running from city to city and site to site in Italy, whereas I prefer the excitement of getting out into new places and seeing as many sites as possible. I'm thinking the river option can offer both of us a chance for a great vacation, where I can run around to my hearts content and she can relax on deck whenever she pleases. To that end, I know that pools are rare on river boats, but what about spas and relaxing deck areas - will she be able take advantage of such amenities? 

 

Thanks for any advice!

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Hi Sam,

 

Ocean and river cruising on two different experiences.  Yes, some river ships have spas, but not like you're used to seeing on ocean cruise ships.  You can get a massage or facial, but there's no thermal suite, sauna, etc.  There may be a small fitness center.  

 

As far as the upper deck, a lot depends on time of year.  Early and late in the season it can be very cold and windy up there.  I enjoyed all 3 of my river cruises, but they're not relaxing in the sense there aren't sea days like an ocean cruise and you hit the ground running each day.  Most lines have included tours and of course, you have the option of not doing them or going off on your own.  

 

My best advice is to do your research and try a river cruise.  Until you actually experience one it's hard to know if it will meet your needs.  This is a very helpful forum so ask away.

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1 hour ago, samrothstein said:

We are in the very early stages of planning our next big trip in 2022, and are considering between a land tour of Italy (Venice/Florence/Rome/?) and a river cruise. For the river cruise, the Amsterdam to Basel itinerary looks good for us, but we're open to suggestion! We've done Caribbean cruises with Carnival, and have been to London and Paris and enjoy both styles of vacationing. One gripe with land vacations is that my wife likes to have plenty of time to relax and do nothing, which will be hard to do when running from city to city and site to site in Italy, whereas I prefer the excitement of getting out into new places and seeing as many sites as possible. I'm thinking the river option can offer both of us a chance for a great vacation, where I can run around to my hearts content and she can relax on deck whenever she pleases. To that end, I know that pools are rare on river boats, but what about spas and relaxing deck areas - will she be able take advantage of such amenities? 

 

Thanks for any advice!

Don’t assume that there is much to do or see if you stay on board during an included excursion. Generally, the ship just docks there, but other than a massage there isn’t much to do but sit and read. If you are lucky you are moored in a scenic spot, but you may be rafted to other ships which might affect the view. 

 

Not generally applicable to Amsterdam to Basel, sometimes the sun deck is closed for multiple days because of low bridges. This would make staying on board even more problematic in terms of scenery, especially if rafted. 

 

On the positive side for someone remaining on board, sometimes, the ship will sail on to a further destination to pick up passengers from the excursion(s) and you get some scenic sailing. 

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Not sure what line you are looking for, but for a relaxing - sit back and enjoy - holiday, I really wouldn't recommend a river cruise.....unless she would be happy sitting in a cafe / strolling the shops in the square while you are out touring. 

 

Most mornings, you are up for 7:00 breakfast so you can be ready to tour around 8:30.  Your wife would be able to join in the tours and stop at the square and relax, as long as she knows where & when to meet up to go back to the boat if it's not in walking distance. (Strasbourg & Heidelberg come to mind).  Not sure I would want to be left on the boat on my own, as it could be lonely watching the crew do their daily chores.

 

Afternoons are usually left for optional tours, so there would be other guests available then.

 

If she is ok with just morning tours, then it could be a great trip, you could go off in the afternoons (she could stroll the towns if the boat is in port if she wishes) on the tours and she wouldn't be the only passenger left on the boat...a perfect blend of both your holidays.

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Hello Sam,

this could work for you both, yes. As long as you bear in mind a few things I am sure both of you would plenty of enjoyment out of a river cruise.

1 hour ago, samrothstein said:

I'm thinking the river option can offer both of us a chance for a great vacation, where I can run around to my hearts content and she can relax on deck whenever she pleases.

That is certainly possible on a river cruise, but as Roz has already said, it depends on the time of year, the relaxing bit I mean. As for the running around - if after a day's sight-seeing you are not yet content with relaxing in the lounge, try to get an itinerary that has late sailings. Many ships start sailing during dinner time meaning the onboard entertainment is all you get. If you can make do with running along the sundeck or using the gym - not all boats have one - you will have plenty of exercise.

 

The other most important thing to bear in mind Roz has also said: ocean and river cruising are two very different things. For other caveats or things you may ask yourself - or things you have not thought of asking yourself yet - I recommend reading the stickies at the top of this page by our host jazzbeau.

 

As the two previous posters have pointed out it can be a bit boring being on the ship as more or less the only passenger.

 

You have mentioned the Amsterdam to Basel itinerary, so here are some details: Amsterdam to Basel is the upstream itinerary and there I believe the longest cruising stretch occurs - Amsterdam to Cologne - with some companies, but that is done mostly overnight. Viking will stop in Kinderdijk. There are no sailing stretches that are longer than 24 hours - unless you go on a couple of "obscure" European company itineraries (if someone can prove me wrong, please do so). In Strasbourg you might well dock in Kehl on the right (German) bank of the river. If your wife stayed on board and you took the shuttle or tram to Strasbourg she would be stuck in a mildly interesting place... On the other hand, Koblenz is a very different kettle of fish where all river cruise ships dock in walking distance (between 50 and 400m) of the old town. You could head up to Ehrenbreitstein Fortress while she relaxes on the ship or strolls through the streets. Make sure to take a photo with your ship from the fortress, the view is magnificent. There are many ways to have fun on this itinerary, make sure you closely compare the different company offers and the ships' amenities.

