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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Our New 2018-19 Europe River Cruise Comparisons

 

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

http://www.dreamdestinations.com

As many of you know, we have one of the best, in-depth, Europe River Cruise Comparisons available anywhere on our website.  We have updated our 2016 version to provide even more accurate information on the ever changing Europe river cruise scene.

We want to emphasize all of these river cruise lines are good values and special trips.  Many have won awards and there is really no official ranking system to provide you a valid comparison method. 

To help overcome the lack of an official ranking system, we have found that The Berlitz River Cruising in Europe & the USA Guide to be as fair an evaluation as presently available to the public.  This book evaluates individual ships in its rating system instead of entire companies, so we have decided to compare the best rivership from each company to determine a ranking system as our method of comparison.

We have also provided our own personal rankings of each line with comments.

So, let’s explore these ranking together, or if you like, just go directly to our full PDF presentation at this link:

READ OUR COMPLETE 86 SLIDE PRESENTATION

What Cruise Lines are We Comparing?

There are 8 major river cruise lines that market to US consumers.  The 8 lines we are comparing are: AmaWaterways, Avalon, Crystal River Cruises, Emerald Waterways, Scenic, Tauck, Uniworld and Viking.  We provide a good look at the advantages and disadvantages of each company, so you can determine if they might be a good match for your vacation.

Here are some of our photos of the actual riverships in action or in port:

AmaWaterways
AmaWaterways AmaCerto
Avalon
Avalon Impression
Emerald
Emerald Sun
Tauck
Tauck Treasures
U by Uniworld
The A–U by Uniworld
Uniworld
Uniworld River Royale
Viking
Viking Jarl

Why Should You Trust Our Comparisons?

Our ratings are based on sailing on 15 Europe river cruises, selling river cruises on most river cruise lines, personal research and earning specialty designations from almost all major river cruise lines.  We have tried to present the best factual information possible and if the data is our personal opinion, clearly state this. 

What are the Biggest Changes from the 2016 to 2018-19 Comparisons?

There are several changes to our previous 73 slide PowerPoint presentation. 

The first change is the addition of our photos of all the river cruise lines except Crystal.  We feel the reason this is significant, is that it gives you proof we have actually sailed on or seen these cruise lines in action.

The second change is to add rankings to the scores form the Berlitz guide.  This should help you quickly distinguish the differences between lines instead of having to compare the number scores. 

The third change is enhanced information on Crystal River Cruises.  In our original guide, there was only one river cruise ship, the Mozart, a double wide rivership.  Now Crystal has 5 ships sailing in Europe with the addition of 4 longships.  We have updated all our information on Crystal.

The forth change was to provide information about U by Uniworld—their new 2 boat venture that is radically different than others approach to Europe river cruising.

The last major change is to delete the pricing information chart, as the 2016 chart was a snapshot, not a real comparison.  Also, some lines do not publish their fares—you must directly contact the company to get accurate pricing.  Another factor is the air add-ons and other special incentives that many lines are offering.

Berlitz Overall Ratings

From the book, River Cruising in Europe & the USA, we selected the best rated rivership of each company to create this comparison chart.  Here are their rankings using this methodology:

Ward Ratings

Our Overall Ratings

Here are our rankings of the 8 cruise lines:

My Ratings

My Final Thoughts

Please share this information with anyone who might want to learn more about Europe River cruising or have them call us—we will be delighted to help!

Getting unbiased information about the various river cruise companies is difficult.  There is no one company that is right for everyone.  We do believe we know enough to guide you to the right river cruise company that matches your travel style.  We can provide comparisons that will provide you significant information to make sound travel decisions about which company to use for your river cruise vacation.

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

Why You Need a River Cruise Expert to Plan Your River Cruise Vacation

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

http://www.dreamdestinations.com

We recently helped two couples plan a European river cruise for the 2019 cruise season.  Neither had been on a river cruise.  It got me to thinking—what questions would I have about taking a river cruise for a travel advisor that might be different from another type of vacation?  The more we talked and emailed each other, it became evident to me that both really wanted to go, but they wanted the best possible experience for their money and had a lot of questions.  We finally got them booked on a line neither had previously knew about but was the best option for them–I am quite confident they will have a great vacation.

Emerald Sun Watermarked
The Emerald Sun–a great option many Americans do not know about

I guess it is really not surprising they had so many questions—I read recently that about 526,000 Americans took a river cruise in 2016 compared to 11.5 million who took an ocean cruise (sources Seatrade Cruise News and Cruise Lines International Organization (CLIA)).  In other words, only about 4.5% of all American cruisers took a river cruise in 2016.  No wonder, so many have questions about river cruising!

