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Planning a European River Cruise 2022


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We are in the very initial stages of planning a European River Cruise for an adult family group. I am looking for insight as to where to begin! There are so many posts and so much information, I just don't really know where to start. I think we are learning toward Fall and possibly starting in Amsterdam on the Rhine and down through Germany. Then, we aren't sure.  I've seen a few options for Italy but also have seen many to Budapest. No of us have ever been to Europe and are planning to take our time so we can see as much as possible while we are there! We are of German descent so want to be certain we get plenty of Germany.  We love history, walking tours, castles, wine country and fabulous new foods and cultures. It will be a once in a lifetime trip so we want to make sure we get it right! THanks in advance for any suggestions and advice.

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1 hour ago, blw2021 said:

We are in the very initial stages of planning a European River Cruise for an adult family group. I am looking for insight as to where to begin! There are so many posts and so much information, I just don't really know where to start. I think we are learning toward Fall and possibly starting in Amsterdam on the Rhine and down through Germany. Then, we aren't sure.  I've seen a few options for Italy but also have seen many to Budapest. No of us have ever been to Europe and are planning to take our time so we can see as much as possible while we are there! We are of German descent so want to be certain we get plenty of Germany.  We love history, walking tours, castles, wine country and fabulous new foods and cultures. It will be a once in a lifetime trip so we want to make sure we get it right! THanks in advance for any suggestions and advice.

 

@blw2021

 

Howdy & welcome to the Cruise Critic message boards!  emo22.gif 

 

Thank you for your first post on the First Time Cruisers forum for general questions regarding cruising. 👍 

 

However since your inquiry concerns a specific type of cruising I have moved your thread to the River Cruising forum where it will be on topic. The majority of your fellow Cruise Critic members that have sailed river cruises frequent this forum and provide feedback here. Browse through the thread titles on the forum looking for threads of interest. You will probably find your fellow Cruise Critic members have already posted questions and received answers about River Cruising that will be of interest to you.

 

Cruise Critic is a great resource for new as well as experienced cruisers and we are so glad you found us! emo34.gif  Please feel free to browse the Cruise Critic Community Categories list. Read a few threads in the different forums to get a feel for what each forum is about. Make sure you read any pinned threads (AKA Stickies) on the top of the first page of threads in a forum. You will find very important instructions or information there.

 

I sincerely hope this information will be helpful to someone new to posting on our message boards. So glad to have you aboard Cruise Critic! emo35.gif

 

Happy sails,

 

Host Kat emo32.gif

 

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1 hour ago, blw2021 said:

There are so many posts and so much information, I just don't really know where to start. I think we are learning toward Fall and possibly starting in Amsterdam on the Rhine and down through Germany.

Hello blw2021 and welcome to the river cruising board.

 

@Host Kat Thank you for sending us the new prospective cruiser, Hostjazzbeau and us folks will take good care of them.

 

blw2021 I quoted your lines above to show you that you have already started, you have given us a preference and you say you are of German descent, wanting to see much of Germany. Amsterdam is a good place to start and travelling up the Rhine to Basel is a standard first-timer itinerary, however, you have indicated you can stay longer. You could do the Rhine together with the Moselle or turn into the Main river to end up in Budapest eventually. You could cut short along the way, for example in Nuremberg or Passau. Or traverse Germany from Trier to Nuremberg, even to Budapest. Perhaps you might like to decide how many days Germany it has to be. I very much like the Rhine and Main combination which, with a different company, you could start in Cologne. For castles the Rhine may be best, make sure actually get into one - which is usually Marksburg - not just sail past! Plenty of wine in Rüdesheim but also further South, but the Main has a special appeal as many vineyards there are very regional in that you will likely never see their wine offered outside of Germany. The beer is also appealing...

 

You want to go in Autumn - a nice time, I would make sure everyone in your group is happy with reduced daylight and chilly evenings. You may be happier starting during September rather than in October. However, for nice Autumn colours the second and third week of October are better.

 

Now, over to the others for suitable companies, etc.

 

Have fun planning and ask away.

 

notamermaid

 

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2 minutes ago, notamermaid said:

... @Host Kat Thank you for sending us the new prospective cruiser, Hostjazzbeau and us folks will take good care of them...

 

You are most welcome!  emo3.gif  And I know all y'all will!emo34.gif

 

Glad to be of service,

 

Host Kat emo32.gif

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@blw2021, welcome to Cruise Critic and river cruising.  Regardless of which itinerary you choose, I highly recommend using a travel agent with river cruising experience and experience with group bookings.  Organizing a group can be like herding cats, and you don't want to be in the middle of getting deposits, making room assignments, arranging pre and post cruise accommodations, booking flights, etc. 