 

Have fun planning.

 

notamermaid

 

 

 

 

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I think the Amsterdam to Basel itinerary on the Rhine is an excellent choice for a first river cruise.  I'd suggest flying into Amsterdam and spending a few days there pre-cruise.  It's a wonderful city to explore. 

 

I did a bus tour in Europe in the mid-80s, and it was very tiring.  A different hotel most nights, schlepping the suitcase out to the bus each morning, never being able to unpack, etc.  A river cruise is definitely a better, simpler way to see different countries and cities without a lot of stress and hassle.  You travel between cities overnight so you wake up to a new destination each morning.

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5 hours ago, samrothstein said:

I'm thinking the river option can offer both of us a chance for a great vacation, where I can run around to my hearts content and she can relax on deck whenever she pleases.

We have loved our river cruises but, as already noted, they are an entirely different experience from an ocean cruise (especially a Caribbean ocean cruise vs a European river cruise). There is not much to do aboard ship, dining is at set times, tours are included and usually start early morning. I would look carefully at the proposed river itinerary and discuss with DW so that you are both assured of a nice vacation.

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I think if you picked the right ship - it may work.

 

Crystal ships do have pools and so does AmaMagna on Amawaterways. AmaMagna is a larger boat and has more options than most ships (I hear, I have not sailed on her but have sailed a ship her size). Both Crystal and AmaMagna will probably have more spa items. Maybe others do also. Sorry - AmaMagna can only do the Danube.

 

Just be aware that evenings can be very quiet on river boats. Hopefully a piano bar is good enough for both of you.

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Agree with the others in trying a short river cruise to see if you like that style of travel.

Amsterdam to Basel is a nice itinerary but there are many others, including one that Uniworld does which features Venice, if Italy is your interest.

It can be busy and port intensive with tours but these are not mandatory.

Relaxing on board and enjoying the passing scenery is possible but research how much cruising will be at night.

We cruise in cooler months in Europe so have not used on board pools.

Some lines offer a more inclusive and luxury experience than others, only you can decide what best suits your needs.  

Good luck with your research and planning.

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8 minutes ago, pully8 said:

 

We cruise in cooler months in Europe so have not used on board pools.

 

Our Crystal pool was indoors. Though I didn't see anyone use it. Our trip was very port intensive and I think everyone left the ship most of the time.

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1 hour ago, Coral said:

Our Crystal pool was indoors. Though I didn't see anyone use it. Our trip was very port intensive and I think everyone left the ship most of the time.

Same on the Uniworld cruises we’ve been on although they could open everything up on the Antoinette in nice weather. It was our favorite space on the boat. 

AB831DF0-FC9E-43AC-9018-5738BC9DA529.jpeg

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Just now, bubbulz said:

Same on the Uniworld cruises we’ve been on although they could open everything up on the Antoinette in nice weather. It was our favorite space on the boat. 

AB831DF0-FC9E-43AC-9018-5738BC9DA529.jpeg

That is a gorgeous picture! Nicely designed.

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3 minutes ago, Coral said:

That is a gorgeous picture! Nicely designed.

It was a really well designed space. And the bonus was that we always had it all to ourselves!

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Thanks for insight guys, it helps. 
 

just to clarify, I never intended to compare a carnival cruise with a river cruise - I know they are worlds apart. 

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To the OP:  best way, I think to describe a river cruise is imagine a bus tour with:

--shorter bus rides

--a hotel and excellent restaurant that follows you.

 

We did a Viking cruise on the Rhine last fall and I ate with gusto and LOST 4 lbs!  We walked on average 18,000 steps per day.

Sitting in a deck chair and watching the world float by is NOT what river cruises are all about.  We had one afternoon, along with a hour here and there, to enjoy the top deck or lounge and watch the world float by.

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23 hours ago, samrothstein said:

One gripe with land vacations is that my wife likes to have plenty of time to relax and do nothing, which will be hard to do when running from city to city and site to site in Italy, whereas I prefer the excitement of getting out into new places and seeing as many sites as possible. I'm thinking the river option can offer both of us a chance for a great vacation, where I can run around to my hearts content and she can relax on deck whenever she pleases.

It may be just me, but I don't find any of our european adventures, be they by land, ocean, or river, to be relaxing experiences. I differentiate between a relaxing vacation (like a cruise to the Caribbean, or an intermission at a resort -  which seems to be what your DW prefers) and european travel (wherein I, like you, want to see as much as possible). 