So, here are some facts about vacations as compared to cruise vacations and the questions I would ask us if I wanted to go on a river cruise.

Reasons People Take Vacations

It might seem strange to start with this information, but to my way of thinking, the purpose or why of the vacation is the central question that needs to be answered.  It really determines if a river cruise is right for your travels.  Here are 3 of the top 4 reasons folks take a vacation (I omitted spend time with family which was number 3 reason to take a vacation) and how a certain type of vacation rates with respondents of a J. D, Power survey conducted for CLIA:

Reasons to Take a Vacation by Vacation Type Any Vacation Ocean Cruise River Cruise
# 1 To see & do new things 42% 45% 54%
#2 To relax & get rid of stress 33% 32% 19%
# 4 To gain knowledge of history & other cultures 6% 8% 13%

 

So for me, this brings up my first 3 questions:  1) Will I get to see and do new things?; 2) Will I get to relax and get rid of stress?; and 3) Will I gain knowledge of history and other cultures?

So, now if my responses match 2 of the 3 general questions of why I want to go on the vacation, I am probably a pretty good match for a river cruise.  If the object is to relax, and get rid of stress, a river cruise may not be my best option.  The reason is simple—the river boats often port near or in the city centers and with the included tours, it is more active than just lounging around a swimming pool or spending a day relaxing in a hammock by the beach.  It doesn’t mean you can’t relax on a river cruise—Anne often takes a day off from the sightseeing and just enjoys a short walk on her own or stays onboard.  While these are basic questions, there must be follow on—what sights, what type of new things, how much history, how much mixing with people and their cultures.

Durstein Shuttle Train
Even though the port of Durstein is a pleasant walk half mile walk, there is even a shuttle train to help some river cruise guests with mobility problems

Next Comes the river in Europe

I have written several blogs about what you can expect to see on Europe’s rivers while on a river cruise.  Most river cruisers select either the upper Danube (38.1 % according to Seatrade Cruise News) or the Rhine (31.1%, again Seatrade Cruise news)—that’s 69.2 % of all river cruisers.  While these are great options, by no means are the only options.

Picture6
The Main River is a great cruise route–picture is from AmaWaterways

The type of cruise experience is the central theme here.  My questions would be—What will I get to see on my cruise?  Why should I go on this river?  Are there any problems I might experience on this river?  When is the best time to go?  Here is the link to my blog about the reasons to sail on a particular Europe River: What is the Best Europe River Cruise Route?

Now, What Cruise Line

Perhaps this is the hardest set of questions—not everyone has the same tastes.  I tried to capture some of the differences in my River Cruise Vibes blog.  Level of service, inclusions, ship facilities, food and wine and cruise atmosphere all are part of this set of questions.  Here is the link to my River Cruise Vibes blog: River Cruise Vibes

Next, What Cabin Type?

Although river ships are small compared to ocean liners and the staterooms are usually smaller, there is a large range of options for your cabin.  They all come a different price points and options, like balconies, bed size and bathroom configuration and features.  While this is an important set of questions, the typical river cruiser does not spend that much time in their cabin except to sleep and get ready for their next excursion and meal, so to some, this may not be as important as it is to others. 

 

AmaCerto Stateroom
Our Stateroom on the AmaCerto–pretty nice!

Still, the stateroom can make or break the experience for some river cruisers, especially a seasoned ocean cruiser who prefers a huge suite—river cruise staterooms may be just too small for them or they may need to have a larger stateroom on one of the two Giants of the Danube (another blog I recently wrote).  Is it getting a little complicated?—add in 8 river cruise lines with different features and you can see it really does require a special knowledge of each line to choose the right stateroom for your cruise.

When Should I go?

There are certain times of the year river cruising is less expensive.  If my plans are flexible, I would want to know if I can save some money and still get a great vacation.  One of our favorite times is late October thru November, as the weather is still generally mild, there are less crowds and prices seem generally lower.

Rhine River Gorge
The Rhine River Gorge is fabulous in October

Pre and Post Stays

Most Americans do not want to fly to Europe for only 7 days—due the distance and cost involved in this type of vacation, it often makes sense to extend with a land package.  This creates a new set of questions—among them, what do the cruise lines offer, should my travel advisor create a special add-on package with another vendor, what will I see and do, and how much extra does it cost?

