While I am traveling this week and part of next week I will be republishing some of my older and earlier posts. It seems that I can’t always get to a computer – it might be because the sun and surf are calling my name. Thank you for continuing to read some of these older posts.
Have you ever thought of cruising down one of the famed European rivers visiting the cities along the way? More and more people are being introduced to the idea of river cruising through the heart of Europe.
Blogger Hubby and I were fortunate to be able to do it and what an amazing time we had. Let me be perfectly clear from the start – this is in no way like cruising on one of the the big ocean liners. The experience is totally different and there is no comparison at all.
When we first begin to look into river cruising we didn’t know where to begin. We knew that we wanted to sail down (or is it up) the Rhine River but which line did we want to book with? How long of a trip? What was covered and not covered? What did we need to know that we didn’t know?
We decided to concentrate on Avalon and Viking cruises. They each went to different cities along the Rhine. We wanted to find out what was special about each city and what did we want to see. The number of days was also confusing to us since they counted the day you left the US as Day 1 – huh? We weren’t even in Europe yet and a day was being counted against us.
To make it clearer for me to understand the differences, Blogger Hubby did an Excel spreadsheet. We compared room sizes – and although you don’t spend much time in your stateroom, I like to have a little extra room as we are getting dressed in the morning, or getting ready for bed. We compared costs, whether the boat was going north or south, what categories of staterooms they had and where we thought we wanted to be.
We chose Avalon because the rooms were a little larger and since they were rated #2 for river cruising in Europe, we thought they would try harder. Their land portion was provided by Globus, a well known and regarded touring company throughout Europe.
The river cruises provide a city tour every day that you dock on the river. There is no charge for this. On our ship we had 100 passengers and we were divided into 4 small groups for each city tour. Avalon gave us our own earbuds that we would keep throughout the week. As we left the ship each morning we would pick up a receiver that we would wear around our neck and plug our earbuds into. This way we could hear what the tour guide was telling us without huddling around her straining to hear what she was saying. The guides were all local residents and were very knowledgeable. Afternoons were for exploring on our own or we could choose to come back to the ship. Several days they had optional tours which you paid extra for. We did that only once and it was to Colmar, France – well worth the extra money.
Beer and wine were complimentary with meals. After the evening meal drinks were extra in the small lounge area where their was an organist who would play while we danced. One evening we had a string quartet in from Belgium; another night we had Black Forest wood cutters demonstrating their carving techniques. Before the entertainment the Cruise Director always told us about what to expect the next day.
Speaking of the cruise director, he is not like a cruise director on the ocean liners. He is here to help you. When someone asked where to buy a souvenir, he told that person to save their money and wait till we got to the Black Forest. When I needed a new battery for my camera, he directed me to a good camera store in Cologne. The day that we were going past the many castles on the Rhine, he made a handout and numbered the castles according to the mile markers on the river. He gave a three hour narrative on the castles. Since there was only one seating at dinner, he circulated around in order to sit with as many passengers as possible. He also helped us with our rental car for after the cruise going so far as to call our rental company to make sure we got a GPS with our rental car.
There was no muster drill on this cruise. Basically we were told that the captain would get the ship as close to shore as possible and we could walk the rest of the way out of the river. If you miss the ship when it left port, the cruise director instructed us to call his cell phone number and he told us to take a cab where we could meet the ship. That gave all of us peace of mind.
As we cruised along the river, we always had something to look at rather than just the open expanse of the sea. We enjoyed seeing all the small cities and towns along the Rhine.
Dress on river cruises is very casual though there is one dress-up night. No gowns or tuxes were seen but rather a nice business dress.
One of the fun parts about river cruising is all the locks you go through. I believe there are about 30 between Amsterdam, where we embarked, to Basel, Switzerland where we disembarked. If you are a light sleeper, you will be wakened during the night. I was never woken up but several on our ship were. It is amazing how close you get to the sides of the locks. I could put my hand a few inches from our cabin French balcony door and touch the lock wall.
The ships have three levels of accommodations. We were on the middle and could open our French balcony door (no balcony to step out on) and look down a few feet to the water. The lower level you were underwater and closer to the engines. The upper level was more expensive. I was very happy with our location.
We have decided that we want to do more river cruising. How does the Danube in the springtime sound? If you don’t want to go to Europe for river cruising, you can do it on the Mississippi and Columbia Rivers.