River Cruise Agent
River cruising has gained so much popularity over the past few years, sometimes the challenge is to find space available on the dates and itinerary you want. For those who have never experienced a river cruise, they have many questions about what the experience will be like and how it might differ from a large cruise ships sailing the Mediterranean, Baltic or other region of the world. River cruises, like ocean cruises, are an "unpack-once experience" - no early morning wake-up calls for long coach rides from hotel to hotel! A cruise along one of Europe's many rivers and canals permits you to enjoy the panorama of the surrounding countryside which is always in view. River Cruise ships, in contrast to their larger cruise ships, are smaller vessels generally accommodating between 100 to 200 passengers in comfort. They cruise on the age-old waterways of Europe, - "the Danube, Rhine, Moselle, Elbe, Seine, Rhone, Po, Duoro and Volga". Aboard river ships you will find elegant dining rooms, spacious sun decks, comfortable lounges, fitness facilities, and sometimes swimming pools. Limited laundry service is available on most river ships. All meals on board are included in the cruise price, but your bar tab is charged to your shipboard account. Some include the shore excursions while on others they are optional at a supplemental cost. The purpose of a river cruise is not to rush from Point A to Point B, but to relax in a stress free environment to enjoy the delights of the countryside you are passing through, and get to know the "soul of the country".
Is a River Cruise Right for You?
River cruising is for those who want a "close-up, personal" experience in Europe. Mature & younger travelers find the pace and comfort of a river ship the ideal way to explore the real heart & soul of a country. It is also one of the most cost efficient ways to see Europe given the exchange rate. The most expensive parts of your trip, lodging, transportation and most meals are prepaid in US dollars saving you significantly over paying as you go on a land trip in Europe.
What is there to do on a River Cruis?
Lots! Each morning and again after lunch, guided tours to historic and cultural sites of the region provide guests many interesting choices from visiting chateaux, famous vineyards, country market towns and private gardens to specialty museums celebrating art, weapons, textiles or even bread! (In between, there is fine food)
Meals are included in your cruise price are generally buffet style in the mornings and for lunch and an a la carte menu for the evenings with usually three choices. Tea, coffee are usually available all day long. Other spirits are available from the bar while on some ships wine is included with dinner. While on a shore excursion lunch is usually included. Check out your cruise itinerary to see what is included in this regard.
How will we do the sightseeing?
Each River Ship has a designated cruise director who has arranged for the daily excursions to points of interest or who will give a running comentary on regions of particular interest as you sail through them. Many of these are included in the price of your cruise.
Because the ship is small, will I get bored & feel confined?
Not if you enjoy meeting the locals, viewing passing vineyards and chateaux, or sharing experiences with a congenial group of travelers. You will be able to get off at designated stops where your ship ties up practically at will. Take a walk into town, meet and talk to the locals (most speak english) or simply sit with a glass of wine or local beer and watch the daily activities in town.
Is seasickness a problem on River Cruises?
Never...rivers and canals are not tidal and are controlled waterways. The gentle movement of the ships anchored for the night have caused even insomniacs to report wonderful, restful sleep.
Staterooms have private bathrooms
All newer ship have cabins with private, nicely appointed bathrooms with showers. Some suites include bathtubs. However on some older ships, especially those sailing waterways other than central Europe, the bathrooms may be small. Several ships have saunas and on deck hot tubs or jacuzzis as well.
On Board Attire
Most passengers enjoy the relaxed atmosphere on board river boats and fancy dressing is not the custom. Comfortable, casual attire, sneakers or docksiders on board. Sweaters, a windbreaker and shorts or cotton pants are recommended. At the Captain's final dinner, a little "dress-up" is O.K. Ties are rare, and there is no need for anything formal.
River ships are larger and it is not necessary to restrict the luggage you bring on board to one piece. Most river ships do offer optional laundry service, but not dry-cleaning. If the vessel you have chosen has a pool, a jacuzzi, or hot tub - don't forget your swimsuit! Generally, the canals and rivers are not recommended for swimming.