Flights and Transfers

Most river cruise lines offer good deals for flights to help you get to Europe.  However, these can be great experience or a computer generated 3 leg flight that saves the cruise line some money while you suffer a 24 hour ordeal.  This is a tricky feature that really requires the help of a travel professional, in my opinion.  What is included?  Transfers—yes or no?  How much to upgrade?  Can I use my airline mileage?  Just reading some of the consumer complaints about river cruising, it often seems to me the air offers are among the most complained about feature of river cruising.

Entertainment and Night Life

River cruise ships do not have big production shows or casinos (sorry Anne) and if you are a night owl, most river cruise lines won’t meet your expectations.  However, U by Uniworld has a cruise more oriented to the night life.  If you like more cultural small groups or glass blowing demonstrations or cooking classes or themed cruise (our favorite is wine cruises), then river cruising is a good match.  You can bet, I would ask these types of questions.

The Uniworld A 2018
The A–U by Uniworld  in 2018–a different river cruise experience

 My Final set of Questions—what is the Value I will get for my Money?

You might seem surprised that money is my last set of questions.  Value is really taking all the desires you have for the vacation (the above questions) and selecting the line that best matches what you expect for the vacation.  Once you are comfortable you will get a great vacation, and realize all that is included, the cost often seems justified.  Here is a link I wrote earlier about the Great Value of a River Cruise: The Great Value of a Europe River Cruise

Do you see now why you need a River Cruise Expert to help you through this Process?

There are so many things you really need to know to get the puzzle of river cruising right.  I study this all the time and it is hard for me to know everything—I learn something new almost every day.  There is no way you can have all the answers, especially when each cruise line only puts their best foot forward in their brochures and advertisements. 

My Final Thoughts

As you can see, asking a lot of questions about river cruising and then making wise travel choices, is more complex than you may have thought.  Trip planning is not easy.  Making sound decisions are critical to the travel planning process.  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.  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

Active River Cruises–Great Bike Opportunites

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

http://www.dreamdestinations.com

One of the most interesting changes to Europe river cruises, since we first started cruising in 2009, is the emphasis on bike rides by several river cruise lines.  At first, the bikes seemed almost an afterthought—you could use them but there were few organized tours and they were mostly available for the few brave souls who would venture out on their own.

Fast forward to 2018 and the scene has completely changed.  Not only are there many more opportunities to use the onboard bikes, there are now cruise lines that have partnered with bike companies to provide bike themed cruises for real ride enthusiasts. 

By far, the river cruise company that is really pushing bike tours is AmaWaterways.  Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours has added 11 special bike sailings, and Uniworld has also added 10 bike tours to their 2018 sailings.  These 3 really good lines have partnered with different bike tour companies to offer their guests some premium pedaling experiences. 

So, let’s learn what the 8 major river cruise lines offer their guests for bike riding experiences during their river cruises.

AmaWaterways

Always, it seems to us, AmaWaterways has been the leader in almost all new trends in river cruising.  It is no surprise that active river cruising is so important to them.  They offer guided bike tours on all voyages at no extra charge and it is our experience there are usually at least three per cruise.  On our first cruise in 2009, Anne and I rode the onboard bikes a short way into Wurzburg from our port.  It was fun and the bikes were easy to use. 

Ama Bikes
AmaWaterways bikes ready for Guests 2018

We have several clients that ride on their own while in port or take the included guided tours.  All the feedback has been very good.

Ama Bike Riders in the Wachau Valley
AmaWaterways Bike Riders in the Wachau Valley 2018
AmaWaterways Bike Ride
Our Clients Jane with Len Ready for a bike ride near Cochem, Germany

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 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.”

The company has taken over entire boats on the Danube in 2017and 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 total 156 passengers are in the special bike group. 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 AmaWaterways).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.

Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours

Scenic has 25 electric bikes onboard their ships.  They are available at no extra charge (it’s hard to buy anything extra on Scenic—maybe only a massage or in the beauty or barber shop). 

Scenic has partnered with cycling outfitter Trek Travel to offer themed bike tours to their guests.  For 2018 there are 11 cruises that can be booked with Trek Travel (again the booking must be made directly with Trek not with Scenic).  The tours are on the Danube and the Rhine.  Tour size is limited to 20.  Trek Travel uses three types of high tech bikes—one is even electric assisted.  The electric bikes provided by Trek Travel are high tech and an upgrade compare to the good bikes that Scenic provides to all guests. 

