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#5142 - 09/22/10 10:49 AM River Cruise Reflections and Comparisons
Dreps Offline
cruiser

Registered: 02/16/04
Posts: 1434
Loc: Washington, DC
Now that we’re back, and exhausted and fighting colds, I will write up some observations on the experience. First, we really enjoyed the CASTLE River Cruise, seeing new places and especially seeing B&K friends who we hadn’t seen in awhile.

It is important that one doesn’t go with unrealistic expectations. We know the cabins wouldn’t be Regent-size and didn’t expect the service or food to match Regent either. And that is what we found. The cabins are adequate, and as Ngaire suggested (and I largely ignored) don’t bring too much because there isn’t a lot of storage area. We managed though and we were spending an additional 8 nights -- 4 on each end. There was room under the beds to store a fair amount of luggage. There is this rolling drawer under half the bed, which I think is mostly a waste because we used it to store some of the luggage. The bathroom is REALLY small, though the shower works quite well, and there is some storage above and under the sink. In our third-floor cabin, the “free” Internet worked pretty well most of the time. The steward for our cabin was very efficient, and the few requests we had were carried out promptly. She also was very good at making “towel animals.”

Food. That’s a tough one. Breakfasts were fine. I’m not a very fussy coffee drinker, but I didn’t particularly like the coffee, and learned toward the end, that one was better off ordering cappuccinos. In addition, Gail drinks tea as do the Simpsons, and they generally asked for hot water and brought tea bags from the “coffee” corner in the lounge to brew their own. There was an egg station, cereals, good breads and pastries, smoked salmon, cold meats, fresh fruit, etc. Regent is better, but the AMA breakfast was better than many hotel buffets I’ve seen.

What all of us really didn’t like was that since there was essentially one seating, we often were lined up outside the dining room until the doors were opened, especially at dinner and sometimes at lunch, depending on what we were doing in the morning. The food varied quite a bit. There were always several selections, and for lunch, you went up to get your salads or other starters, and then ordered something for the main course from the menu. I remember that the goulash they served at the end in Budapest was a particularly good lunch entrée. I had heard that the hamburgers were not good. The ice cream on the ship was excellent. I don’t usually have “real” ice-cream, but I like a sweet, and it was often the most appealing alternative. Dinner in some ways was more problematic. One night “roast leg of lamb” turned out to be a “lamb shank.” I like lamb shanks, but I thought that this type of difference shouldn’t take place. Soups were usually good. I thought the Wiener Schnitzel on the ship was pretty good, though I had better in Prague. By the way, the wine flowed freely, and I think it was generally quite good. It was from the areas we visited, and they have some very drinkable wines. Actually, the fussier among us (like me) did not like that they tended to overfill the glasses. I don’t think you take one of these cruises for the food or for that matter visit these countries for haute cuisine. We had some very good meals, but in general the food is heavy for us.

The service in the dining room was okay. At first, the CASTLE group generally ate in the same area, and we had an excellent waiter. Sometimes, we spread out, and we experienced less good service. Also, the maitre d’ came around during the meal with an additional dish of vegetables, which was not timed well. It often came very late and the vegetables tended to be overcooked. We would have liked to see more green vegetables available.

Entertainment. On most evenings, there was entertainment either before or after dinner. At times, it was a little schmaltzy for my taste, but on the whole it was fairly good. In general, there were young, talented performers (singers, dancers, or instrumentalists), and it provided more of an appreciation of the fact this entire area was the center of the music world at one time and that the people were still very proud of “their” composers.

The excursions that were included or that were optional tended to be good. They generally included either a walking tour or a bus tour combined with a walking tour. The audio devices that we used were a great addition to the walking portions of the excursions.

The other thing that was very bothersome during our pre- and post-cruise stays was smoking. We are just not used to being around so many people smoking--walking down the street, in restaurants, etc. We tried to eat in non-smoking sections, but weren’t always successful. We had no problem in our hotels, by the way. We stayed at the Buddha Bar in Prague and the Le Meridien in Budapest, and I’ll be glad to expound on them if someone contacts me. We liked both of them, and I know that in Budapest we were on a no-smoking floor, but smoking wasn’t an issue at the Buddha Bar either.

So that is my take (with Gail’s input) on the experience. We wouldn’t hesitate to take another River Cruise, though I think 10 days might be the maximum length of time in this type of cabin. One aspect that Gail commented on was that at least with this itinerary, there was only one time that we were actually cruising during the day to enjoy the scenery. As a result, it was more like an ocean cruise in that respect than we had anticipated. Furthermore, it was like a port-intensive cruise in that there was practically no downtime--no time to go up to the sun deck and just relax and get some sun (and probably some second-hand smoke ;) ).

-------------

Eugene

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#5143 - 09/22/10 11:55 AM Re: River Cruise Reflections and Comparisons
Jim B Offline
cruiser

Registered: 02/12/04
Posts: 3639
Loc: Miles City, Montana
Thank you very Much.
What you wrote mirrors what we experienced
last December on our cruise.
And we to look forward to doing another river cruise. :app:
_________________________
Jim


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#5144 - 09/22/10 01:22 PM Re: River Cruise Reflections and Comparisons
cruiseluv Offline
cruiser

Registered: 02/17/04
Posts: 2107
Loc: Gladstone, NJ
Eugene,

Thanks for your candid review. Throughout the years I have been debating whether or not to do a river cruise. I would love to visit the places it goes to, but based on what I read from you and from others I don't think I would enjoy much the ships themselves. Maybe I'm spoiled.
_________________________
María

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#5145 - 09/22/10 01:45 PM Re: River Cruise Reflections and Comparisons
joannapv Offline
cruiser