 

I think the Amsterdam to Basel itinerary is a good choice for newbies.  Have any people in your group taken an ocean cruise?  The reason I'm asking is that it's a different experience than river cruising.  Please post your questions.  This is a very helpful group that posts in this forum.

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Posted (edited)

I agree with Roz about a travel agent! Depending on size of group, you can get a free berth (one person free). I know the requirements for this are less than if you had booked a regular cruise ship. Check with an agent who is familiar with river cruises as they will know what to do to form a group, get group incentives, etc....

 

I found this book helpful: https://www.amazon.com/Ultimate-River-Cruising-Handbook-formula/dp/1983943231/ref=sr_1_10?dchild=1&keywords=river+cruises&qid=1609812407&sr=8-10 

 

Others have liked the Berlitz book: 

 

https://www.amazon.com/Berlitz-River-Cruising-Europe-Cruise/dp/1785730606/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=river+cruises+berlitz&qid=1609812450&sr=8-1 

 

I suggest getting brochures from several companies. Viking is the most name familiar but there are many to choose from such as Avalon, Amawaterways, Uniworld, Tauck, Crystal, Scenic, Gate1 and some in which I probably forgot to list...

 

-----

 

Just wanted to add - welcome to Cruise Critic. I live in Lincoln. Good luck planning.

Edited by Coral
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Thanks so much to all of you for your quick replies already!  I have started a spreadsheet on the different cruise companies and routes so we'll start to gather some info and make a plan. This is exciting!

 

I will check into the resources you shared as well!  Again, thanks for your help and I'll be in touch with questions!

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blw2021, welcome to the boards.  As everyone says, this group is very helpful, so feel free to ask anything.  I would suggest reading through the "sticky" posts at the top of the main page that Host Jazbeau has prepared.  They are great for information for first time cruisers.  As notamermaid says, there is very little difference between ocean cruising and river cruising.  The nicest thing for river cruising is you cruise at night mostly, so you have your day time to see the "old" parts of the port cities.  You also don't have to worry about getting the "right" side for your cabin, as if you are sailing during the day, you want to be either in the lounge (if the weather isn't so good) or on top, so your room doesn't matter.

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Welcome, and a spreadsheet is a great way to decide which river you want to go on.   Amsterdam to Basel is a great starter cruise.

 

Another thing I build a spread sheet for is once I decide the river, I look at the different cruise companies to determine what is included with each cruise.  What type of dining, excursions, cabin amenities, any electronic device to help hear on walking tours.  The size of the boat impacts what kind of dining options available in the evening.  Then I also look at member reviews on cruise critic of both the itinerary and the river cruise company I am looking at.

 

And yes, use a Travel Agent.

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1 hour ago, Daisi said:

As notamermaid says, there is very little difference between ocean cruising and river cruising. 

I think that you meant to say there is a lot of difference between the two. 🙂

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5 minutes ago, gnome12 said:

I think that you meant to say there is a lot of difference between the two. 🙂

Sorry to point this out, and it was not me, I think...

 

No problem.

 

While I am here: agree with the suggestion of a travel agent. Also check with your group if there are mobility issues. All lines cater to this as much as they can, but there may be limits that apply to someone in the group.

 

notamermaid

 

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1 hour ago, notamermaid said:

Sorry to point this out, and it was not me, I think...

 

No problem.

 

While I am here: agree with the suggestion of a travel agent. Also check with your group if there are mobility issues. All lines cater to this as much as they can, but there may be limits that apply to someone in the group.

 

notamermaid

 

Sorry, it was Daisi quoting you incorrectly that I meant to correct, but you are right, it sounded like you were wrong.

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River cruises are a great way to get an introduction to a region.  Be aware, though, that your excursions will be limited (usually) to what the ship offers, as it can be very difficult to arrange DIY tours for a variety of reasons (exact docking times and locations are pinned down much later than ocean cruises and sometimes the ship moves to another town while the group is out.)  Also, it's common for the ship to leave port before dinner on many nights, so there will be no exploring town during/after dinner.  For some folks, this is completely fine.  Others may want more time to get to know a certain area. If you want the ability for your group to seek out a great local restaurant or an out of the way beer cellar, you might want to consider a land tour.  

 

Not bashing river cruises, and we have one scheduled for the fall (pandemic allowing) but it is does have difference from a strictly land based trip.

 

We've done the Amsterdam to Basel cruise.  It's really beautiful, and Strasbourg and Colmar in particular were revelations to me.

 

 

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Agree with previous comments re:  ocean vs. river cruises.  As many have said, the only similarity between the two is that the ship floats on water.  Even then, the water is of different composition!

