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European river cruise advice?
Old 12-02-2015, 03:08 PM   #1
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European river cruise advice?

We are not cruisers -- one big ship (Holland America) and one small ship (Lindblad) and that's it. Both were in Alaska, and I must say we enjoyed the small ship experience at least ten times as much as the big ship.

So it's with a bit of trepidation that we bit the bullet and signed up for a European river cruise next year. We'll be going from Paris to Prague (obviously there will be some bus travel in the mix).

Neither of us have ever been to Paris, and we'll have two nights there at the start. I've been to Prague and absolutely love it, so we'll have four nights there at the end.

In between, we'll be in (among other places) Luxembourg, Koblenz, Heidelberg, Würzburg, and Bamberg. Being a beer guy, I'm familiar with Bamberg, but the other cities will be new to me.

Any advice about those places or river cruising in general would be much appreciated.
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Old 12-02-2015, 04:35 PM   #2
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You will love it! You didn't say which cruise line you have chosen. My one river cruise was with Avalon Waterways, which was superb. Prague was the only city on your itinerary that I visited on that cruise. Most of your entertainment will be on land. Wear comfortable shoes and bring an umbrella. Use the ship to eat, sleep, relax and get to know your fellow passengers in the evenings.
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Old 12-02-2015, 05:10 PM   #3
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We're using Viking river cruises, based on a recommendation from a neighbor.
Looking forward to it, but still with a bit of trepidation.
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Old 12-02-2015, 06:44 PM   #4
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My son and I went to Luxembourg as part of a 3 week Eurail trip a few years ago. It was toward the end of the trip and he was pretty tired of looking at old buildings, as was I. I saw a big green patch down in the valley below town and wondered what it was. We decided to go walk down and it was a relaxing foot path. I can't even remember what all was down there but if it wasn't a park it was like one, with flowers, a river, and lots of green space. We even stopped and played mini-golf. It was just a relaxing time that was a nice break from the tourist crowds we were a part of. I'm sure we missed some history but it would've been a blur, and instead I have a nice memory of the country.
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Old 12-02-2015, 07:41 PM   #5
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DW and I did Viking's Amsterdam to Budapest 15 day cruise last fall. Overall, it was a wonderful experience. The crew was friendly and the on-board food was short of excellent but was still very good. You might want to think about eating some of your meals in the cities you visit - it is too easy to stick to the safety of the shipboard meals. There is a lot of fun to be had by eating with the locals.

If you are at all knowledgeable about the history and culture of where you are headed then you might also consider carefully whether you want to tag along with the guided tours. The crews and tour guides did not seem to possess any knowledge beyond their scripts. (The Roman Empire and the Holy Roman Empire are emphatically NOT THE SAME THING!) So DW and I took off on our own most of the time and had much more fun. We were able to cover LOTS more ground than the guided tours and hit many sites and oddball interests that were not covered by the tours. Do check to see if the guided tours include admission to places that might cost you $$ if you are on your own. The tours seemed to focus more on shopping, current culture and the big tourist highlights. It helped that we were in mostly German speaking countries and I was finally able to put my college German to use.

I'd be happy to answer more specific questions if you have any.
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Old 12-02-2015, 07:43 PM   #6
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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 12-02-2015, 09:19 PM   #7
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We've long since lost count of the ocean cruises taken, but my wife just returned from her 3rd cruise in 12 months. Common every day cruises are such a great travel bargain, especially in very expensive regions like Scandanavia and the Mediterranean.

I've slowed down my travel pace in order to see and experience more of the locations visited. But river cruises are even slow by my standards.

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.

Next vacation for us is a 12 day Celebrity Cruise 4/2016 from Rome to Malta to the Greek Islands to Turkey and back to Venice. We got an incredible buy on the cruise and found airfare for 1/2 that of legacy carriers. Traveling in a thrifty manner has allowed us to take 5 vacations of a lifetime in the last 15 months.

You should try to arrange for a minimum 4 days in Paris, as the city's worthy of more than 2 days.

I too used to drink my way from one end of Europe to another, and Konisbacher Brewery in Koblenz is one of my favorites. The Andechs Brewery SW of Munich and the Augustiner Brewery in Salzburg are great--both run by "the brothers." We took the Nightlife Tour in Prague last year, and $1.05 beer was the only reasonably priced pleasure in the city--and it's a great beer city. Have a great time.
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Old 12-02-2015, 09:52 PM   #8
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A couple we met on a day trip in Strasbourg had just gotten off a CroisiEurope river cruise of the Rhine and really enjoyed it.

http://www.cruisecritic.com/reviews/...uiseLineID=175
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Old 12-03-2015, 05:57 AM   #9
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The only river cruises I have been on were VBT bike and barge trips which I loved. A good friend just got what she considers a great deal on a Viking River Cruise through Costco Travel. DW and I may consider Costco for a short notice getaway if the winter months get oppressive.
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Old 12-03-2015, 06:01 AM   #10
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The Costco Travel offerings I saw required booking pretty far in advance, but I haven't looked in a while.
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Old 12-03-2015, 06:20 AM   #11
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The tours seemed to focus more on shopping, current culture and the big tourist highlights.
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.
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Old 12-03-2015, 06:26 AM   #12
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The Costco Travel offerings I saw required booking pretty far in advance, but I haven't looked in a while.
Could be. I haven't looked. I just figured they might offer last minute bargains that we could look into if warnings of unusual cold turn out correct. Our last such warning was excessive shedding of our Golden Retrievers coats. A couple of people told us they turn over a complete new coat to prepare for a particularly cold winter. How my dogs' systems could make such a prediction I can't fathom.
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Old 12-03-2015, 06:31 AM   #13
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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.
That's exactly the reason that we tried it and why we would consider doing it again.
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Old 12-03-2015, 06:35 AM   #14
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Flooding in spring and low water levels in a summer heatwave are risks that can derail river cruises and turn them into bus trips. Both have happened in Europe within the past couple of years. There's nothing you can do to avoid this except to travel at other times of year. The Danube seems particularly vulnerable.
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Old 12-03-2015, 07:08 AM   #15
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Flooding in spring and low water levels in a summer heatwave are risks that can derail river cruises and turn them into bus trips. Both have happened in Europe within the past couple of years. theres nothing you can do to avoid this except to travel at other times of year. The Danube seems particularly vulnerable.
Don't forget strikes. On a bike trip in the Czech Republic, Germany, and Austria we took a boat on a brief segment of the Danube but got stuck at a lock that was being struck. We just hopped in cabs for the last 10K or so to the pickup spot for our bikes but a bunch of cruise boats were not going anywhere.
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Old 12-03-2015, 07:48 AM   #16
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The tours seemed to focus more on shopping
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Flooding in spring and low water levels in a summer heatwave are risks that can derail river cruises and turn them into bus trips.
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Don't forget strikes. ... a bunch of cruise boats were not going anywhere.
Thanks so much. If I can't have reassurance, at least it's nice to have good reasons for being nervous.
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Old 12-03-2015, 08:36 AM   #17
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I actually don't recall that the Viking tours focused on shopping. Maybe a trip to a vineyard suggested you buy some of their wine, but that seems normal for any vineyard trip to me. OK, the visit to the Black Forest focused on selling Cuckoo Clocks :-( .

I suppose a lot depends on the guide (not sure how you pick good ones). Some of the guides we've had have been excellent with lots of local and historical knowledge.

We enjoy the tours as a way to get a nice overview of an area. That said, if you know the area a bit, don't hesitate to strike out on your own. They don't mind at all.

Sometime the tours can get you into areas that are hard to get into. In Passau our group just walked into a wonderful organ concert (highlight of the trip for me, it was just wonderful - Bach as Bach was meant to be performed) that would have required prior reservations otherwise.

Its also fun to head into town for a good meal on your own. The people on the boat can be of assistance in setting this up and can help with taxis and reservations if you want them to.
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Old 12-03-2015, 08:52 AM   #18
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I actually don't recall that the Viking tours focused on shopping. Maybe a trip to a vineyard suggested you buy some of their wine, but that seems normal for any vineyard trip to me. OK, the visit to the Black Forest focused on selling Cuckoo Clocks :-( .

I suppose a lot depends on the guide (not sure how you pick good ones). Some of the guides we've had have been excellent with lots of local and historical knowledge.

We enjoy the tours as a way to get a nice overview of an area. That said, if you know the area a bit, don't hesitate to strike out on your own. They don't mind at all.

Sometime the tours can get you into areas that are hard to get into. In Passau our group just walked into a wonderful organ concert (highlight of the trip for me, it was just wonderful - Bach as Bach was meant to be performed) that would have required prior reservations otherwise.

Its also fun to head into town for a good meal on your own. The people on the boat can be of assistance in setting this up and can help with taxis and reservations if you want them to.
On my cruise with Avalon, shopping was not the focus of the tours. There was a lot of history and culture. We had excellent guides who were more than willing to share their knowledge if we wanted to explore independently. Our cruise director was an opera fan, and on a free night in Prague a group of us went to the opera with him.
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Old 12-03-2015, 09:04 AM   #19
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So we took the Viking Cruise Budapest to Amsterdam. We loved the experience.. we are in our 40s and yes everyone is much older, but I'm fine talking with people that are older and sharing stories... they have so much better travel advice and everyone that takes those types of cruises tend to be a very good health and thus seem to be very much enjoying their retirement and life.. we made several friends. Yes, churches and old buildings can get old after awhile which is where it is nice that you docked usually dead center of town and can just stroll out at your leisure. I enjoyed most of the tours especially those from Vienna to Budapest, and then Amsterdam windmills. It was fun listening to natives trying not be political while trying to explain their time "hosting" their friendly Russian liberators?

Just be sure if you do book the Viking cruise to wait for the free airfair (or $99 from a smaller airport). They also have some better deals so if you wait you will see a huge swing in pricing. We went with the free airfare as that saved us quite a bit and then once your there.. you can always extend.

The food was good on Viking and the house wine is certainly acceptable so that meant no real extra money having to
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Old 12-03-2015, 09:04 AM   #20
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and Konisbacher Brewery in Koblenz is one of my favorites.
Our bike/barge trip ends near Koblenz. Now I have something other than cathedrals to look forward to. Thanks.
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