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Old 12-03-2015, 09:07 AM   #21
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That was the case with our one big ship cruise (Holland America) and why we said we'd never do that again.

Yes, I'm the kind who likes to explore on his own instead of following a guide, so we'll probably do a lot of that. My main reason for the river cruise is to have an easy way to visit many cities -- I hate driving in Europe and it's kind of a hassle to take lots of trains and switch hotels frequently.
We did a Viking cruise. It was kind of like a bus tour, but without messing with daily packing, I would not expect many minutes where you can be on your own; they have included tours, scheduled meals, and scheduled transportation. That covers 80% or more of your time. You might find yourself outside of town (mooring location) and needing their transportation to get to a place where there is something to see. High or low river levels might make it a bus tour, and you've agreed to accept that in the fine print. I'm glad I went, but I'm not jonesing to book another. As to the cruising scenery, that was nice, but we found ourselves in dark slimy locks a good fraction of the time, and the top deck was closed mostly to get under bridges. That left the front deck, which could only hold 40 people.
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Old 12-03-2015, 10:04 AM   #22
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We did a Viking cruise. It was kind of like a bus tour, but without messing with daily packing, I would not expect many minutes where you can be on your own; they have included tours, scheduled meals, and scheduled transportation. That covers 80% or more of your time. You might find yourself outside of town (mooring location) and needing their transportation to get to a place where there is something to see. High or low river levels might make it a bus tour, and you've agreed to accept that in the fine print. I'm glad I went, but I'm not jonesing to book another. As to the cruising scenery, that was nice, but we found ourselves in dark slimy locks a good fraction of the time, and the top deck was closed mostly to get under bridges. That left the front deck, which could only hold 40 people.
Some good points here. I think some of this (amount of time ashore,mooring locations, time in locks, amount of available time) depends on the particular cruise. I found the balance between structured and unstructured time to work out pretty well. We only had a few days out of 15 where the bus was necessary to get to/from the ship. I do believe that river conditions that would put you on buses would be a MAJOR disappointment. Most days we had 3-6 hours on our own, there were a couple of days (of the 15) that were almost entirely aboard the boat and a couple where we had essentially the entire day free. It was a very relaxed pace, however, no rushing. If you like to have your days chock full of experiences this would not be for you.

Highlights of our trip that came about because of our independence included:

1) Catching a symphony concert in Cologne,
2) Getting off the boat early at Kinderdyk to see the windmills in the morning fog at sunrise,
3) Visiting the Kepler House in Regensburg,
4) Visiting the Roentgen laboratory in Wurzburg,
5) Seeing the huge collection of harpsichords in the German National Museum in Nuremberg,
6) Finding memorial plaques in Bamberg that 1) apologized for the slaughter of the Jewish townspeople in WWII by the Nazi regime - this one was right next to a plaque thanking the brave soldiers for their service in WWII, and 2) the plaque in the cathedral that memorialized the members of the 1944 assassination plot against Hitler for taking a stand against tyranny. We talked with folks who had gone on the guided tour and these were not pointed out by the tour guides even though they walked right by them.
7) Several others, but I've already bored some people.

There were also a couple of tours that we did hang around the edges of because it got us access to a particular cathedral or something that would have cost $$ if we had gone on our own.
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Old 12-03-2015, 01:43 PM   #23
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Braumeister, looks like you'll be traveling on the Main River. it's a pretty industrial scene in some cities, like Nuremberg, but in others, like Bamberg, you step off of the boat and you're in the middle of town. Part of the cruise is on the Main-Danube canal, which actually crosses over at least one highway.

You might skip the beer in favor of the Franconian wine, which is quite a bit drier than the stuff from the Rhine region with a little more alcohol content. The river around Wurzburg is lined with vineyards. I've tried to find Franconian wine in the States to no avail ... so the cruise is a great opportunity to give it a try.

