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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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

The Great Value of a Europe River Cruise

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

We have planned almost every type of vacation you might want to take.  However, no matter how many we plan, we just keep realizing more and more the exceptional value you get when you take a river cruise, especially in Europe.  We travel to Europe 2-4 times a year (just like you, we are limited by travel costs) and are taking river cruise number 14 later this year, and I think that really makes our thoughts about river cruising even more important—we speak from experience.  Our experience is that for most trips, it’s hard to beat the features of a river cruise, especially if you take a pre and post land option along with the cruise.  So, let’s explore the value of a Europe river cruise!

Single Words to Describe a River Cruise

Friendly.  Memorable.  Relaxing.  Organized.  Efficient.  Luxurious.  Fun.  Right-sized.  Cozy.  Effortless.  Enjoyable.  Inclusive.  Cool.  Entertaining.  Pampered.  Recognized.

7 Good Reasons to Take a Europe River Cruise

  1. A river cruise is almost completely hassle free. On the right lines (AmaWaterways and Scenic, are our 2 favorites), you get a luxury floating hotel, great food and wine and experiences that you will remember for a lifetime.  The atmosphere is friendly, the dress code is casual and they deal in one currency.  You pack and unpack once—no changing hotels or long bus rides.  The river scenery is usually very interesting.  Think about this—would you rather be crammed in a bus, or wandering the decks of a riverboat with a glass of wine in your hand, or better yet, lounging in a small pool in the summer watching the world go by as you are propelled to you next exciting port?  You don’t have to ask my choice—where’s my wine glass?
    Wine on AmaWaterways
    Wine on AmaWaterways

    AmaWaterways Pool
    AmaWaterways Pool
  2. You will see so much in so little time. River cruising is all about the destinations.  Even though I have been traveling to Europe for over 45 years and led several group tours, I could not do what the river cruise companies do in one week—these folks are experts in showing you the best sights in the least amount of time.  It is truly a unique way to see the interior of a country.  It is different from a land based tour and different from an ocean cruise.  One of the best advantages is that most often your riverboat will dock near or in the center of the city, town or village you are about to explore.  In five minutes all guest are off the boat and seeing the sights.  Most lines also offer different groups during the tours—regular, active walkers or gentle walkers, so your desired way to see the destination is matched with your tour.  Even while on board there is always something to see on the banks, as you cruise along to the next destination.

    Schonbuhl Castle
    Schonbuhl Castle on the Danube River
  3. It is easy to do the activities that appeal to you. Maybe the best part of a river cruise is the flexibility.  Want to skip the tour—no problem!  We often go off on our own, love walking the quaint towns, using the provided map or even a GPS device.  In the larger ports, it is easy to really go off on your own using subways or buses or even a taxi if time is the critical factor.  How about a bike ride?  Many of the better lines feature escorted bike rides or you can go on your own.  Want a special excursion?  Again, the better lines have good limited tour options.  Some are extra but many lines include the tours in your cruise price.  Each year we see different options available and they are getting better and better.  Add to this list is the theme cruises—we especially like the wine cruises on AmaWaterways and often take them, as the wine is provided by the wine host at no extra charge—what a value!
    AmaWaterways Bike Ride
    Our clients Jane & Len ready for a bike ride near Cochem, Germany

    Wine Cruise
    Provence Wine Cruise
  4. Almost all is included in your trip. On river cruise lines, your food, meals with wine or beer at lunch and dinner, your cabin and even occasional entertainment is included in the fare.  There is even champagne or sparkling wine at breakfast on many lines.  The clear, upfront pricing helps make it easier to budget for your vacation.  River boats are small (only 100 to 190 passengers) friendly and comfortable.  Food is generally good but some lines are better than others. 

    AmaWaterways Cuisine
    AmaWaterways Cuisine
  5. Your cabin will have a view. At the very least, you will have a window, but every line we recommend has at least a French balcony, or a balcony or both on their riverships.  While cabins are smaller than ocean cruise lines, they often are quite luxurious.  Some lines even talk about their bed placement to take advantage of the views, but most folks do not spend a lot of time in their cabins except to sleep or take a short break.

    Budapest Parliment
    Budapest Parliament at night–the view from our cabin on a Scenic River Cruise
  6. There are a lot of choices to find a river cruise that is right for you. Some cruise lines (Scenic, Uniworld, Tauck and newcomer, Crystal) are completely inclusive (all liquor, gratuities and even optional tours), but cost more than other companies.  Viking, Emerald and Avalon offer more optional choices, but usually have lower starting prices.  Our favorite river cruise company, AmaWaterways does not include gratuities, liquor outside of meals (but they are adding a free cocktail hour prior to dinner for 2018). On AmaWaterways, there may be an extra charge for some optional tours although there is at least one tour included at every port at no charge (many times there are 2 or more at no charge).  This is important, as you may visit more than one port on a given day and some lines only offer only one tour per day, not a tour at ever port stop.  There are a lot of differences between lines (I have written a blog about this and we have a great comparison PowerPoint on our website LEARN MORE) but the bottom line is clear:  RIVER CRUISING IS A GREAT VALUE!

    Melk Abby
    Melk Abby–a great tour!
  7. There are so many great routes and even repeating the same itinerary again is fun. We have seen a lot of Europe (13 countries) while on river cruises.  Your floating luxury hotel is an awesome way to see some of the great sights of Europe.  There are many themed cruises that could add to your trip and make the cruise even better for you.   Most lines offer 2 tours at each port stop, so even taking the same route twice or more is not boring—it is fun and each trip is different.  We have been 5 times on the Danube and 4 times on the Rhine and 3 times on the Rhone and would not hesitate to go on any of these routes again.  There is so much to see in Europe on, or near the rivers, that repeat trips are not a waste of time or money.  With all the choices, we can find the right match for you.
Rheinstein Castle
Rheinstein Castle on the Rhine River–Never gets old to see the Rhine River Gorge

Our Final Thoughts

For us, river cruising helps you escape the fast pace world we live in and have an experience you will always remember.  There is a good balance of public and private space on the ship.  You will usually be wined and dined in style.  You will see sights you never knew existed.  And most importantly, you will get a glimpse of the culture of the area you are sailing through.  Why not join us in the future on a river cruise or let us plan one for you?  Please reach out to us by sending me an email at hschrader@dreamdestinations.com or better yet, call me at 713-397-0188.  We want to be your trusted travel advisors.  We want to help you: Savor life . . . make memories . . . Visit Dream Destinations!  Your journey begins here!

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