Tips for Packing
Instructions for couples: never pack one suitcase for one person and one suitcase for the other person. Split belongings between the two cases. If one case goes astray neither person is left without a change of clothes and necessities.
There generally is no medical staff onboard (exception - Amadeus Waterways), however there are procedures in place in the event that medical attention is required. There are qualified physicians and hospitals all along the route, as well as pharmacies. We do suggest that you carry an extra copy of your important prescriptions with you when you are traveling.
Entertainment on Board
Due to the limited space on board there are no lavish productions shows as on ocean going vessels. However local groups are often brought on board and the crew try their best to entertain you. There is generally nightly piano music.
Gratuities are generally not included. Please remember that the US dollar is worth less than the euro so tip accordingly not with US dollars
Recommended Tipping per person:
¡Taxi-fare on meter 10-15%
¡ Dining room - total bill 10-15%
¡Tour Director euro 4.00 per person per day.
¡Motorcoach Driver euro 2.50 per person per day.
¡Local Sightseeing Guide euro 1.00
When Service Charge is included, for service above average a small extra tip is suggested.
Since switching to the Euro it has become easier to travel with one currency through Europe. We recommend that while in Europe you have an adequate supply of 1 euro denominations for tipping. Traveller cheques are difficult to exchange in Europe. Other than taking an adequate supply of euros in cash we recommend that you take your credit card and bank card. ATM machines are widely available throughout Europe. Please make sure that your bank card has a 4 digit access code since this is the only code that will work in european ATM's. Travelers checks and currency can be changed at airports, sometimes your hotel, a local bank and at "Bureau de Change" locations throughout Europe. However there may be hefty service charge. Also, have some travellers checks in each person's name. If one person is unable to sign the check, the other still has access to money. Never carry all your travellers checks together.
The majority of larger restaurants, shops, hotels, theatres, etc. in Western Europe, and in many Eastern Europe countries, accept most major credit cards. The bill you sign will be in local currency. This will be converted into US or Canadian dollars by the credit card company and invoiced in the usual way. You can use American Express, Diner's Club, Visa, and Mastercard to obtain cash abroad. Be aware, many banks charge an international transaction fee on each purchase.
Carry your passport with you at all times to ensure against loss or theft. For added protection, keep a photocopy of your passport in your suitcase. Hotels are sometimes required to hold your passport overnight to comply with local regulations.
It is the law in some European countries to have some form of identification on you.
Some ships have in-cabin telephones but will add a service charge to the cost of any phone calls you make from your cabin. This charge can be high, especially for international calls. It is always cheaper to use public telephones (pay phones) when on land or an international calling service such as AT&T 'USA Direct'. Your tour director will advise you how to use the telephone if you are unsure. Call late UK/Europe time, it's cheaper. In France and Britain use prepaid phonecards for a set amount of phone time - no change required and no big bills. Available from tobacconists, phone exchanges and Post Offices.
Electrical Appliances - Variable voltage
Ships catering to the north American market usually have one plug at least which will be 120V. However be aware that electrical currents vary in Britain and on the continent of Europe. Some appliances you own may havedual voltage, but if not, we suggest you carry a convertor for your electric shaver, travelling iron and other small appliances. Also, pins, holes and plugs differ everywhere, so buy a universal electrical travel adaptor before you go to prevent accidents and damage to your appliance.
For those who can't live without the internet and email we would suggest that you leave your lap top at home and use one of the internet cafes that are located in almost any of the European cities. We found charges in Italy, Greece, Germany and even the island of Santorini on a 1/2 hr basis to be very reasonable. If you happen to fly business class most lounges have free internet access. Not taking your laptop prevents the stress of taking it through airport security, an extra piece of hand luggage and with the new restrictions probably the only hand luggage you will be permitted. Reminder: Before you leave home make sure you know the codes required to access your email account.