We traveled on Uniworld, a cruise line I found to be very hospitable and a little more luxury-oriented than the Avalon river cruise we took on the Rhone in France maybe 15 years ago. My one complaint is that the tour treated Frankfurt as kind of an afterthought. After days of one half-timbered town after another, it would have been nice to get a chance to take a good look at a modern German city.
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Old 12-03-2015, 01:51 PM   #24
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My one complaint is that the tour treated Frankfurt as kind of an afterthought. After days of one half-timbered town after another, it would have been nice to get a chance to take a good look at a modern German city.
Frankfurt is worth a day if you are connecting through FRA. It was heavily bombed in WWII, so a lot of restoration has been done, but there are plenty of newer areas to look at.
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Old 12-03-2015, 01:58 PM   #25
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Our cruise director was an opera fan, and on a free night in Prague a group of us went to the opera with him.
Yeah, these "extras" are excellent and can make a trip special.

When we were in Vienna, our chef took a small group of us on an "extra" tour to the Naschmarkt (no bus, we all just hopped on the subway). He always picks up supplies there for the boat when they stop in Vienna. He knew a number of the stall keepers and was able to arrange a number of samplings for us. Yum yum.
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Old 12-03-2015, 02:25 PM   #26
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You might skip the beer in favor of the Franconian wine
Bite your tongue!
With a username like mine, surely you can't be serious.

Actually, the Franconian beers are also unlike other Bavarian beers (but equally wonderful in their own way).

Our cruise will be on the Mosel, Rhine and Main rivers, so enough variety.

I'm extremely familiar with Munich, Bamberg, Cologne, Frankfurt, Wiesbaden, Garmisch, and a few others, so Germany is always a relaxed visit for me. This tour will provide a number of new cities I'm looking forward to.
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Old 12-03-2015, 03:20 PM   #27
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Bite your tongue!
With a username like mine, surely you can't be serious.

Actually, the Franconian beers are also unlike other Bavarian beers (but equally wonderful in their own way).

Our cruise will be on the Mosel, Rhine and Main rivers, so enough variety.

I'm extremely familiar with Munich, Bamberg, Cologne, Frankfurt, Wiesbaden, Garmisch, and a few others, so Germany is always a relaxed visit for me. This tour will provide a number of new cities I'm looking forward to.
I would be interested in a report after you're back. This is one of the itineraries that we have some interest in for the future.
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Old 12-03-2015, 03:29 PM   #28
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Our bike/barge trip ends near Koblenz. Now I have something other than cathedrals to look forward to. Thanks.
There's no better Spring afternoon than sitting at a table drinking incredible brew while watching tour boats on the water--whether it's on the Rhine River, the canals of Venice, Amsterdam or Copenhagen. They're some of the best memories of my life.
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Old 12-03-2015, 07:07 PM   #29
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I would be interested in a report after you're back. This is one of the itineraries that we have some interest in for the future.
Since this is our first river cruise, it's a very big deal. I'll be happy to give a report when we get back.
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Old 12-03-2015, 07:52 PM   #30
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Bite your tongue!
With a username like mine, surely you can't be serious.

Actually, the Franconian beers are also unlike other Bavarian beers (but equally wonderful in their own way).
I enjoyed the rauchbier in Bamberg. Like a bacon-flavored dopplebock.

You've been to Prague, I see -- it was the starting point of our cruise and we also arranged to spend extra time there. One sight I insisted on to my DW was the ossuary at Sedlec. Amazing sight. The local tour guides combine it with a visit to the old Bohemian city of Kutna Hora. Have you been there?
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Old 12-03-2015, 08:21 PM   #31
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Neither of us have ever been to Paris, and we'll have two nights there at the start.
That's at least two too few unless you plan to go again for longer. We've been 4 nights once, 3 another time, & could go back for another 3. Just so much.
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Old 12-04-2015, 04:29 AM   #32
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You've been to Prague, I see -- it was the starting point of our cruise and we also arranged to spend extra time there. One sight I insisted on to my DW was the ossuary at Sedlec. Amazing sight. The local tour guides combine it with a visit to the old Bohemian city of Kutna Hora. Have you been there?
Not yet, but already on my list for next visit. The coolest place visited on my last visit was this amazing old library:
The World’s Most Beautiful Library Is In Prague, Czech Republic | Bored Panda
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Old 12-04-2015, 04:30 AM   #33
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A tip-off is that the brochures, which come to our home by the dozens, contain only photos of gray-haired passengers.