I had a chance to talk to Lindsay Juley about what guests could expect upon booking a Trek Travel cruise.  She emphasized a couple of key points—first, these trips are a perfect vacation for a couple where one person is a serious bike rider, and the other is not—both will have exactly the vacation they want.  Second, she emphasized how flexible Trek Travel is during the cruise—lingering to take photos, or adding extra miles works well with the staff—the group guide from Trek Travel and the support vehicle allow the riders to travel at their own pace.  Another bonus of the program is that all guests are booked in the Diamond (upper deck) and that means more butler services and a chance to dine at the Table La Rive—it is a six-course degustation menu with sommelier paired wines.  The deposit for one of their tours is $2,000 per person and is non-refundable.  We will be glad to help you book any of these Trek Travel bike tours.  You can learn more at www.trektravel.com

Avalon

Avalon has 10 bikes on its ships, which can be used for free.  We recently saw the bikes while docked at Vienna, so here are 2018 pictures of one of their bikes and the storage area on their riverships. 

Avalon Bike
An Avalon bike ready for use
Avalon Bike Storage Area
Avalon Bike Storage Area

Avalon offers optional bike tours on some its cruises.  It is part of their Active Discovery program started in 2017.  They use local bike companies for the program.  The optional tours are not included in the cruise fare and require an additional fee.  There are 4 tours available on their cruises.  You can cycle in the Netherlands while docked in Amsterdam in the Dutch countryside, or on the Danube starting from Durnstein in the scenic Wachau Valley, or on the Rhine starting in Breisach and finally on the Moselle starting at Bernkastel.

Crystal River Cruises

Crystal has 30 eBikes on their double wide Crystal Mozart. 

On the Crystal’s other 4 riverships, there are bikes available for use by guests who want to explore on their own.  These bikes are also used for organized, guided bike tours.  According to their brochure, the onboard Fitness Director leads the active biking excursions. 

Emerald Waterways

Emerald has 20 on board bikes and their use is complimentary. 

Emerald offers group bike tours, at no additional charge.  It is part of their EmeraldACTIVE program.  The tours include a guided nature tour in the Amsterdam area; a guided bike tour in Colmar, France; a biking tour between Melk and Durnstein; a biking tour of Vienna; a guided bike tour in Belgrade; and a bike excursion from Tournon to Glun, France. 

Tauck

Tauck has 12 Jan Janssen bikes on its ship—these are popular Dutch bikes—and if anyone knows bikes, it is the Dutch!

While researching this article, it appears most guests use the bikes for independent rides, but I found out that one of the 4 onboard tour directors may lead one or two organized bike excursions during a 7 day cruise.  All bike excursions are included and they do include family oriented bike rides in their Tauck Bridges program.

Uniworld

Uniworld has a fleet of free bikes for self-guided or escorted group excursions at no extra charge.  The bike tours are part of their “Go Active” excursions.  They have bike rides on the Rhine River, on the Main River, on the Danube River, on the Moselle River, in Paris, in Lyon, in Bordeaux, in Frankfurt, in the Chioggia (Italy) beach area, in Budapest, and in Belgrade.  Basically, there is at least one “Go Active” bike ride on each of their European river cruises

In 2016, Uniworld added a partnership with upscale tour operator Butterfield & Robinson (a Canadian firm) to offer enhanced bike tours.  On the Uniworld website, I found that Uniworld was offering 10 themed biking tours in 2018.  Their tours are on the Danube (4), the Rhone (3), and the Rhine (3).  The tours are on customized bicycles, with detailed maps, and expert bike guides.  Bicycles include a handlebar-mounted Samsung Galaxy tablet with preloaded route maps via RideWithGPS.  Booking is done directly with Butterfield & Robinson.  Here is their contact info:  www.butterfield.com or 1-866-551-9090.  Again, be sure to include us as your travel agents when making the booking.

I got to talk with a representative of Butterfield & Robinson.  They are very excited about this partnership and are adding a Seine bike tour for 2019 and will retain the 10 themed biking tours they scheduled for 2018. 

Viking

Viking does not offer any onboard bikes.  They do have some limited guided bike tours which are new for 2018.  These tours require an extra fee.

My Final Thoughts

There certainly are some differences between the cycling opportunities offered by these eight river cruise lines.  3 offer enhanced options with their partnerships.  7 of the 8 have onboard bikes that do not have an extra charge.  As with any aspect of Europe River cruises, we can answer your questions and concerns and help you match the right river cruise to your needs and travel style. 

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

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