 

Those differences are why I would become both aggravated and annoyed on an ocean cruise, but found my river cruise last year perfect in every way.  So don't expect multiple dining venues, Vegas-style entertainment, a casino, a large pool,  sea days to take it easy and recharge, etc.

 

Biggest thing ocean cruisers may not realize is the fluid nature of the schedule.

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We did a 14 Day Amsterdam to Budapest in September / October 2017 and I would thoroughly recommend it. (We  have just booked Bucharest to Budapest for 2022). You will see a lot of small German towns and some major European highlights, plus amazing autumn colours. If you have time spend extra days at both ends of the trip as both cities deserve as much time as you can give them. The Szechenyi Baths were a total highlight for us at the end of our cruise. 

 

As others have said research (ooh I do love a spreadsheet) to find out which company is the best fit for your party and budget

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Every 10 years, the small city of Oberammergau Germany does a passion play.  It is a really big event.  I was scheduled for 2020, but has been postponed to 2022.  It runs from May to October.  Some of the river cruise are including this event.  If you are interested, it would be awesome.  If you are not interested, be aware this could impact your travels.

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It sounds like you want to enjoy your German roots and castles. While Danube and Rhine both spend time in Germany, seeing the castles in Germany from the river sound like the cruise for you. I have done both the Rhine and Danube. 

 

You need to also focus on which cruiseline company to travel with. I suggest getting a recommendation for a travel advisor and let them assist you with the different lines, as there are many differences between the lines. 

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You should start by reading the Stickies at the top of this board; there is a lot of good info about river cruising basics, choosing itineraries, and choosing cruiselines.  Don't just look at the price of the cruise, compare what is included:  how much space on board (all recent river ships in Germany are the same 135m long and the same width, to fit in the locks, but the number of passengers in that space varies between 106 and 170),  choice and quality of excursions, extra charges for some excursions, variety and quality of food and drink included, laundry included or charged or not available, exercise equipment and bikes available – and what are these things worth to you?  Is there an airfare bonus?–this can be a huge savings.

 

This is a lot to digest.  One way to cut through the clutter is to consult an expert guide that evaluates all the available choices.  Berlitz River Cruising in Europe & the USA (2018) is the latest in a longstanding series.  [It was scheduled to be updated this month, but since everything has been on ice they have postponed the new edition until January 2021.]  Your local library may have a copy you can read for free.

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Posted (edited)

That would be a good choice...If you have the time do a pre and post...Amsterdam and Switzerland...they are both fantastic...The pre and post can easily be done on your own....I loved our Viking cruises, but the payment policy is not my favorite currently...They do have the most ships though...My favorite is Crystal. They are ALL inclusive, and our Rhine was less than Viking...but also look at AMA. Half the fun is the planning....ENJOY  Also time of year is important...If it does not rain, the rivers are low...if the rivers are low, the boats don't go....Summe can be VERY hot and crowded in Europe...which is why we love the late spring and the fall.

Edited by caripoo
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Speaking of European river cruises, are there any river cruises in Saint Petersburg? I mean they got this one river there which is quite long. If you could give me some info on offices or agencies that conduct and organize such tours I would really appreciate it  

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41 minutes ago, Roger88 said:

Speaking of European river cruises, are there any river cruises in Saint Petersburg? I mean they got this one river there which is quite long. If you could give me some info on offices or agencies that conduct and organize such tours I would really appreciate it  

Yes. I went on one and would not recommend it. It was from St. Petersburg to Moscow. It also includes lakes. I would recommend spending time in both St. Petersburg and Moscow instead.

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49 minutes ago, Roger88 said:

Speaking of European river cruises, are there any river cruises in Saint Petersburg? I mean they got this one river there which is quite long. If you could give me some info on offices or agencies that conduct and organize such tours I would really appreciate it  

This isn't quite what you were asking for, but some of the small ocean ships dock right in St. Petersburg and stay for 1 or 2 overnights.

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Don't know if anyone has mentioned the Moselle, but I would make sure that the Rhine cruise included it.    It has some very pretty small ports and castles that I would not want to miss.

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7 hours ago, texasstar said:

Don't know if anyone has mentioned the Moselle, but I would make sure that the Rhine cruise included it.    It has some very pretty small ports and castles that I would not want to miss.

texasstar, I mentioned the Moselle and Rhine combination, so now we have two votes for that. If one has much time it is lovely for exploring. Some more castles, the Roman ruins of Trier, more wine and it is more tranquil than the Rhine. Coming from Amsterdam, an 11-day itinerary would still give you three languages to encounter, but focus more on German culture. If you have an excursion to Luxembourg you get a fourth language and a slightly different European cultural mix added. With an extension in Switzerland you get a bit more German of a different kind and depending on where you stay, the other languages of Switzerland, too. It would cut out all other European cultural realms of course.

 

notamermaid

 

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