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Also, I don't know how old you are, but DW and I were, at 55 and 54, the youngest on the ship by a good margin. Way too many conversations included, "I have a son about your age."
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Old 12-04-2015, 04:31 AM   #34
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That's at least two too few unless you plan to go again for longer. We've been 4 nights once, 3 another time, & could go back for another 3. Just so much.
Good point, and we'll most likely be back another time. This trip is already long enough, and DW doesn't enjoy travel beyond about two weeks.
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River cruise
Old 12-06-2015, 06:13 PM   #35
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River cruise

We have done a number of river cruises with Vantage, and like them.
We did a cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam, and enjoyed it. We have a trip story for that cruise. I have been told I cannot post the link for some reason. However, if you e-mail me, or PM me with your e-mail, I can send it to you.
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Old 12-06-2015, 07:29 PM   #36
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Did a Danube cruise from Bucharest to Budapest on Viking. Great trip.
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Old 12-08-2015, 10:46 PM   #37
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We did a Viking cruise. It was kind of like a bus tour, but without messing with daily packing, I would not expect many minutes where you can be on your own; they have included tours, scheduled meals, and scheduled transportation. That covers 80% or more of your time. You might find yourself outside of town (mooring location) and needing their transportation to get to a place where there is something to see. High or low river levels might make it a bus tour, and you've agreed to accept that in the fine print. I'm glad I went, but I'm not jonesing to book another. As to the cruising scenery, that was nice, but we found ourselves in dark slimy locks a good fraction of the time, and the top deck was closed mostly to get under bridges. That left the front deck, which could only hold 40 people.
Which cruise was this ?
Did you write up a report of your experience anywhere ?

I "think" I want to take a river cruise and have been looking at the Viking offerings. Somehow they got me on their list.
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Old 12-10-2015, 05:16 PM   #38
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The other downside to river cruises are cost--with Viking 250% the fares of ocean cruises and Tauck river cruises that cost almost 5 times that of a regular ocean cruise. Add airfare and a river cruise is a seriously expensive vacation.
My wife and I would like to take a few river cruises but they are pricey compared to ocean cruises. However, the real killer of the deal is the high price of airfare since you fly in to one city and leave from another instead of round trip prices. We have been on a dozen ocean cruises but not taken those that did not originate and end at the same port for the same reason. Not being a round trip airfare often increased the cost by 50%+. Am I missing something here or do I just not know the secret?

Cheers!
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Old 12-10-2015, 05:25 PM   #39
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My wife and I would like to take a few river cruises but they are pricey compared to ocean cruises. However, the real killer of the deal is the high price of airfare since you fly in to one city and leave from another instead of round trip prices. We have been on a dozen ocean cruises but not taken those that did not originate and end at the same port for the same reason. Not being a round trip airfare often increased the cost by 50%+. Am I missing something here or do I just not know the secret?

Cheers!
Yes, you missed something.

Flying into one city from the US, and returning from another usually costs about the same as a round trip ticket. So don't let that discourage you. It's sometimes referred to as "open jaw", and can be set up using "multi-city" on Google Flights.
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Old 12-10-2015, 05:35 PM   #40
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My wife and I would like to take a few river cruises but they are pricey compared to ocean cruises. However, the real killer of the deal is the high price of airfare since you fly in to one city and leave from another instead of round trip prices. We have been on a dozen ocean cruises but not taken those that did not originate and end at the same port for the same reason. Not being a round trip airfare often increased the cost by 50%+. Am I missing something here or do I just not know the secret?
For our 14 night Viking river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest we paid $2990 for the airfare ($1495 each). Not a really cheap fare, but not outrageous either. This was flying from Pittsburgh to Amsterdam, then Budapest back to Pittsburgh. (fyi: price of the cruise was $10,175 for two).

Also FYI, we are going on a non-river cruise with Viking this late winter in the Mediterranean and are flying roundtrip from Columbus to Barcelona for $1580 ($790).

All air was booked thru Viking.
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