So, when we decide to enjoy some relaxation, we usually fly to one of the Mexican or Puerto Rican resorts. We travel in europe to immerse ourselves in history - we are usually exhausted at the culmination of these trips and need a rest. 😉

Honestly, if your wife enjoys relaxing on deck, I don't think she would find a river cruise meets her desire for relaxation. As always, JMHO.

Edited by dogs4fun

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We have been  fortunate to have done both. A Venice/Florence/Rome land tour or a Rhine River cruise are both awesome vacations. Though at complete opposite ends of the spectrum. One is on land, the other on water. One is with major cities with major attractions and so much to do, the other is small towns with intimate experiences with relatively limited activities.  One is a stationary cabin, the other is with ever an changing hotel room. Either your wife or yourself may need to make a compromise. Money and time can easily resolve the issue, but rarely are available at the same time.  Either choice is great.

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54 minutes ago, sharkster77 said:

 

 

We did a Viking cruise on the Rhine last fall and I ate with gusto and LOST 4 lbs!  We walked on average 18,000 steps per day.

Sitting in a deck chair and watching the world float by is NOT what river cruises are all about.  We had one afternoon, along with a hour here and there, to enjoy the top deck or lounge and watch the world float by.

A friend of mine who has seen a ton of Viking River commercials expects a river cruise to be relaxing and being on deck looking at castles. I think their advertisements have lead people to believe this.

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16 minutes ago, Coral said:

A friend of mine who has seen a ton of Viking River commercials expects a river cruise to be relaxing and being on deck looking at castles. I think their advertisements have lead people to believe this.

 

Coral, I've made that same observation to several people.  One of my co-workers and her investment club took a river cruise a few years ago and were disappointed.  They are all older overweight women, and said the cruise was "too much".  They weren't expecting to have to get off the ship every day and walk in order to see the sites. 

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I know people who complain because they gained to much weight with all the good food on the river cruise.....I don't know, but we both actually lost weight on ours, and we enjoyed all meals except the 4:00 tea (we were rarely on board at that time) and the late  night snack.  We were out touring both morning and afternoon, and for a couple who usually eat breakfast and dinner only, we were surprised at how much we actually looked forward to lunch!  We don't drink much at home either, but have to say that we did enjoy sampling the local beers in cafe's when we needed a break during the "shopping hours" provided during the tours. 🙂

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3 minutes ago, Daisi said:

I know people who complain because they gained to much weight with all the good food on the river cruise.....I don't know, but we both actually lost weight on ours, and we enjoyed all meals except the 4:00 tea (we were rarely on board at that time) and the late  night snack.  We were out touring both morning and afternoon, and for a couple who usually eat breakfast and dinner only, we were surprised at how much we actually looked forward to lunch!  We don't drink much at home either, but have to say that we did enjoy sampling the local beers in cafe's when we needed a break during the "shopping hours" provided during the tours. 🙂

 

I love soup and rarely get it at home, and AMA has the most wonderful cream soup every day at lunch – but I had to stop after a few days because that was just a bridge too far on the calories (and salt).

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1 hour ago, Daisi said:

I know people who complain because they gained to much weight with all the good food on the river cruise.....I don't know, but we both actually lost weight on ours, and we enjoyed all meals except the 4:00 tea (we were rarely on board at that time) and the late  night snack.

I am happy to read your post because I almost always hear complaints of weight gain on both ocean and river cruises. I, like you, lose weight. I attribute this to the fact that we are always off the boat, usually DIY, and are much more active for longer periods of time than when at home. We do eat well on our cruises, but I lose weight.

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1 hour ago, Host Jazzbeau said:

 

I love soup and rarely get it at home, and AMA has the most wonderful cream soup every day at lunch – but I had to stop after a few days because that was just a bridge too far on the calories (and salt).

 

Guess that's a benefit of being lactose intolerant....I really enjoyed my ice cream (served with real whipped cream mmmm) & cheese for desert at dinner, however I skipped the cream soups at lunch.  I was afraid I'd run out of my pills if I got into them! 🙂

 

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Sam,

When you say your wife enjoys relaxing and doing nothing then I think a river cruise would be ideal for the both of you.  But only if your / her definition of relaxing and doing nothing is the same as mine.  Sleeping in, sitting in the lounge or on deck, reading, perhaps watching the world go by,  being pampered by the staff, maybe go for a massage...that sort of thing.

However, if she is looking for full spa treatments, casinos, fancy entertainment, then, no.

If you can narrow down to a specific cruise  you may be able to get detailed information...just ask.

RB

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6 hours ago, Ritabob said:

Sam,

When you say your wife enjoys relaxing and doing nothing then I think a river cruise would be ideal for the both of you.  But only if your / her definition of relaxing and doing nothing is the same as mine.  Sleeping in, sitting in the lounge or on deck, reading, perhaps watching the world go by,  being pampered by the staff, maybe go for a massage...that sort of thing.

However, if she is looking for full spa treatments, casinos, fancy entertainment, then, no.

If you can narrow down to a specific cruise  you may be able to get detailed information...just ask.

RB

This is much more in line with what I meant. She can sleep in late and just *do nothing* a morning or two while I go out early and explore. 

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