Europe River Cruises are an Easy, Good Value Vacation

By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert

http://www.dreamdestinations.com

As often as I write about Europe River Cruises, the more I realize what a great vacation deal is provided for you while taking this type of vacation.  We have been in the travel business about 23 years, or so, we lead tours to Europe and we cannot provide all the things you get on a river cruise vacation.  While river cruises are not for everyone, for most folks, they are the best possible deal they could get to see much of Europe.

For me, their only key limitations are 1) not spending enough time in one location or 2) the place you want to visit is not near enough the chosen river you are sailing (by far the biggest limitation of a river cruise).

So, let’s explore the easy, great value of a river cruise vacation objectively—and determine its advantages and disadvantages together so you can determine if this vacation is right for you.

River Cruising is an Easy Vacation

Simple is a great word to describe a river cruise—almost all is included.  It is a comfortable, effortless vacation—the really only decisions, after deciding what river to cruise on during your vacation, are what tour to take or not take—the rest is provided for you.  You get enough choices during meals, the food and wine is usually great and there is always enough to do or see.  Unpack once, it is a single currency world, easy to get ashore, and you will learn something new and see great destinations in luxury.  Sounds enticing, doesn’t it?

71 River Cruise
Friends and loved ones on an AmaWaterways river cruise 2015

River Cruising is a Good Value Vacation

I constant emphasize the great value of a river cruise.  Here is a list of reasons I feel a river cruise is a great value:

  • A very spacious river cruise ship that has no more than 190 guests.
  • Pack and unpack only once during your 7 or more day cruise.
  • Sumptuous accommodations with every conceivable cabin amenity.
  • Our AmaWaterways Stateroom
    Our AmaWaterways Stateroom
  • Incredible gourmet cuisine, much of which is prepared when you order it.
  • Complimentary wines, beers, sodas and bottled water—some include all beverages.
  • Many have complimentary small-group sightseeing excursions in every port.
  • Some ships have a gym, sauna, massage, hairdresser, & pool.
  • Free internet and free use of bicycles (most lines).
  • Daily free onboard evening entertainment (usually a piano player, sometimes local groups that come on board).
  • Complimentary in cabin Internet, entertainment systems and free movies.
  • Dock right in the center of most towns & it takes only one minute to get on/off the ship.
  • Ability to see more of a region and experience the local culture in-depth.
  • A resort-casual onboard atmosphere –leave the formal wear at home.
  • All staterooms have a river view.
  • You should never get seasick on a river cruise ship—you can always see the shore.
  • Impeccable, warm and friendly service by an English-only speaking crew.
  • A staff that knows your name & favorite beverage or dining preference by the second day.

Advantages of a River Cruise Vacation

If you have read the reasons above in this blog that a river cruise is a good value, you can see the many advantages of a river cruise.  It is a destination oriented vacation, viewed from the river—impossible to get on a land only trip.  Sailing through some of the scenic parts of the various rivers, the sights are unbelievable—the Rhine River Gorge or Wachau Valley—come to mind—a river view is the best way to experience these fabulous destinations.

Schonbuhl Castle Watermarked
Schonbuhl Castle–the Watchman of the Wachau

We lead tours to Europe and cannot replicate what a good river cruise line does and does with luxury, great food and wine—it takes a large, well-organized company to pull off such a great vacation. 

Simple, luxurious, fun, great sights, wonderful food and wine, excellent service—what more could you want?

2014 Reception
Key Crew of the AmaDagio 2014. In front from left to right Cruise Director Kris, Hotel Manager Andras, and Captain Danny. In the background, bartenders Tomas and Peter.

Disadvantages of a River Cruise Vacation

Here are some of the limitations of a river cruise:

Since the river boats often dock in the heart of older European Cities and villages, the older towns are often cobble-stoned roads and pathways that are uneven and may require managing a lot of stairs and walking.  For a person in a wheel chair, this is a huge problem.  The walking distances sometimes are very long, often a couple of miles or so, so folks with limited mobility may have problems.  Some companies have a slow walker type tours that can help this problem.

Old Town Lyon
Old Town Lyon–lots of stairs & cobble-stone roads

Another limitation is water levels, which can be unpredictable.  Sometimes, the levels are too high or low for safe passage.  This can result in missed stops or bus rides to the location that is unreachable due to water levels.  By far the Elbe River has the most low water situations in Europe and recently there have been problems around the Passau area.

img_2098
The Veste Oberhaus (bishop’s fortress) overlooking Passau–it is a low water area.

Another limitation is called rafting by the river boat companies.  Rafting means due to limited dock areas, river boats often tie up next to one another.  This can cause problems getting off the boat, may cause cabin privacy issues and most importantly, limit the view from outside your cabin.

3 AmaWaterways riverships Rafted
3 AmaWaterways riverships Rafted in Vienna

A limitation sometimes is the pace of the tours.  This is not as big a factor as the other limitations since groups are often split into groups that want a faster paced experience or a slower paced tour and the better lines have optional tours.

As I indicated in the beginning of this blog, the biggest limitation for me is not getting to spend enough time in a location, or the destination is just too far from the river to visit.  We have often overcome this visit by returning on our own to further explore an area, either as a separate trip or a pre/post cruise.

My Final Thoughts

River Cruises a great vacation—they are easy, a great value and for me the advantages out weight the disadvantages.  We have a lot of experience helping folks take these great vacations—we hope soon you will seek our assistance to experience the trip of a lifetime.

We are travel experts, ocean and river cruise experts, and Europe destination experts.  We have first-hand-knowledge of almost anywhere you want to visit in Europe.  We know our products and the vendors who sell them to you.  We have designed special tours for dozens of clients, led several and will continue to find just the right vacation that will exceed your expectations.

When you are spending your hard-earned money for a vacation, you want an advisor who can match you with the right trip.  You want someone who will understand your expectations and fuel your anticipation (or excitement) to get you the best possible trip experience.  And, you want someone who can help you with the decision making process.  We think we have all these qualities.

Whatever your Dream Destinations are, we are here to help you get the best possible vacation based on what is important to you!  We will provide you high quality, expertly planned travel.  Please give me a call 713-397-0188 (Hank) or email me at hschrader@dreamdestinations.com.  We want to help you:  Savor life…make memories…Visit Dream Destinations!  Your journey begins here!

Hank Schrader
Hank Schrader

HANK is a certified Western European Destination Specialist (DS) who has been traveling to Europe for 45 years.  He is also an Accredited Cruise Counselor (ACC), conferred by the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA).  This recognized expert in cruise and leisure travel is a retired Army Officer, and taught World Geography for 8 years.  He is a `71 graduate of West Point and has earned 2 master’s degrees.   His other Certifications:

  • AmaWaterways River Cruise Specialist
  • Viking River Cruise Specialist
  • Scenic River Cruise Specialist
  • Emerald Waterways  Specialist
  • Avalon Waterways Specialist
  • Brit Agent

 

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Giants on the Danube River

By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert

http://www.dreamdestinations.com

Starting in May 2019, there will be 2 double size river cruise ships on the Danube.  The Crystal Mozart is already sailing and the AmaMagna will debut in May 2019.

For many seasoned river cruisers, this may be the next step in luxury river cruising.  For others, this may be an unnecessary use of space and extra costs.

With full disclosure, this blog is based on research only (I have never sailed on either ship), and I will try to tackle this new concept so you can be updated on news of these two unique offerings for river cruise guests.

Some Basics About these Giants

Traditional river cruise ships have been constrained by lock size—the max size is about 38 ft wide and 443 feet long.  The main rivers of Europe can handle these longships, but a portion of the Danube before the Main-Danube Canal can handle wider ships.  Two companies have used this area to build river cruise ships that are twice as wide as ordinary river cruise ships.

Schonbuhl Castle Watermarked
Schonbuhl Castle–the Watchman of the Wachau–one sight you will see on either ship

The Crystal Mozart was originally constructed in 1987.  Crystal acquired the ship, stripped it down to its hull and rebuilt the entire ship.  It entered service in 2016.

The AmaMagna has been built as a new river ship.  It will start sailing with guests in May of 2019.

With more space due to the doubled width of the ship, each of the giants of the Danube are designed to offer its guest more choices on a bigger river ship.  It clearly is aimed for luxury guests who like more space and expect more venues onboard.

The AmaMagna

The AmaMagna will still be 443 feet long but 72 feet wide—double the width of most longships.  It will hold 196 passengers in 98 staterooms.  By comparison, other AmaWaterways longships have 78 staterooms for 156 passengers.

Ship_37_AmaMagna_Exterior_rend_04_FULL
AmaMagna Photo AmaWaterways

The two key changes to the AmaMagna are larger staterooms and the addition of a Wine Bar/Restaurant.  There also will be an Al Fresco Dining area on the bow (front) of the ship.  It still will retain the normal features of AmaWaterways ships— a main lounge, fitness room, hair salon, massage rooms (there are two on the AmaMagna compared to one on the other longships in the AmaWaterways fleet), main restaurant, a reception area and the hugely successful feature, The Chef’s Table Restaurant.

So let’s talk stateroom size—here is the rundown: There will be one suite at 710 square feet with a full balcony; 6 suites at 474 square feet with full balcony; 46 suites at 355 square feet with a full balcony; 34 staterooms at 252 square feet with full balcony and 11 staterooms at 205 square feet with fixed windows—I affectionately call this area the swan deck, as part of the room is at the waterline and the swans often swim by for a unique view of them above and below the waterline from the window.

Ship_37_stateroom_4_gallery
355 sq. ft. suite on the AmaMagna. Photo AmaWaterways

The AmaMagna will sail two 7 day itineraries on the Danube.  They are the Romantic Danube (Vilshofen to Budapest) and the Melodies of the Danube (Budapest to Vilshofen).  For those of us who have sailed the upper Danube before, the ports are similar to previous AmaWaterways itineraries with some minor adjustments.

