2014 River Cruises: You’re NEVER Too Early to Book
I was trying to book a friend on a 2013 river cruise last week and could only find a cabin on one of the four different dates and itineraries she wanted, and even then, we could only find the very highest or very lowest accommodation. In following up our rep from the cruise line, we learned they are over 90% booked for their entire 2013 season. Most of what is left will be for late fall (a great time to be in Europe). In trying a few other lines, it became obvious that the best thing we could do for customers that want a river cruise in 2014 is to let them know NOW is the time to book!
If you’ve never taken a river cruise, then you’re like I was less than a year ago. . .25 years in the business but took my first river cruise last August. It was much different than I expected and all in a good way! You can read about my experience here and get a good handle on why we say river cruises are an extraordinary value if you’re into destination cruising! No matter which river or cruise line you choose, in my opinion, I can’t think of a better way to see as much as you will.
First Timers: What Rivers?
While there are a variety of rivers, the two that are most popular are the Rhine and the Danube. They both offer magnificent history; scenery and a variety of cultures, and you can’t go wrong with either. The Rhine trips will run from Amsterdam to Basel, Switzerland (or the reverse) and most stops will be in Germany. The Danube will run between Nuremberg and Prague (actually Nuremburg) and Budapest, or the reverse. While Nuremberg is the beginning or end point along the river, most lines couple a multi-night stay in Prague. Likewise, a couple nights in Budapest is also typical. There is an “Eastern Danube” variation that typically runs from Budapest in Hungary to Bucharest in Romania, visiting cities and towns in Croatia, Serbia and Bulgaria along the way.
Other European river cruises feature the Seine and Rhone in France, the Elbe in Germany and Czech Republic, the Duoro River in Spain and Portugal, and the Po River in Italy. There are also river cruises in and others in Russia, China and Vietnam.
First Timers: Which Cruise Line?
While the number of river cruise lines abound, CruiseDeals recommends the four cruise lines found below. We believe each offers a high-quality experience at their respective price points and all have a sterling reputation for satisfaction. While they do have guests from across the globe, most people will be from the U.S., Canada and primarily English-speaking countries. All communication onboard is conducted in English.
Avalon Waterways is a great choice—they’re in the middle of the pricing spectrum and offer a lot for the money. Most of their fleet is quite young and their standard staterooms are typically the largest to be found, running about 170 square feet. Staterooms are very nicely appointed, as are the bathrooms. Most of the Avalon ships feature a French Balcony concept, in which a floor-to-ceiling sliding glass door opens up and you’re cabin is essentially your balcony. While there ARE some ships that have an actual balcony, these tend to be very tiny (and your room will be smaller too to allow for the balcony). Avalon is also part of Globus, meaning they have a great “ground game” and can offer a lot of pre and post cruise city stays, land tours, and other extras that are integrated with your cruise. We also like Avalon for our clients because we’re one of their few Key Partners—this means we often have unadvertisable specials. You can see their video but ignore the ad at the beginning. . . we can get you a better deal any day—just visit our Avalon Waterways Deals Page here.
We’re also big fans of AmaWaterways because they have taken river cruising in a few innovative directions. They’re a “family owned and operated” company and take a great deal of personal pride and interest in their customers’ experiences. Rather than me go on about it, you should check out this five minute video—it will tell you about river cruising in general as well as what AmaWaterways offers. One thing Ama is best known for are their bicycles onboard—a great way to cover some extra ground while stopped or you can even bike between stops!
Uniworld Cruises is the choice of the experienced, luxury traveler. They have won countless awards and are considered more of a boutique cruise line for good reason. Their ships will generally have a lower capacity and feature a more plush, and traditional onboard experience . . .think charming French Hotel with impeccable service and you get the idea. They are partnered with Red Carnation Hotels and feature a similar ambiance and attention to detail. If you’re looking for the ultimate river cruise indulgence, you need to remember only one name—Uniworld.
Viking River Cruises
Viking River Cruises has probably done more to fuel the boom in river cruising than any other company in the business. They’re the largest, have been at it the longest and this year alone have introduced an unprecedented 10 new ships! Chances are you’ve even seen their television commercials. Viking also offers terrific value which is made even better with their 2014 Early Booking Discount—you’ll save big via 2 for 1 airfares on select itineraries. Want to get a preview of a Viking River Cruise in Europe—see their video:
River Cruising in 2013
Even though the choices may be limited, there are still some great cruises (and deals) to be had in 2013. Whether you’re looking to plan ahead for next year, are trying to put something together sooner, give us a call and let us introduce you to one of the best values in vacations, period.
Check out some of our favorite 2013 River Cruise Deals from Avalon Waterways: