European River Cruising is the fastest growing travel trend and one of the most relaxing and hassle-free ways to see a lot of Europe within a week or two. Imagine only having to unpack once, dining daily on freshly prepared local food paired with regional wines and beers, participating in daily walking tours of the most scenic areas in Europe, and retiring to your private hotel-style stateroom where you can sit on your bed and watch the world sail gently by. There’s no motion sickness. No large crowds. No worries.
There are several different river cruise companies including Avalon Waterways, Uniworld and Viking River Cruises just to name a few (and the best). There are a lot of similarities between them in terms of where they go, the quality and type of experience that they offer, and the size of the ships. However, each of them also has a distinct personality.
First, lets look at how each river cruise company is similar:
- The ships are all about the same size. The ships are similar to river barges – they are long but only have 3 or 4 decks. They are all similar in size as there are limits as to how wide and tall the ships can be due to the locks and bridges that they must go through or under.
- They have a limited guest capacity. Most of the ships only have about 120-180 guests at a time so you never feel lost in the crowd.
- Staterooms are roomy and comfortable, comparable to U.S. hotel rooms. They are larger than their big-ship cruise counterparts and you won’t find inside staterooms or bunk beds. Instead, you receive a hotel-style bed, luxurious furnishings and amenities, and beautiful views from your own window, balcony or (coming soon on Avalon!) floor-to-ceiling “panoramic” windows.
- All offer amazing value. The cruise price typically includes your accommodations, sightseeing tours in each port, transportation by boat and freshly prepared regional food and wine. Each cruise line also offers their own extras such as live music on board, educational classes and more.
- River cruising is a laid-back way to see the interior of Europe and is geared more towards adults. Children are allowed but there are no day care or baby-sitting services, or any activities geared just to children. It used to be mainly retirees and senior citizens that would river cruise, but the median age has dropped in the past five years so that the typical age is between 40 and 60.
Each cruise line also has its own style and offerings, things that make them different from one another. Here is just a brief description of the 3 main companies. Other options also available. I also specialize in small canal cruises as well!
Avalon Waterways - Avalon Waterways is owned by the Globus Family of Brands which has had a solid reputation for land tours around the world for the past 80 years. They started Avalon Waterways in 2004 and have become the fastest growing river cruise company with the youngest fleet and most contemporary designs then their counterparts. All staterooms are at least 172 sq feet and include mini-bar, large wardrobe, hotel-style beds (either two twins or one queen), and flat-screen tv’s. The majority of the staterooms include panoramic sliding glass doors and French balconies (Panoramic Suites are coming soon!). In 2013 they will have 12 ships in Europe (including their newest “Suite Ships”) as well as cruise options in North America, Asia, Egypt and the Galapagos Islands. Avalon Waterways is definitely a top choice when it comes to deciding which cruise line to choose – the hard part is deciding which itinerary!
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection - Uniworld offers a “boutique-style” river cruising experience and are the only river cruise company to have Zagat-rated restaurants on board. They have partnered with Red Carnation Hotels, the award-winning five-star luxury boutique hotel collection, in the areas of hospitality training and management, food and beverage services, quality control programs, and design support. Uniworld offers Quietvox portable headset systems on the shore excursions so you will hear everything your guide is saying. Staterooms are elegant and luxurious with fine linens and L’Occitane bath and body products. In 2013, they will have 12 ships in Europe as well as cruises in Russia, Egypt, China, Vietnam and Cambodia. New for 2013 – river cruising on the Po River in northern Italy! Amazing itinerary sailing roundtrip from Venice.
Viking River Cruises – As their name suggests, Viking River Cruises are of Scandinavian design with open, airy interiors that allow you to have panoramic views throughout. Staterooms are have windows (most actually open) or private balconies. Meals are freshly prepared and based on menus that combine regional food with American fare. There’s a strong focus on cultural education with demonstrations, lectures and workshops on board, as well as knowledgeable guides on land. They were the first river cruise line in Russia, and have now grown to cover most of Europe, the Ukraine (only company with ships there), China and Egypt. This past year they launched their newest style of ships – the Longships.
I will help you choose the right river cruise vacation – just email me to get started today – Leila@worldclasstvl.com!