The Crystal Mozart

Mozart_Night-400x200
The Crystal Mozart in Budapest. Photo Crystal River Cruises

The Crystal Mozart is 395 feet long and 75 feet wide.  It holds 154 guests in 79 staterooms according to the brochure, but I keep coming up with a passenger count of 158 based on two to a stateroom (79 x 2)—some publications list the passenger count as 160.  41 cabins have fixed windows on the first deck, which is known as the Harmony deck.  They are all 219 square feet. 

Mozart_Suite_Fixed_Window-300x200
Fixed Window Suite on the Crystal Mozart. Photo Crystal River Cruises

The remaining cabins are on the Seahorse deck, on deck 2.  On this deck there are 24 French balcony cabins—23 are 219 square feet and one is 209 square feet. The 14 remaining cabins are considered penthouses.  There are two 883 square foot suites with 2 beds; and 12 staterooms of 330 square feet.  None have outside balconies—there are only French balconies on the Mozart.  The twelve 330 square feet staterooms have bathtubs, but the two larger stateroom only have showers—seems odd to me, as a bathtub is often a desired luxury feature. 

Mozart_Penthouse-1-300x200
330 sq. ft. Penthouse Suite on the Crystal Mozart. Photo Crystal River Cruise

Each stateroom on the Mozart has a butler; a stocked mini-refrigerator and a welcome bottle of champagne and two bottles of wine in suite. 

On deck 3, the Crystal deck, Crystal Ocean cruisers will recognize many of the venue names.  Venues include the Blue Bar and Grill, Connoisseur Club, Palm Court, the Cove Piano Bar, the Vintage Room, the Waterside Restaurant and the Bistro Mozart.  The deck has a wrap-around Promenade.

Mozart_Palm_Court-1-300x200
Palm Court on the Crystal Mozart. Photo Crystal River Cruises

The Crystal Mozart has 4 itineraries for 2018.  These include the Treasures of the Danube, a 10 day loop that starts and ends in Vienna (fares start at $4078 per person); the Danube Serenade a 7 day eastbound starting in Vienna and first sails west through Austria and then sails east to Budapest (fares start at $2,803); another 7 day Danube Serenade that sails west from Budapest to Melk and then loops back to Vienna (again the fare starts at $2,803); and finally a 11 day Eastern Danube Discovery that sails from Vienna eastward to Belgrade and then back to Vienna (fares start at $5,525).  For 2019 they have added a trip called Danube Dreams and Discovery for 7 days, which is a modified loop from Vienna (fares start at $2,805).  It also will sail a special Christmas cruise, one time only, starting on 20 December for 13 days (fares start at $5,415)—it is available for 2018 and 2019. 

Media Coverage

While almost all the press lauds the Crystal Mozart as a true luxury ship, there are just some nagging coverage items.  Some note the king size beds limit space in some cabins, negating the extra space of the double wide boat.  The Mozart does not have an elevator.  The Vintage Dining Room is an additional cost and depending upon the wines selected runs from about $300 up to $2000 per person.  Some have complained there is a run on this room and all passengers do not have access.  For an all-inclusive line, there sure seems to be a lot of extras to spend your money on—optional tours, watercraft, Michelin Star dining on shore are not included.

With a ship yet to launch, it is really unfair to make comparisons with the Crystal Mozart.  There are some differences, however, that leap out at me.  Here they are:

  • No elevator on the Mozart; there is one on the AmaMagna.
  • No outside balconies on the Mozart; many outside balconies on the AmaMagna.
  • Extra charge for the Vintage Dining Room on the Crystal Mozart (as I noted earlier $300—$2,000 depending on the wines selected per person); Jimmy’s Wine Bar is included on the AmaMagna.
  • A one hour limit on Wi-Fi on the Mozart (there is an extra charge for more than one hour); unlimited on the AmaMagna.
  • The Mozart is all-inclusive and has butler service; the AmaMagna has included wine, beer and beverages with meals and a one hour Sip and Sail free cocktail hour but has no butler service.
  • Both have unique water sports boats and extras. At present the AmaMagna items are free; there sometimes is an extra charge for items on the Crystal Mozart.

I will be very interested in the 3rd Edition of the Berlitz River Cruising in Europe that is due out in early July 2018—I will report and update this blog once I can get the new edition.  The author, Douglas Ward,  is about as impartial as it comes when reviewing river cruising in Europe, so I try to use him when possible to help my evaluations.

My Final Thoughts

Giants on the Danube—it is a way to get an ocean cruise sized cabin on a rivership.  Are the limitations in size and extra offerings of these giant riverships worth it?  I’m really not sure yet—both carry an extra price tag that seems pretty steep to me. 

On the AmaMagna, a swan deck cabin starts at $3799 per person and main and upper deck cabins are an additional $1799 (raises the price to $5,598 per person) to $9,999 (raises the price to $13,798 per person) depending upon the cabin selected.  By comparison, you can book a lower category French balcony cabin for about $4200 per person on an AmaWaterways longship—that’s a difference of $1,398 per person ($5,598-$4,200=$1,398).

On the Crystal Mozart, it is really hard to get an exact fare without calling the company for a quote.  The brochure only lists starting fares (I listed them earlier in this blog); AmaWaterways is upfront about the stateroom costs.  On one booking site (Affordable tours), I found some crossed out prices for a June 30—July 10, 2018 sailing on the Treasures of the Danube by category for the Mozart (the brochure states the fares start from $4,070 but it includes prices for 3 possible Crystal river ships), so here goes:  Fixed window stateroom $7,290–&7,655 per person; a French Balcony was $9,250 per person; the Penthouse suite was $16, 235 per person and the 2 room Suite was $37,305 per person.  The website claims these are brochure rates, per person in US dollars, but I have no way to verify if these are accurate.

There is a market for this type of river cruise—those who want more personal space and are willing to pay for it.  It answers the one problem some river cruise clients’ voice—they want a bigger stateroom, similar to the staterooms they have experienced on an ocean cruise liner.  For folks who love Crystal Ocean cruises and expect the same level of service and amenities, they should also be good matches for a Crystal River Cruise.

My guess is that when the AmaMagna starts sailing, the press will call it a draw when comparing the Crystal Mozart and the AmaMagna.  It will be interesting to see if I’m correct on this prediction.

Should you go one of these giants?  It will be right for some, but do not fear–we are travel experts, ocean and river cruise experts, and Europe destination experts who can guide you through these decisions and help you determine if the increased space and amenities are worth the extra cost.  We have first-hand knowledge of almost anywhere you want to visit in Europe.  We know our products and the vendors who sell them to you.  We have designed special tours for dozens of clients, led several and will continue to find just the right vacation that will exceed your expectations.

When you are spending your hard-earned money for a vacation, you want an advisor who can match you with the right trip.  You want someone who will understand your expectations and fuel your anticipation (or excitement) to get you the best possible trip experience.  And, you want someone who can help you with the decision-making process.  We think we have all these qualities.

Whatever your Dream Destinations are, we are here to help you get the best possible vacation based on what is important to you!  We will provide you high quality, expertly planned travel.  Please give me a call 713-397-0188 (Hank) or email me at hschrader@dreamdestinations.com.  We want to help you:  Savor life…make memories…Visit Dream Destinations!  Your journey begins here!

Hank Schrader
Hank Schrader

HANK is a certified Western European Destination Specialist (DS) who has been traveling to Europe for 45 years.  He is also an Accredited Cruise Counselor (ACC), conferred by the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA).  This recognized expert in cruise and leisure travel is a retired Army Officer, and taught World Geography for 8 years.  He is a `71 graduate of West Point and has earned 2 master’s degrees.   His other Certifications:

  • AmaWaterways River Cruise Specialist
  • Viking River Cruise Specialist
  • Scenic River Cruise Specialist
  • Emerald Waterways  Specialist
  • Avalon Waterways Specialist
  • Brit Agent

AmaWaterways Blue Danube Discovery 2018

By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert

http://www.dreamdestinations.com

As I write this, I’m on the AmaCerto in the Rhine-Danube Canal.  It is our 5th trip on the AmaCerto—feels like home.  Much has changed since 2009 in river cruising—almost all is for the better.

So, I thought I’d write about AmaWaterways and the Danube—one of the two most popular routes for river cruisers in Europe.

The Route

Our cruise started in Budapest and will end in Nuremberg.  We have sailed this direction upstream 3 times; twice downstream.  The amazing scenery has not changed much—the Wachau Valley has to be the one of the best cruises for just enjoying the upper Danube River scenery.  It is a UNESCO World Heritage site, so there are no bridges to interrupt the views.  Unlike the Rhine River Gorge, with castles dotting almost every hill, the region has only three or four great castles.

Aggstein Castle
The ruins of Aggstein Castle

 

Schonbuhl Castle
Schonbuhl Castle on the Danube River

But the quaint villages, sometimes dominated by a fortified church complex, and the steep vineyards provide a relaxing and fun sailing experience—the castles are not missed.

While we chose to sail on the river in the Wachau Valley, you could also bike through this wonderful place.  AmaWaterways was a pioneer in bicycle tours on the Danube and the 20 mile bike ride was a highlight for many—it may be one of the best cycling rides in Europe.

Other stops before the Wachau included, Bratislava (capital of Slovakia) and Vienna (capital of Austria).  Even after multiple stops in both places, we find these incredible cities—vibrant and deserving of more exploring.  Also, the small village of Durstein and its blue-towered monastery and castle ruins where Richard Lionhearted was held in prison, is another great stop.  We then sailed to Melk with its famous Abbey, ornate chapel, and collection of rare books and manuscripts.

Later today we port in Passau, the first city on the Danube in Germany.  It sits on a peninsula at the confluence of the Inn, Ilz and Danube Rivers. 

img_2098
The Veste Oberhaus (Bishop’s fortress) overlooking Passau

We will then visit Regensburg (we are going on a beer and sausage tasting tour) and finally off to Nuremberg.  All are great stops.

What is New Onboard

While much remains the same, there are two great new features on the cruise.  They are the new wellness program and the Sip ‘n’ Sail cocktail hour just before dinner.  Both are real hits in our opinion.

While most who know me well, would say my favorite change is the new included Sip ‘n’ Sail free cocktail hour, but, I was most impressed with the wellness program.  Our wellness hostess, Vanda, conducted stretching classes, core strengthening classes and bike rides.  What impressed me most that it was all age appropriate and the response on board has been very good.  As a former physical fitness instructor in college and for sports teams, it was interesting to see how well the programs were conducted and how the cruisers enjoyed adding a little fitness to their daily routine. 

Another big change was the Sip ‘n’ Sail program.  Free (included) drinks prior to dinner is great.  Wine, beer and a good selection of well drinks—even martinis are included.  Great improvement!

What remains the Same

Anne always reminds me that consistency is the key to great travel.  On AmaWaterways, the good things remain the same or are slightly better than past cruises. 

Let’s start with the cruise manager, Kata.  We sailed with her in 2011, and when we met up again, we were greeted with a hug and total enthusiasm.  We weren’t clients—we were old friends getting to share a trip together.  For those who have never sailed on a river cruise, the cruise manager, arranges tours, and is the person who helps you enjoy the cruise.  He or she is the person who makes or breaks the cruise for you and as always, AmaWaterways delivered.

3 Great Ladies
Kata, Anne in her new Dirndl dress with Carmen of the bar staff.

Food and service is excellent—always well planned meals.  One item of note—portions are slightly smaller and for the baby boomers of our generation, this is a smart move.  You can always have more food, but even for big eaters like me, the portions were properly sized. 

Each year, the included Chef’s Table menu changes.  I liked meal this year,  and the wonderful view from the stern of our river ship.  It is the little extras that make the difference—the Chef’s Table remains a hit.

Chef's Table
The Chef’s Table

Bar service is outstanding and the wines were particularly good with meals.  It still amazes me how generous the wine pours are by the bar staff—the idea is to give you enough and not too much, but you will seldom find your wine glass empty for long during meals.

Our cabin was always clean and efficient.  I find the cabins well designed and perfectly adequate.  Although some would prefer a larger cabin, the constraints of the river lock system have limited cabin size.  Don’t despair—larger cabins are coming to AmaWaterways in 2019 with the AmaMagna—I will write a future blog about the two large river cruise ships that will sail a portion of this route we are currently sailing. 

I can’t say enough about the crew—they work 18 hour days, and every detail is about making your vacation better.

Our Cruise Experience

We are traveling with a lifelong friend and West Point classmate, Jeff Rock.  Rock is a straightforward guy, so I take his comments to heart.  He sailed the entire Danube—2 weeks on the AmaCerto.  His email to me prior to us joining him in Budapest —“This is a great way to travel!  Can’t wait to see you.”

Jeff and Hank
Friends for over 47 years–Jeff Rock, my West Point Classmate, and Hank

He plans to sail again with AmaWaterways.  Not a real surprise to me—almost all who go on a river cruise we plan, go again.

My Final Thoughts

When folks find our we have sailed this route before, they want to know why—wouldn’t it be boring?  Our response —it never is!  You can’t see it all on the first trip and when you consider the different seasons, it changes.  Spring brings new life, summer is full of flowers and green trees, autumn is ablaze with color and Christmas is a festival not to be missed (don’t forget about our Christmas cruise on the Rhine in December of this year).  These are wonderful places to visit and we hope one day you will let us plan a trip to one or all of these great places.

When you are spending your hard-earned money for a vacation, you want an advisor who can match you with the right trip.  You want someone who will understand your expectations and fuel your anticipation (or excitement) to get you the best possible trip experience.  And, you want someone who can help you with the decision-making process.  We think we have all these qualities.

Whatever your Dream Destinations are, we are here to help you get the best possible vacation based on what is important to you!  We will provide you high quality, expertly planned travel.  Please give me a call 713-397-0188 (Hank) or email me at hschrader@dreamdestinations.com.  We want to help you:  Savor life…make memories…Visit Dream Destinations!  Your journey begins here!

Hank Schrader
Hank Schrader

HANK is a certified Western European Destination Specialist (DS) who has been traveling to Europe for 46 years.  He is also an Accredited Cruise Counselor (ACC), conferred by the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA).  This recognized expert in cruise and leisure travel is a retired Army Officer, and taught World Geography for 8 years.  He is a `71 graduate of West Point and has earned 2 master’s degrees.   His other Certifications:

  • AmaWaterways River Cruise Specialist
  • Viking River Cruise Specialist
  • Scenic River Cruise Specialist
  • Emerald Waterways  Specialist
  • Avalon Waterways Specialist
  • Brit Agent

 

Are We Europe River Cruise Experts?

By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert

www.dreamdestinations.com

Almost every blog I write starts with the byline—Europe River Cruise Expert.  Great sounding words, but are we really Europe river cruise experts?

According to the 2015 Census, there were 105,085 travel agents in the U.S.  To evaluate what constitutes an expert in the travel industry, I believe there are 6 good measures that can provide a comprehensive and objective evaluation to determine if a travel advisor is truly an expert.  Here are the measurement factors:  1) experience; 2) certification; 3) knowledge of the industry; 4) first-hand knowledge of the industry; 5) professional organization membership and 6) can you trust them?  We can use these 6 factors to determine the difference between travel advisors and help you decide—what makes us special about our knowledge of river cruises and how do we use that knowledge to help you get a better river cruise vacation experience.

So, let’s explore what makes a travel advisor a river cruise expert and try to answer the question—Are we Europe river cruise experts??

Our Europe River Cruise Experience

We have been in the travel business for over 21 years.  We have planned dozens of river cruise vacations and led several river cruise groups.  We have helped clients sail on the following rivers in Europe:  Douro, Dordogne, Danube, Main, Moselle, Rhone, Rhine, Saone and Seine

Budapest at Night with Dream Destinations Slogan
Budapest at Night

Experience is important but only if it translates to expertise.  Here’s just one example–I just got a text Monday (2 April 2018) from a long time client.  He is on an AmaWaterways Captivating Rhine cruise with members of his family.  It read “Everything is going great Hank.  Motoring down the Rhine to Cologne.  Our thanks to you and Anne.  Top Shelf (with a Thumbs Up symbol).”  Sounds like a very satisfied client to me.

One of our real advantages as travel advisors, is that we listen to our clients and then match them to the right cruise line and get them the right trip at a good value.  Since all river cruises are a good trips, it really takes a lot of experience knowing the nuances between river cruise lines.  Another factor is repeat clients—folks who sail on another river cruise or book a trip to Europe, booking with us, after we planned their first river cruise.  Of our top 20 clients, 19 have planned either another river cruise, a Europe tour or a luxury cruise—that’s 95%!

River Cruise Clients
Some of our great clients on a river cruise escorted by us

To my way of thinking, we have unique river cruise experience when compared to other travel agents.

Our River Cruise Certifications

We both are Accredited Cruise Counselors, certified by the Cruise Lines International Association.  We both are also certified Western Europe Destination Specialists, certified by the Travel Institute.  Along with these certifications, Anne is a Uniworld River Cruise Specialist.  Hank is a river cruise specialist for 5 lines—AmaWaterways, Avalon, Emerald, Scenic and Viking River Cruises.  The importance of certification is that you, the consumer, can have faith that we have completed professional courses about river cruising, cruises and European destinations and we can use that knowledge to match you to the right cruise line, at the right time, to get you the best vacation possible.

Since we specialize in European river and ocean cruises, and European land vacations, I believe our certifications are very good when compared to the rest of the travel industry.

Knowledge of the Europe River Cruise Industry

Since 2009, we have spent the last nine years learning as much as possible about Europe river cruising.  We have made some great industry contacts and use these strategic partnerships benefit you. 

On our AmaWaterways Tulip Time Cruise
Anne and Hank with Kristin Karst, Executive Vice President of AmaWaterways

We have done joint presentations with representatives of river cruise lines in seminars.

Shelia and Hank
Shelia (AmaWaterways Business Development Manager for Texas) and Hank with our Taste of Bordeaux Poster Board

  We can often solve problems, get an upgrade, or enhance your experience through our contacts.  We are with you every step of the way.  Our 2016 Comparisons of Europe River Cruising is unique—it is a 73 slide PowerPoint PDF presentation that is an in-depth study of the 8 major river cruise lines.  Here is the link, if you would like to read it. European River Cruise Comparisons

Another factor to consider is our blogs about Europe River cruising.  We have written 25 in-depth blogs about river cruising.

Here is the link to our blog archives about European river cruising archives

In my mind, we are among the best in the travel industry when it comes to knowledge about the European river cruise industry.

First-Hand Knowledge of Europe River Cruising

We have sailed on 15 different river cruises and will have completed 17 by the year’s end.  Put another way, we have spent nearly 4 months river cruising.  If that was not enough, we have written 50 guides to the major cities of Europe.  Many of those guides are useful for a river cruise—either the city is a stop on the cruise or they can be useful for a pre or post cruise visit to another European destination.  Not only can we get you the right cruise, we can advise you on the follow on trips.  The added plus is that I taught World Geography and Advanced placement Human Geography for 8 years at the high school level—another part of our unique qualifications as travel advisors.

Wine on AmaWaterways
Wine on AmaWaterways–our first river cruise in 2009

Since I have been traveling to Europe since 1971 and we try to go to Europe at least twice a year for the last 20 years, it would be hard to find a travel advisor with as much first-hand experience as we have.

Anne and Hank
Anne and Hank on a great river cruise

Members of a Professional Organization

We have always felt that membership in professional organizations demonstrates a level of expertise.  We are members of CLIA—the Cruise Lines International Association—the world’s largest cruise line association.  We are also members of the Better Business Bureau (with an A+ rating) and the Travel Institute—two great professional organizations.  Each of these organization have high standards of conduct, continuing education, and ethical behavior required to continue as members.

Like some proof—he is a link to a review on our Better Business Bureau—it would seem some of our clients hold us in high regard.  Our Better Business Bureau Review

Again, I think this is another factor that helps make us special.

Trust

Perhaps this is the most important measure of an expert—can you trust them?  Just knowing a lot about river cruising is not enough—will your travel advisor put your interests first when helping you plan your vacation.  Anyone can claim they are trustworthy, but the only way to know for sure is to see their actions.  A good clue may be past life experiences—I graduated from West Point in 1971 and our training emphasized being leaders of character.  Anne and I hold our reputations a fair and honest business professionals as the most important part of our business.  She and I always try to do the right thing when no one is looking.  So many of our clients trust our recommendations, their personal information and family situations and their money to us—it is humbling to say the least.

While this may be the hardest factor to evaluate objectively, the high number of repeat clients (booked another vacation with us) we have is very high in our industry.  We have a 41% repeat rate of our top 68 clients and that number moves to 50% when you factor out the 12 new clients we added this year and have not had a chance to become a repeat client yet.

My Final Thoughts

I think we have unique qualifications as Europe River cruises advisors and these qualifications truly make us experts.  Time during travel is precious.  Trip planning is not easy.  Time and money issues are complex—we all want the best at the least possible price.  We help you solve those complex issues, saving you hassles, time and worry.  We are travel experts, ocean and river cruise experts, and Europe destination experts.  We have first-hand knowledge of almost anywhere you want to visit in Europe.  We know our products and the vendors who sell them to you.  We have designed special tours for dozens of clients, led several and will continue to find just the right vacation that will exceed your expectations.

When you are spending your hard earned money for a vacation, you want an advisor who can match you with the right trip.  You want someone who will understand your expectations and fuel your anticipation (or excitement) to get you the best possible trip experience.

Whatever your Dream Destinations are, we are here to help you get the best possible vacation based on what is important to you!  We will provide you high quality, expertly planned travel.  Please give me a call 713-397-0188 (Hank) or email me at hschrader@dreamdestinations.com.  We want to help you:  Savor life…make memories…Visit Dream Destinations!  Your journey begins here!

Hank Schrader
Hank Schrader

HANK is a certified Western European Destination Specialist (DS) who has been traveling to Europe for 45 years.  He is also an Accredited Cruise Counselor (ACC), conferred by the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA).  This recognized expert in cruise and leisure travel is a retired Army Officer, and taught World Geography for 8 years.  He is a `71 graduate of West Point and has earned 2 master’s degrees.   His other Certifications:

  • AmaWaterways River Cruise Specialist
  • Viking River Cruise Specialist
  • Scenic River Cruise Specialist
  • Emerald Waterways  Specialist
  • Avalon Waterways Specialist
  • Brit Agent

My Take on the Most Interesting Man in the World for River Cruising

By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert

“I don’t always river cruise when on vacation, but when I do, I prefer to travel with Dream Destinations!  Stay adventurous, my Friend!”

Since I have a salt and pepper beard, my family sometimes says I look a little like the older actor who used to portray the Most Interesting Man in the World.  So, I decided to take it one step further, and write my own ad as the Most Interesting Man in the World for River Cruising for Dream Destinations.

So, tongue in cheek, here are eight good reasons you should travel with Dream Destinations on a river cruise, as seen by the most interesting man in the world!

Less Stress

Although the most interesting man in the world knows all the differences between river cruise companies, do you really think you do?  My guess is that like most US travelers, you have heard a little about Viking due to the ads on PBS, but would be surprised to learn there are eight or more options of vendors offering river cruise vacations.  Feeling your blood pressure rise?  Relax, we got this!  Not only do we know the difference, we have earned their certifications, if they have one.  Need more proof?—just visit our website page to read our 73 PowerPoint slide presentation River Cruise Comparisons.  See the Presentation

We increase Convenience

The most interesting man in the world loves convenience. Want a vacation that is easy?—river cruising is the answer.  When you river cruise, you unpack and pack once, you see unique scenery, the small size of the ship allows chances to make new friends, you port in or close to the city centers so there is more time on shore to really experience the culture of the sights and it is almost totally inclusive—the accommodations, meals and tours are all included.  It is so easy!

 

This room and the staff would please the most interesting man in the world!

We validate your prior travel experiences

Although the most interesting man in the world has been everywhere, he also realizes that you have traveled a lot also.  You are a savvy traveler.  You often have done your homework.  Your travels have taught you a lot and you know what you like and don’t like.  We help use your prior knowledge to make sure the trip is just right for you.  We also make sure all your facts and perceptions are correct and you can trust us to tell it like it is.

 

The most interesting man in the world has been on the entire Danube, including the Iron Gates between Serbia and Romania.

We add value

The most interesting man in the world always brings value to all he does.  So do we—we help you get the most for your vacation dollars.  Value is added when we design a trip that matches your particular desires and needs.  It takes a lot of experience in the travel business to get this right, but we have the skills and knowledge to make it happen.

our-tour-guide
Our Tour Guide in Kitzingen on an AmaWaterways Late Risers Tour–she was a great guide!

The most interesting man in the world would like the value of included late risers tours!

We increase trip satisfaction

When you are the most interesting man in the world, happiness is a way of life and he often helps others find happiness.  So do we–happiness is our business.  The goal of every trip we plan is to exceed your expectations.  We really care about your experience.  If you use us, you will likely experience a vacation you will talk about for the rest of your life.

71 River Cruise
A great group cruise that exceeded expectations

We often offer you travel ideas you never knew existed

Although the most interesting man in the world has complete knowledge of almost every travel experiences and travel opportunities, you may not be so informed.  That where we come in–taking a trip from good to great is our special area of expertise.  Knowing what is possible to enhance the trip always results in better travel.

We remind about items you might have forgotten for your trip

With his fabulous memory, the most interesting man in the world seldom forgets anything.  Since we plan a lot of great trips, we help you make sure you will not forget anything.  It is the little details that make the difference.  Why hassle with all those annoying details?  Just take a deep breath, and let us do it for you!

Every year we have a couple of outstanding group trips

While the most interesting man in the world could organize travel groups, he would rather have Dream Destinations do it for him.  What a smart guy!  For a small, two person agency, we have an out-sized ability to produce unique group travel experience.  We have escorted folks on river cruises, D Day anniversary celebrations, and other Europe ocean cruises.  Have a group that wants to travel together?—we are you folks to get the job done right!

 

The most interesting man in the world would have enjoyed this group!

My Final Thoughts

I don’t always river cruise when on vacation, but when I do, I prefer to travel with Dream Destinations!  Stay adventurous, my Friend!”

We are travel experts, ocean and river cruise experts, and Europe destination experts.  We have first-hand knowledge of almost anywhere you want to visit in Europe.  We know our products and the vendors who sell them to you.  We have designed special tours for dozens of clients, led several and will continue to find just the right vacation that will exceed your expectations.

When you are spending your hard-earned money for a vacation, you want an advisor who can match you with the right trip.  You want someone who will understand your expectations and fuel your anticipation (or excitement) to get you the best possible trip experience.

Whatever your Dream Destinations are, we are here to help you get the best possible vacation based on what is important to you!  We will provide you high quality, expertly planned travel.  Please give me a call 713-397-0188 (Hank) or email me at hschrader@dreamdestinations.com.  We want to help you:  Savor life…make memories…Visit Dream Destinations!  Your journey begins here!

Hank Schrader
Hank Schrader

HANK is a certified Western European Destination Specialist (DS) who has been traveling to Europe for 45 years.  He is also an Accredited Cruise Counselor (ACC), conferred by the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA).  This recognized expert in cruise and leisure travel is a retired Army Officer, and taught World Geography for 8 years.  He is a `71 graduate of West Point and has earned 2 master’s degrees.   His other Certifications:

  • AmaWaterways River Cruise Specialist
  • Viking River Cruise Specialist
  • Scenic River Cruise Specialist
  • Emerald Waterways  Specialist
  • Avalon Waterways Specialist
  • Brit Agent

Our 2018 AmaWaterways Christmas Markets Cruise

By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination Specialist & Europe River Cruise Expert

We are proud to announce we will be leading a Christmas Market on the Rhine cruise on the new AmaKristina from December 17 thru December 24, 2018. 

Please come join us on the AmaKristina for the most festive time in Europe—the Christmas Markets.  To learn about this wonderful opportunity, let’s explore what Christmas Markets are, find out about the AmaKristina, and see more about the exciting ports we will visit if you come and join us.

What are Christmas Markets?

In Europe, many squares are used for various street markets.  At Christmas time, these squares are transformed into one unique blaze of color, goods and foods from small vendors.  It is a social gathering where hot mulled wine, beer and street food are served and all seem to get along as they browse the various vendors.

Christmas markets date back to 1300 or so and started in Germany, Austria and the eastern portion of France.  The season usually starts about 25 November and lasts until 23 or 24 December, roughly following the Advent 4 week season.  Even for a person like me who does not really like shopping, this is so much fun that everyone should try this at least once.  Unlike American malls, this is not combat shopping and crowds of hassled folks; this is a gathering of folks socializing with food and drink, music, and buying gifts at a much gentler pace. 

Basel 1
A unique Christmas Market booth in Basel, Switzerland. Weihnachtstube translates to Christmas Room. It was a great place to get a hot drink.

Seeing the decorations alone is worth the trip but an added value is the fact that many booths have handmade items that are unique and priceless.  Most sell only on cash, so make sure you have enough local currency to get your purchases.  And, as we have learned though our own mistakes, if you see something you like, buy it or you will often miss out.  Most markets open around 10:00 AM and close around 9:00 PM, but it varies a lot and it is not uncommon for booths to close down for short periods to take a break or get something to eat or an owner to take a day off and not open their booth.

As long as you dress warmly, these markets offer a cultural experience second to none—it is an experience not to be missed!

Overview of our Cruise

You will get to sail with us to 4 countries (Switzerland, France, Germany and the Netherlands) and experience the magic of Christmas in Europe.  As described above, the markets on this cruise are usually in the historic medieval squares of the towns and village we will stop to visit.  It is the best way to see six different, unique, and interesting squares and experience the thrill of a great Europe tradition—the Christmas Markets of Europe. 

The hustle and bustle of the season, the stunning decorations and street food, and the glühwein (hot spiced wine), will be an adventure you will never forget!  Along with these sights and wonderful smells and sounds, you will sail in luxury, eat awesome food and drink superb wine, and have fun on the beautiful AmaKristina, with a great crew, for an experience unmatched in Europe river cruising.  We have done several Christmas market cruises and can’t wait to go again–we hope you will join us.  The following PDF PowerPoint details the cruise ship, a day-by-day summary of the ports and explains why you should chose us as your cruise leaders:

Learn More

The AmaKristina

AmaKristina
AmaKristina Photo AmaWaterways

The AmaKristina was put into service in 2017.  It is a 135 meter longship and carries 156 passengers.  AmaWaterways does European river cruising expertly and we have no doubt they will deliver again on our 15th Europe river cruise.  Her Godmother, Kristin Karst, is a co-owner of AmaWaterways, so you can be assured this vessel is their top of the line rivership in the 135 meter class.  There are staterooms on 3 decks of the ship and they range from fixed windows on the first deck near the river line, to French balconies, twin balconies (a French balcony and an outside balcony) and staterooms with 350 square foot suites (it has two rooms and a bath tub).  All staterooms are well designed, with comfortable beds, a small seating area (the suites have a much larger seating area), and good bathroom facilities. 

Twin Balcony
Twin Balcony Stateroom. Photo AmaWaterways

These compact ships have well designed facilities that will enhance your 7 day journey.  Once you experience an AmaWaterways cruise, you will agree with us that you will be on a luxury trip where almost all is included in the price of the fare.  You will get to go on a floating luxury hotel, with great food, free-flowing wine and beer at meals , and the newly added Sip and Sail cocktail hour before dinner with complimentary wine, beer and spirits and see sights that will dazzle you.  It is a great value!

Our Voyage

We will begin in Basel, Switzerland.  We will visit Christmas markets at every one of the 6 ports on this trip.  First, we will port in Breisach to visit the Christmas Markets of either Freiburg or Riquewihr.  Here is a photo of the Freiburg Christmas Markets:

Freiberg
Freiberg Christmas Market in 2012

Next, we will visit Strasbourg and its’ famous Christmas markets—the oldest in France.  Here is a photo:

Strasbourg
Strasbourg Christmas Market 2016

When we port in Mannheim, you will have a choice of visiting the college town of Heidelberg or the medieval town of Speyer.  Here is a photo of Heidelberg:

Heidelberg 1
Heidelberg Christmas Market

In Rüdesheim, more markets, a wine tasting and a chance to sample the famous Rüdesheim coffee (it’s like Irish coffee but better).  Here is a photo:

Rudesheimer coffee
Rudesheimer Coffee

After Rüdesheim, we sail the Rhine River Gorge.  This is the most scenic section of the Rhine, as you are transformed into a fairy tale land of great castles—there are more than 30 to see.

marksburg_z_550[1]
Marksburg Castle on the Rhine River Gorge
We next arrive in Cologne, and visit its famous cathedral and the 3 Christmas Markets centered on the old town area.  Here is a great photo of these markets:

Cologne
Cologne Christmas Markets 2016

We finish our cruise in Amsterdam and get to experience the canal-ringed city with a canal boat cruise and a city tour.

Amsterdam
Amsterdam roof lines seen from a canal cruise

Wow—what a trip!

Our Special Price for this Sailing

On this 7 day cruise, there is a special price—hurry to get $500 off per person if you book with us before March 31, 2018.  Please contact us to find out the cost of the stateroom you desire for this trip—we can discuss in detail which will fit your needs best.

Our Last Thoughts

Europe river cruising is constantly changing and in most cases, the winners are the cruisers.  This cruise allows you to experience a specialized tour of the Christmas Markets which blends the wonderful tradition of this festive time in Europe with a cruise of a lifetime.  The usual benefits of unpack once, seeing multiple sights, all meals provided and interesting things to do and see, combined with the Christmas markets, and have taken Europe river cruising to a new level.

As always we want to help you with your travel dreams, whatever they may be, and hope some of you will want to take part of this unique experience on our Europe river cruise.  Please call Hank (713-397-0188) or email him at hschrader@dreamdestinations.com so we can help you: Savor life . . . make memories . . . visit Dream Destinations!  Your journey begins here!

Hank Schrader
Hank Schrader

HANK is a certified Western European Destination Specialist (DS) who has been traveling to Europe for 45 years.  He is also an Accredited Cruise Counselor (ACC), conferred by the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA).  This recognized expert in cruise and leisure travel is a retired Army Officer, and taught World Geography for 8 years.  He is a `71 graduate of West Point and has earned 2 master’s degrees.   His other Certifications:

  • AmaWaterways River Cruise Specialist
  • Viking River Cruise Specialist
  • Scenic River Cruise Specialist
  • Emerald Waterways  Specialist
  • Avalon Waterways Specialist
  • Brit Agent

 

 

Europe River Cruise Partnerships Will Enhance Your Travel Options

By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination Specialist & Europe River Cruise Expert

One way Europe River Cruising is changing is the trend of some companies to partner with other companies or individuals to enhance the options for more specialized experiences for their guests.  To me, it is no surprise that our two favorite river cruise lines, AmaWaterways and Scenic, are at the forefront of this trend.  A word of warning—these cruises sell out quickly (many are already gone for the 2018 season), so if you are interested, do not hesitate to contact us to get your cruise. 

So, let’s explore these new partnerships and how they can enhance your river cruise vacation.

3 Great AmaWaterways Partnerships

AmaWaterways has partnered with Adventures by Disney, Backroads and a celebrity chef, Joanne Weir.

Adventures by Disney 2018 & 2019

These awesome companies have partnered together to provide some unique river cruise trips on the two most popular river cruise routes in Europe—the Danube and the Rhine.  Most sailings are during the summer months, but there is also a special Christmas sailing on the Danube departing on December 23, 2018.  The 2018 sailings are now available for booking and we are happy to help you send your family on an adventure they will never forget.

Adventures by Disney will offer eight Danube sailings aboard the AmaViola.  Four of these sailings are already sold out! The route is from Vishofen, Germany to Budapest, Hungary, or the reverse.  Along with the chance to visit 4 countries (Austria, Germany, Hungary and Slovakia), the cruise sails through the Wachau Valley, one of the most picturesque parts of the Danube River.

Schonbuhl Castle
Schonbuhl Castle on the Danube River at the entrance of the Wachau Valley

On the Rhine, they will sail eight special Beauty and the Beast” itineraries aboard the AmaKristina in 2018.  One of these eight sailings is already sold out.  This cruise sails from Basel, Switzerland to Amsterdam, Netherlands (we sailed this route in December 2016) and also visits France and Germany—4 great Europe countries on one trip.  It also sails in the reverse direction.  The “Beauty and the Beast” theme will dominate the cruise with a special film screening and activities, but the highlight may well be a visit to Riquewihr, the inspiration for Belle’s hometown in the animated film.  

A special feature of both of these Ama ships is connecting cabins.

For these family oriented cruises, there are only 140 spaces per sailing—Disney extra guides take up some cabins—instead of the normal 156 passengers.

There is a big advantage with the pairing of Disney and Ama—both provide wonderful experiences: Disney on land and sea and now both on the great rivers of Europe.  And with the Disney touches, it isn’t hard to imagine that any Disney aficionado would enjoy these themed cruises.

Adventures by Disney in 2019

In 2019, a new route will be added.  The cruise will be on the Seine.  According to Travel Market Report, “The new itinerary will include two summer 2019 departures and two adults-only epicurean sailings in the fall, which will offer a wide range of special food and wine-themed experiences.”  It sounds like another great addition to the lineup to us.

Disney for Adults

There are also an increased number of adult only adventures.  These special cruises were inspired by the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.  The special events on these sailings include culinary experiences both onboard and onshore, wine tastings, culinary walking tours and a French patisserie class.  There are 2 sailing on the Rhine (September and October) and one special Octoberfest sailing on the Danube departing on September 30, 2018—you guessed it, it will feature beer!

Bookings for these cruises must be done directly with Adventures by Disney.  Here is the link:  https://www.adventuresbydisney.com/trip-selector/river-cruise/  Please when booking these trips, include us as your travel consultants. 

Backroads

AmaWaterways also has partnered for some awesome bike tours with Backroads.  Backroads has been in partnership with AmaWaterways since 2015 and it has been quite a success story.  According to an interview I read in Travel Professional News, Kristin Karst, Executive Vice President and Co-Owner of AmaWaterways, is quite proud of this partnership.  Here is what she had to say in 2017: “Providing best-in-class service and authentic upscale travel experiences, we’re bringing more active adventure biking, walking and hiking journeys to the world’s most renowned European river cruise destinations.  We’ve expanded our 2017 line-up of active river cruise departures in partnership with Backroads – the world’s #1 active travel company –by offering more the 50 sailings along the Danube, Douro, Rhine or Seine rivers.”

On our AmaWaterways Tulip Time Cruise
Anne and Hank with Kristin Karst, Executive Vice President and Co-Owner of AmaWaterways

The company has taken over entire boats on the Danube in 2017 and plans to do so again in 2018 and 2019.  And an AmaWaterways vessel will be exclusively reserved for roughly 100 Backroads cruisers on the Douro River in Portugal in 2019.

They also offer smaller group tours.  Typically on these special tours only 20 to 30 of the 156 passengers are part of a regular cruise.  Currently the two most popular routes are on the upper Danube and along the Rhine.  These tours feature specialized titanium bikes provided by Backroads.  Currently there are 58 tours scheduled for 2018, including a chartered Danube sailing for Backroads guests only.

I reached out to Backroads and Liz Einbinder, their PR director, provided me some great information about this partnership.  Among the items she pointed out to me were how good the bikes that Backroads uses for their tours.  Here is her description “On all our active river cruise trips we use Backroads state of the art custom titanium bikes.  Our bikes are best in class, lightweight, comfortable and designed for a day of cycling.”  She also told me how folks can book these tours—here is their contact information—“People who want to book one of our active river cruises book directly through Backroads (not through Ama).Call 800-462-2848 or +1-510-527-1555 or www.Backroads.com.”  Please just remember to include us as your travel consultants when making the booking.

Celebrity Chef Joanne Weir

AmaWaterways also has partnered with celebrity chef, Joanne Weir.  Weir has written 18 cookbooks and in 2017 recorded 2 cooking demonstrations onboard an AmaWaterways ship.  These will be featured on her PBS show “Plates and Places with Joanne Weir.”  The collaboration will continue with a special theme cruise on July 26, 2018. The seven-night Taste of Bordeaux – Culinary Cruise Hosted by Joanne Weir on the AmaDolce will traverse the Bordeaux region along the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers.  We sailed on the AmaDolce in November of 2017 on this route and it was an excellent wine and food experience, so this extra addition will make it even more special.

On this sailing, guests will have the opportunity to interact with Chef Weir on the ship and during shore excursions, especial on tours that feature local foods and wines.  Chef Weir will also be on hand for culinary presentations available to all passengers.

Again, AmaWaterways just continues to add more and more value to their cruise lineups.

Scenic

Scenic Opal
TV Area on the Scenic Opal from our 2015 Cruise

Scenic has partnered with National Geographic to provide more in-depth excursions on some of their voyages.  According to their November 2, 2017 Press Release, here is an overview of the partnership:

 “National Geographic Expeditions and award-winning operator Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours have teamed up to launch a new line of National Geographic River Cruises.  These new offerings will combine Scenic’s truly all-inclusive luxury river cruise experience with National Geographic’s 129-year legacy of science, conservation and exploration to create an unforgettable experience for travelers.

Scenic already had great tours and this is only going to enhance the options for guests.  On each of these special cruises, there will be lecturer and photographer from National Geographic.  The concept is to provide a more in-depth understanding of the area and to enhance your knowledge of how to capture your experiences by learning better photography techniques.

Here are the 5 different sailings options in Europe for 2018:  Beautiful Bordeaux on August 26 and September 15; Rhine Highlights on July 30 and September 26; Gems of the Danube on July 19 and October 11; the 15 day Jewels of Europe (sails from Amsterdam to Budapest) on July 19 and October 16; and a Danube Christmas Markets sailing on December 2.  It is quite a good line up and should be a great partnership.

We have sailed on Scenic and it is an awesome river cruise line—we enjoyed it and so did the guests we helped experience this good river cruise company.

Carriage in Palais Liechtenstien, Vienna
Carriage on display in Palais Liechtenstien, Vienna on our enrich Scenic tour classical concert

Some Limited Partnerships

While AmaWaterways and Scenic seem to be the leaders in the partnership trend, other cruise lines are making smaller partnerships that deserve mention.

Emerald has partnered with one of the region’s top chefs, Fabien Morreale.  He will come onboard the Emerald Liberté one night to cook a special meal featuring his favorite and most famous dishes during a three-course serving.  This partnership will happen on their Sensations of Southern France river cruise, aboard the newest Star-Ship, the Emerald Liberté, where guests will sail the Rhône River.  We have sailed the Rhône River several times and it is a great vacation option.  We also have spent time on an Emerald Star ship and we really liked their product, so this partnership will enhance their vacation experience for guests, in our opinion. 

Pont du Gard
Pont du Gard–one of the sights you might see on a Rhône River Cruise

Our Last Thoughts

Europe river cruising is constantly changing and in most cases, the winners are the cruisers.  These new programs have brought the wonders of Europe together in a way that is much more appealing to kids and still allows the entire family to have a wonderful vacation or allows you to experience a specialized tour.  The usual benefits of unpack once, see multiple sights, all meals provided and interesting things to do and see, are now more tailored to your specific interests, and have taken Europe river cruising to a new level.  As always we want to help you with your travel dreams, whatever they may be, and hope some of you will want to take part of these partnership on Europe river cruises.  Please call Hank (713-397-0188) or email him at hschrader@dreamdestinations.com so we can help you: Savor life . . . make memories . . . visit Dream Destinations!  Your journey begins here!

Hank Schrader
Hank Schrader

HANK is a certified Western European Destination Specialist (DS) who has been traveling to Europe for 45 years.  He is also an Accredited Cruise Counselor (ACC), conferred by the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA).  This recognized expert in cruise and leisure travel is a retired Army Officer, and taught World Geography for 8 years.  He is a `71 graduate of West Point and has earned 2 master’s degrees.   His other Certifications:

  • AmaWaterways River Cruise Specialist
  • Viking River Cruise Specialist
  • Scenic River Cruise Specialist
  • Emerald Waterways  Specialist
  • Avalon Waterways Specialist
  • Brit Agent

 

Your Opportunity–2018 Trends in European River Cruising

By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert

2018 is the year of the Dog in the Chinese Astrological Calendar.  The cycle is every 12 years.  According to the legend, 12 animals raced to cross a swift river.  The dog, although a strong swimmer, came in 11th out of 12.  When ask why, he replied, he need a bath and took advantage of the opportunity to take one.

The dog chose to take advantage of a great opportunity and that’s what this blog is all about—your chance to take advantage of a great opportunity to take a European River Cruise.

So, let’s learn about the opportunities in 2018 and trends in Europe river cruising.

Trend # 1—Book Soon or Lose Out

There are over 300 river cruise vessels sailing on the river waterways of Europe.  Even with the increased capacity, we have noticed less availability on almost all rivers.  Why?—river cruising has exploded in popularity.  Already this year, I couldn’t find a cruise for a client whose schedule precluded him from making plans early and then we couldn’t get his travel dates matched with availability.  Many cruise lines are already accepting bookings into 2019.  If you want to cruise in Europe, especially in the peak summer months, you should book now—waiting will result in a less than ideal outcome (no availability and higher prices).

Trend # 2–New Ships will sail but Viking will not add new river ship this year

By my count, there will be 7 new riverships sailing in 2018.  3 will be completely new ships and 4 will be refurbished.  Here are the new ships:

In 2018, AmaWaterways will christen their 20th vessel in Europe.  It will start on the Tulip Time (Netherlands) in the spring and then move to the Danube, sailing from Vilshofen to Budapest or the reverse.  It is a 135 meter ship (443 ft) with 78 staterooms and has a capacity of 156 passengers with a crew of 51.  In my opinion, AmaWaterways has expanded in a smart fashion—they bring on one or two new ships in Europe each year, make sure they are properly staffed and maintain their exacting standards.  Having sailed on 14 AmaWaterways cruises, the standards never change—it is a consistent brand. 

Crystal will expand their fleet to 5 with the addition of the Crystal Ravel and the Crystal Debussy.  Each ship will carry 106 passengers in 53 suites, with all staterooms above the river line.  Among the features are a glass-domed Palm Court atrium, a fitness area, a spa and open-seating eateries such as the Waterside Restaurant, Bistro cafe, the Vintage Room and the Palm Court.  Crystal has tried to copy the features of their ocean going vessels, as much as possible, in their river cruise ships so many venues carry the same names and features.

Their rooms range from the Petite Suite at 188 square feet and the River Suite at 253 square feet to the two-bedroom Crystal Suites at 759 square feet. Several suites are connected.  Accommodations have king-size beds with walk-in closets (a first among river cruise lines) and large bathrooms with double sinks.  The rooms also have with wall-mounted flat-screen HD televisions and Nespresso machines.

Tauck is refurbishing 2 of its ships.  Both the 98 passenger riverboats, the MS Treasure and the MS Espirit have been updated.

Uniworld is refurbishing the S.S Beatrice.  She will carry 156 passengers.  The biggest news for Uniworld is the launch of the A and B—cruising designed for the 21-45 year old crowd.  I wrote more about U by Uniworld as trend # 6 later in this blog.

Not to worry Viking fans—my sources tell me that Viking will add 7 new riverships in 2019, so this may just be a small pause on their part, especially since they are expanding their Ocean cruise fleet.  With 59 riverboats in Europe by my count, there may not be any reason to build a new ship this year.

Trend #3–More Active and Wellness Activities will be offered

We have already noticed this trend on recent sailings.  As we reported earlier, here is one of our client’s thoughts about what is happening on AmaWaterways ships:

“They had a pilot program with a fitness instructor (Selina).  She provided stretching, core workout, exercise band, hiking, etc. classed and events.  It was great.  She will implement this on another six boats for next year, hiring and training the new personnel.  It is a great addition to the AMA activities.”  AmaWaterways was the first to add bikes to their riverboats in 2006 and they continue to expand bike tours and active walking tours.  They have even partnered with Backroads to offer high end bike tours on special cruises. 

Crystal will also follow this trend.  Each of their ships have a pool and carry an array of complimentary equipment for active travelers, from electric bicycles to Jet skis and kayaks.

Scenic and Emerald also follow this trend.  Scenic has electric bikes and Emerald also carries bikes.  Emerald has expanded their offerings for active guests—it is called Emerald ACTIVE and features bike tours.  The heated, pool, with a retractable roof, on Emerald is special—they actually convert it into a movie theater at night, complete with popcorn!

 

Pool Watermarked
Emerald Sun Pool with retractable roof that converts into an evening cinema

Avalon has added their new program called Active Discovery.  This program is on the Rhine and Danube Rivers and offers hiking and biking activities.

The only line not following this trend is Viking—they believe the walking done on tours is enough and they do not offer any extra exercise or wellness activities.

Trend # 4—More Tour Options will be offered

Of all the trends I am writing about, this is the one trend that every river cruise line seems to have adopted.  As you already know, one of the greatest advantages of a Europe river cruise is the included tours.  There is no doubt there will be more offerings.  Some will come with an extra fee.  Only 2 cruise lines offer all tours without a fee—they are Scenic and Tauck.

I really think this is a logical progression of the industry.  Most river cruisers want more authentic experiences and it also appeals to repeat cruisers who want to do something different on the same stretch of river.

Trend # 4–More Themed Cruises will continue to be offered.

Already the list of themed cruises is growing. On AmaWaterways, the wine themed cruises just improves the vacation experience for many guests.  They are up to 50 a year now—a lot of good choices all throughout Europe.  The wine cruises include a wine host.  These folks are wine industry experts who want to share their knowledge and passion for wine both onboard the vessel and at the local wineries during the cruise.  The best part—there is no additional charge for their services—another free enhancement for you to enjoy.  AmaWaterways also has a great partnership with Disney called Adventures by Disney and will offer 8 cruises for families this year.  A word to the wise, it is almost completely sold out for 2018, so if this peaks your interest, start planning for 2019.

Uniworld is solidly behind this trend to offer more specialty cruises.  It has added several Jewish themed cruises.  It is part of their “Bespoke Themed Voyages.”

Crystal’s website states they offer over 225 different tours and 80% are included in the fare.  That’s a lot of tours for only 5 riverships.

Scenic is also solidly behind the expanded tours offerings.  We have first-hand experience with Scenic tours—all are included and they are excellent.  I got to experience Cesky Krumlov on a sailing in 2015.  It was awesome! 

Picture36
Cesky Krumlov

Scenic even calls their staff who create the tours Journey Designers and their brochure defines their mission as “curating the best of what Europe has to offer.”

Many industry writers single out Tauck for their tours.  Each ship has 3 dedicated tour specialists who accompany the voyages.  The also emphasize privileged access to sights after hours or by exclusive arrangements.

Viking is also expanding tours.  Their new program, called The Viking Way, offers three new options—Local Life, Working World and Privileged Access.

Trend #5—Better Cuisine

I think it is safe to say there is an increased emphasis on food and wine in the competitive river cruise industry in Europe.  Not only does this include enhanced food offerings but it has also expanded into cooking classes.

AmaWaterways is, in my opinion, the leader of this trend.  I have written extensively about the quality of the food and the Chef’s table, so I won’t belabor the point.  The best news is that there are no extra charges for the meals on AmaWaterways and all guests can enjoy the Chef’s Table at least once during the voyage.  They have also always done cooking demonstrations during some cruises. I already wrote about many of these, including the “sip and sail” free cocktail hour in this blog:  AmaWaterways in 2018

Chef's Table
The Chef’s Table on AmaWaterways

Scenic is offering on board cooking lessons in their new Scenic Culinaire program.  However, it is limited to only 8 guests.

Crystal and Scenic offer exclusive dining options but both have limitations.  Crystal’s includes a hefty fee and Scenic’s require you to purchase a diamond level (most expensive cabin).

Avalon has become the leader in vegetarian cuisine.  Their Avalon Fresh program consist of locally sourced food prepared in innovative manners.  I wrote about this earlier in my River Cruise Vibes blog.  Here is the link River Cruise Vibes

Uniworld’s ship, the Joie de Vivre, offers a 7 course meal that is paired with wines at their La Cave du Vin that includes a cooking demonstration and then you get to enjoy the meal.

Trend # 6–Will a Younger Crowd Embrace the New U by Uniworld?

The travel agent community is split on this—some think it is a great idea, others think it won’t work as well as traditional river cruising.  The 2018 addition of U by Uniworld–they are converting 2 riverships to their newest brand.  They are called A and B.  Uniworld is using words like “social, relaxed, fun, connected, scenic, and enriching” to describe the new brand.  Gone will be the opulent interiors on some of their redesigned riverships, there will be DJ’s, more emphasis on night life—even bean bag chairs and hammocks on the top deck.  To keep a lower price point, the ship will offer only 2 meals each day. The idea is to appeal to the younger generation (21-45).

My Final Thoughts

Do not lose the opportunity to go on a great European River Cruise this year by procrastination.  Think ahead—call us soon.  We are travel and river cruise experts.  We know our products and the vendors who sell them to you.  We have designed special tours for dozens of clients, led several and will continue to find just the right vacation that will exceed your expectations.

When you are spending around $10,000 or more for a vacation, you want an advisor who can match you with the right trip. 

Don’t miss an opportunity to take a Europe river cruise.  Think like the dog—act now and don’t miss your opportunity! 

Whatever your Dream Destinations are, we are here to help you get the best possible vacation based on what is important to you!  We will provide you high quality, expertly planned travel.  Please give me a call 713-397-0188 (Hank) or email me at hschrader@dreamdestinations.com.  We want to help you:  Savor life…make memories…Visit Dream Destinations!  Your journey begins here!

Hank Schrader
Hank Schrader

HANK is a certified Western European Destination Specialist (DS) who has been traveling to Europe for 45 years.  He is also an Accredited Cruise Counselor (ACC), conferred by the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA).  This recognized expert in cruise and leisure travel is a retired Army Officer, and taught World Geography for 8 years.  He is a `71 graduate of West Point and has earned 2 master’s degrees.   His other Certifications:

  • AmaWaterways River Cruise Specialist
  • Viking River Cruise Specialist
  • Scenic River Cruise Specialist
  • Emerald Waterways  Specialist
  • Avalon Waterways Specialist
  • Brit Agent

AmaWaterways in 2018

By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert

Good things keep happening at AmaWaterways, our favorite Europe River Cruise Line.  We have been sailing on this family owned and operated line since 2009—this November we made our 14th voyage with AmaWaterways.  For 15 years (they started their business in 2002), this company has provided what we think is the best value in Europe river cruises. 

In 2018, AmaWaterways will add 6 new itineraries in Europe, a new rivership and enhance its emphasis on wellness during their cruises.  Before we explore these new features, a quick reminder of what you can expect on a 7 day river cruise from AmaWaterways will help us better understand how these new enhancements will improve your vacation experience.  I will also tell you about some of my favorite features of an AmaWaterways river cruise.  So, let’s explore these topics together.

What to Expect on an AmaWaterways Cruise—3 Thoughts from our Clients

We just had a new client sail for the first time on AmaWaterways.  Completely new to river cruising in Europe, he just couldn’t stop talking about how good the experience was.  The meals, the accommodations (staterooms), the service, and the included tours exceeded all of his expectations.  But, he was most impressed with the tours and the guides.  He was especially impressed with the Cruise Manager, Camille.  As an Air Force Academy graduate, who is a military history buff, he was astounded at the level of knowledge of the guides.  Since this cruise was on the Seine and covered the D Day sights, I think it is high praise indeed.  So one really positive feature of AmaWaterways (as seen through the eyes of one clients)–the tours.

One of our other clients is the former general manager of a California winery. He also is a foodie.  He is the most knowledgeable guy I personally know about wines.  He can go toe to toe with any wine host on AmaWaterways or a vineyard owner, either as a technical expert or just a down to earth guy who describes the characteristics of a wine to help you discover what wines you might like best.  His winery actually hosted an AmaWaterways wine cruise in 2014–this guy is the real deal!  His thoughts are—the included regional wines are of very high quality.  They change each day, but if you really liked the previous days offering, they are glad to serve it, if you ask and any still remains on the ship.  He just sailed on his 6th AmaWaterways cruise this month—when clients do repeated voyages on the same line, you know it has good products, especially a guy with his knowledge of food and wine. His lovely wife also agrees with their choice of river cruise lines.  They are great traveling companions, and a lot of fun.  So, another positive feature—complimentary high quality regional wines.

Mark and glasses.JPG
Mark (in the red shirt) and crew prepare for a wine tasting in 2014

Another long term client couple, love food and wine.  They really like the variety and quality of meals served on the AmaWaterways ships.  The emphasis on fresh, regional cuisine paired with the two quality wines of the day, is one reason they love to river cruise on AmaWaterways.  However, their favorite dining experience is the Chef’s Table in the stern of the vessel.  This specialty restaurant features a tasting menu that is perfectly paired with some high quality wines.  The 32 seat venue, included in your cruise fare, is a memorable experience and just one other reason why AmaWaterways is different.  So a third reason, the included Chef’s Table.

Chef's Table 2016
John & Linda (middle seats) loved the Chef’s Table on our 2016 cruise

Instead of listening to my thoughts, their impressions of their vacation experience, says volumes—it is an exceptional vacation that is safe, fun, luxurious, and life changing.

A New Ship—the AmaLea

In 2018, AmaWaterways will christen their 20th vessel in Europe.  It will start on the Tulip Time (Netherlands) in the spring and then move to the Danube, sailing from Vilshofen to Budapest or the reverse.  It is a 135 meter ship (443 ft) with 78 staterooms and has a capacity of 156 passengers with a crew of 51.  In my opinion, AmaWaterways has expanded in a smart fashion—they bring on one or two new ships in Europe each year, make sure they are properly staffed and maintain their exacting standards.  Having sailed on 14 different AmaWaterways cruises, the standards never change—it is a consistent brand. 

6 New Itineraries in Europe

4 of the new itineraries will be on the Rhine. 3 are on the Rhine and Mosel Rivers.  One is on the Rhine and one of its tributaries the Main.  Here are the new sailings:

Rhine & Mosel Splendors is sailed by the AmaDante from Luxembourg to Basel.

Rhine & Mosel Delights Basel to Amsterdam is sailed by the AmaPrima.

Rhine & Mosel Fairytales, is sailed on the AmaPrima from Amsterdam to Basel.

Medieval Treasures is sailed by the AmaDante from to Basel to Nuremburg or reverse.

There are 2 new itineraries on the Danube.  They are:

Danube Serenade, is sailed by 3 Ama ships—the AmaCerto, the AmaSerena and the AmaSonata on the Danube River from Nuremburg to Vienna or reverse.

Magical Christmas Markets is sailed by the AmaCerto, the AmaSerena and the AmaSonata from Nuremberg to Vienna or reverse.

An Enhanced Emphasis on Health and Wellness

In keeping with the theme of this blog, I thought I’d like to share some comments from another client about the enhanced wellness offering onboard the AmaLyra.  He is on his 5th river cruise with AmaWaterways.  His wife and he are very active and like the bike offerings and exercise opportunities on AmaWaterways.  Here are his thoughts:

“They had a pilot program with a fitness instructor (Selina).  She provided stretching, core workout, exercise band, hiking, etc. classed and events.  It was great.  She will implement this on another six boats for next year, hiring and training the new personnel.  It is a great addition to the AMA activities.”

AmaWaterways Bike Ride
Our Clients Jane & Len Ready for a bike ride near Cochem, Germany

My Favorite Changes

Although AmaWaterways does not include unlimited alcohol beverages in the fare, they are starting a new program called Sip & Sail Daily.  It is a cocktail hour just before dinner with complimentary wine, beer and spirits.  This is a great addition and will reduce clients’ onboard bills, as most folks really enjoy a cocktail prior to dinner and used to pay for it—now it is free!

Another feature I like is the continued emphasis on Exclusive Special Interest Tours.  Usually free, they may be capacity controlled to 20 guests, as most places they tour or eat at often just can’t handle more folks.  For cruisers who have previously visited some of the ports on the cruise, this adds options to enhance your cruise experience.

Finally, the continued emphasis on wine themed cruises just improves the vacation experience for many guests.  They are up to 50 now a year—a lot of good choices all throughout Europe.  The wine cruises include a wine host.  These folks are wine industry experts who want to share their knowledge and passion for wine both onboard the vessel and at the local wineries during the cruise.  The best part—there is no additional charge for their services—another free enhancement for you to enjoy.

My Final Thoughts

We are river cruise experts.  We know our products and the vendors who sell them to you.  We can tell you the advantage and disadvantages of each of the 8 cruise lines that market to the US consumers.  For most individuals, AmaWaterways is usually the best choice and value for their vacation dollars.  This doesn’t mean the others are not good—on the contrary, they all provide good vacations.  But there are subtle differences and after all our experience and personal study, AmaWaterways is often the best choice.  From this blog, you can see that 4 different clients found 4 different aspects of the AmaWaterways experience that was their favorite. 

When you are spending around $10,000 or more for a vacation, you want an advisor who can match you with the right trip.  It is especially true for a Europe river cruise vacation. 

Whatever your Dream Destinations are, we are here to help you get the best possible vacation based on what is important to you!  We will provide you high quality, expertly planned travel.  Please give me a call 713-397-0188 (Hank) or email me at hschrader@dreamdestinations.com.  We want to help you:  Savor life…make memories…Visit Dream Destinations!  Your journey begins here!

Hank Schrader
Hank Schrader

HANK is a certified Western European Destination Specialist (DS) who has been traveling to Europe for 45 years.  He is also an Accredited Cruise Counselor (ACC), conferred by the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA).  This recognized expert in cruise and leisure travel is a retired Army Officer, and taught World Geography for 8 years.  He is a `71 graduate of West Point and has earned 2 master’s degrees.   His other Certifications:

  • AmaWaterways River Cruise Specialist
  • Viking River Cruise Specialist
  • Scenic River Cruise Specialist
  • Emerald Waterways  Specialist
  • Avalon Waterways Specialist
  • Brit Agent

Pushing Your Boundaries With Europe River Cruising

By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert

We are in the life enhancing business.  One way we help enhance your life is promoting the exceptional value a river cruise can provide you for a vacation.  We have a passion for Europe river cruising.  There are many reasons why we have a passion for Europe river cruising, but for me, the two prime reasons are that 1) it will push your travel boundaries in a positive fashion and 2) it will provide you a unique travel experience that is almost impossible to replicate in another vacation.

A Europe river cruise vacation answers the 5 main reasons why folks travel.  Let me explain—why you travel and what you expect to get out of the trip is the purpose for going on your vacation.  River cruises push your personal boundaries by helping you explore new places in comfort, style and ease. 

So what are the decision points on why you go on a trip?  How does a river cruise meet those reasons?  How does a Europe river cruise push your personal boundaries?  How can we inspire you to get the best possible river cruise vacation?  So, let’s explore these topics together.

Why People Travel

According to Phocuswright’s 2016 U.S. Consumer Travel Report survey of 1,724 people, there are 5 main reasons people travel.  They are:

  • Get Away/Take a Break 41%
  • Spend time with family/friends 38%
  • Take advantage of available vacation time 18 %
  • Personal Celebration 15%
  • ( Tied) See a natural/cultural/historical attraction or Attend a specific event 14%

I can promise you all of those reasons resonate with me—we travel for all the above reasons.  The only thing I will tell you, is that the importance of the reason for travel changes with each trip and each individual—when you are celebrating a milestone event in your life, the percentages go way up—just read my blog about Milestones Memories –and -Celebrations if you want more proof that your priorities change with each trip.  Here is the link LEARN MORE

Anne & Hank
Anne & Hank at Cooking School in Wales, UK for Anne’s 60th Birthday Celebration Trip

How Does a Europe River Cruise answer Your Reason to Travel?

If you want a special break and want to spend quality time with your family or friends, for me, there is no better way than a Europe river cruise.  I have written extensively about the value of a river cruise, but, if I had to explain the main reason you should take a river cruise, it is the almost all inclusive nature of the trip.  You get a great stateroom, exceptional food and most drinks (on some lines all drinks), shore excursions and a chance to visit some of the key historic and cultural sights of Europe.  It is practical luxury travel– fun, gourmet but not stuffy, you travel in a relaxed atmosphere, there are great sights and it is flexible and easy to tailor to your desires.  Pretty cool, to say the least!

How Does a Europe River Cruise Push Your Personal Boundaries?

Iron Gates 1
Face Carved into the Iron Gates Region of the Lower Danube

Going on a river cruise gives you permission to explore a world you do not yet know.  I wonder how many of you would go on the Douro in Portugal or visit the Balkan countries of the lower Danube on your own?  Some adventurous souls might, but for many, there is a degree of uneasiness about a visit where you do not understand the language, or cannot read the signs (sometimes in Cyrillic script).  A river cruise removes these obstacles but still allows you a chance to reach out to the people of these new lands.  When we went on a lower Danube river cruise, it was so easy yet fascinating to visit strange lands.  You will be surprised what once seemed so exotic becomes more familiar.  Not only does travel remove barriers in your life, you also will develop new perspectives about the world.

Iron Gates 2
Church on the Banks of the Lower Danube

How We Can Inspire your next river cruise trip

We are river cruise experts.  We have been on 13 Europe river cruises.  We have sailed most Europe Rivers.  Here is a list of rivers we have sailed on or sent folks on:  Rhine, Danube (the entire river), Seine, Rhone, Dordogne & Garonne (Bordeaux Cruise), and the Douro. 

So, with our extensive experience and knowledge about Europe river cruising, we will match you to the right trip and help get exactly what you expect from your trip.  We are not selling travel, we are helping you make memories.  We will get you the best value for your money on a Europe river cruise, if you will spend some time us.  The more we can learn about you, the better we can serve you.  Want some inspiration for a Europe river cruise?—visit our website!

Our Website River Cruises Section

AmaCerto Lounge
AmaWaterways AmaCerto Lounge

Europe river cruising can be a complex subject.  We help make it much easier for you by cutting through the clutter of information about river cruising and companies.  We accomplish this by providing you the highest quality information on Europe river cruising on our website.  In my opinion, this section is exceptional—you will not find anywhere on line as in-depth a description of Europe River Cruises. You can be sure it is authentic–the pictures are taken by us—it is the real deal.  The Europe River Cruise Comparisons is even better—73 slides about the 8 major lines.  We cite facts when possible but when it is our opinion, we clearly state it is our opinion.

Go ahead—pick one of the trips on the river cruise page.  Go through the PowerPoint—can you see yourselves enjoying this trip?—we sure can see you there!

Technical Questions about Europe River Cruises

So what is the best route for you to go on?  What is the best river cruise company?  When will you get the best value on a river cruise trip?  What is it really like on a Europe river cruise?  How can I be certain I will get to see the sights that are so important to me?  We know the answers to these questions and once we spend a little time with you, we will be able to recommend just the right river cruise for you.  Have we got you interested yet?

Added Value

While there is no doubt in my mind we are river cruise experts, and will provide the river cruise that will match your needs, we also add more value in planning your trip by proving customized pre or post trips to your Europe river cruise.  Our trips are unique and tailored to your desires.  We have planned and  have led pre/post visits to Amsterdam, Brugge, Paris, Prague, Nuremburg, Lyon, Arles, Amboise, Strasbourg, Bayeux (D Day area) and Budapest just to name a few great places.

Astronomical Clock
Astronomical Clock Prague, Czech Republic

Here are a couple of examples of these trips that should make you want to use us to plan your river cruise.  By the time you read this, we have a group on a 7 day Seine River cruise.  At the end of the cruise, several of the group will go on special D Day post trip we planned.  Here is a presentation about this special trip:  D Day Post Trip II

German Gun Battery
D Day Sites–German Coastal Gun Battery

In November, we will also led a small group on a tour of Amboise in the Loire River region of France.  Expect a special blog about this adventure in the future.

My Final Thoughts

We have tried to convey information about our specialties and how they can benefit you.  We have also tried to get you to consider, when deciding whether to use us or not, why you should use us.  We feel that you will get the highest quality, expertly planned trip because of our excellent credentials combined with our passion to help you and our attention to detail—it is a true winning formula!  It is especially true for a Europe river cruise vacation. 

It’s time to travel on a river cruise and push through your travel boundaries—please visit www.dreamdestinations.com, select Send Us Your Travel Request and contact us.  This short form will start you on the road to a great travel location.

Whatever your Dream Destinations are, we are here to help you get the best possible vacation based on what is important to you!  We will provide you high quality, expertly planned travel.  Please give me a call 713-397-0188 (Hank) or email me at hschrader@dreamdestinations.com.  We want to help you:  Savor life…make memories…Visit Dream Destinations!  Your journey begins here!

Hank Schrader
Hank Schrader

HANK is a certified Western European Destination Specialist (DS) who has been traveling to Europe for 45 years.  He is also an Accredited Cruise Counselor (ACC), conferred by the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA).  This recognized expert in cruise and leisure travel is a retired Army Officer, and taught World Geography for 8 years.  He is a `71 graduate of West Point and has earned 2 master’s degrees.   His other Certifications:

  • AmaWaterways River Cruise Specialist
  • Viking River Cruise Specialist
  • Scenic River Cruise Specialist
  • Emerald Waterways  Specialist
  • Avalon Waterways Specialist
  • Brit Agent