Registered: 02/11/04
Posts: 11641
Loc: Ponte Vedra Beach, Fl
Maria it IS very different from ocean cruising - I think Eugene did a very good and fair review - we "really" enjoyed our Paris/Amsterdam last yr - do I want to river cruise 24/7??? NO, but right price, good companions, and itinerary I would go again but I know what to expect... I'd take ocean anyday - I am spoiled too ;) ;)
_________________________
Joanna

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#5146 - 09/22/10 04:57 PM Re: River Cruise Reflections and Comparisons
sedona Offline
cruiser

Registered: 02/20/04
Posts: 4448
Loc: New York State
Great review. Very balanced. Thanks for putting things in perspective for those of us spoiled by Regent, but going on a river cruise.
_________________________

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#5147 - 09/22/10 06:09 PM Re: River Cruise Reflections and Comparisons
gf Offline
cruiser

Registered: 03/08/04
Posts: 2426
Loc: Atlanta
Thanks so much for all your reports and wonderful pix! Hope you recuperate quickly from the colds!
_________________________
Another Kathy

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#5148 - 09/22/10 08:16 PM Re: River Cruise Reflections and Comparisons
jhp Offline
cruiser

Registered: 02/11/04
Posts: 7689
Eugene, excellent review, spot on to my experience as well. The time comes when we want to go to places we haven't been yet, but don't want to drive, train, plane, whatever it takes to get from place to place. Truth, is, as you know, you can't visit those "ports" by any luxury cruise "ship" without these boats unless you want to do the other modes of travel. Cruise ships can't go there! You already knew this, and probably why you chose this cruise. Others make choices based only on the passage vessel, and not the itinerary. River boats are limited in width by the locks they have to pass and the depth for other stuff. I enjoyed our "PARIS" cruise on same line. I was in a single, that was so tiny, but had a great time, and the weather was cold but I still had fun!

I would do it again, but only with a BK group, and if the itinerary was spectacular and I had not been there before.

Future cruisers who can't decide, just have to figure out whether to take one of those bus tours, or to move by the water or train, unless they want to drive at their own pace. I'm not opposed to a coach "cruise", and have done a couple of them, but the NOT "unpacking" thing means a lot, too.

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#5149 - 09/27/10 08:40 AM Re: River Cruise Reflections and Comparisons
Jim B Offline
cruiser

Registered: 02/12/04
Posts: 3639
Loc: Miles City, Montana
Last week 4 friends of ours just got back from doing Avalon Cruise 15 day Budapest to Amsterdam.
Interesting comments of "Just OK" cruise.
Finally realized the problem was they did not go prepared. Both have done Ocean cruises but had not read anything about this cruise.

1. Weather: Way underdressed and had taken mostly Summer clothes.

2. Excursions: Had no idea almost everyday was a stop somewhere and you had excursions which required lots of walking.(tough when all you brought are dress shoes and open toed sandals)

3. Sleeping: Could hardly sleep at night because that is when the ship moved from one place to another and going through the locks,(something like 63 of them), it would bang from side to side and wake you up.

4. Cabin: Had decided to book lower priced cabins because of price savings and then were upset because they were so low in the ship. Also felt the cabin size was tight and shower was very tight. Closet and storage space was good.

5. Eating: And biggest disappointment was the food. When you are not much of a fish, pork, or chicken eater and really want beef it would be a problem. They ended up eating off the ship a number of times because of this.

6. Wanted to check in at home on the public computers but they were almost always being used and very slow and they charged by the minute to use so gave up on that idea.

Would they do another river cruise? NO!
I really don't feel sorry for them because of their lack of understanding the cruise before signing up.

Writing this because I feel it is important for anyone interested in going on a river cruise to understand it is not the same as a ocean cruise.
There may be a few negatives, but for the most part they are fanstic and very positive experience. You just need to understand what you are signing up for.
We look forward to going on another one. I do agree that going with a B&K or LCT group makes it even better. There are times you need to make your own party and boy can we do that!
We hope to be able to do the 2012 Ngaire "escorted" Russian cruise.
_________________________
Jim


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#5150 - 09/27/10 08:53 AM Re: River Cruise Reflections and Comparisons
Ray Offline
cruiser

Registered: 03/12/04
Posts: 1685
Loc: Cleveland
Hi Jim & Jan:

Good timing on your note. FedEx just delivered all the documents for our Seine River Cruise from Paris to the Normandy Beaches and then back to Paris. We fly to Paris from Venice the day after disembarking TUT.

Well, we're ready for whatever, just bring on the Normandy Beaches. This is why I picked this cruise.

We will, however, be all by our lonesome on the River Cruise and Cruise Critic doesn't even have a roll call for it either. Two entirely different types of "floats" that's for sure.

From the get-go, though, the documents from Avalon Waterways do pick one's interest.

Cheers! Ray & Penny

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#5151 - 09/27/10 09:24 AM Re: River Cruise Reflections and Comparisons
cruisinfanatic Offline
cruiser

Registered: 02/21/04
Posts: 5112
Loc: Oakton VA
Excellent points Jim. I have three couple clients who are at this moment on the same cruise Ray and Penny are going to do, then they will take a Provence cruise next week. They have also done that 15 day Amsterdam to Budapest, and they love the river cruising. But as you said, I think they knew and were prepared for what they were getting into. One couple are boaters, have a 43' yacht that we are lucky enough to get invited on, and so they are quite use to smaller bathrooms and cabins. They love cruise ship cruising too, but its all a matter of perspective. Usually when I'm working with clients considering river boat cruising, I try to make sure they are aware of the differences and prepare them for those, especially if they have done a lot of ocean type cruising. Frank and I would love to do one of these, and its definitely on our list.

Ray, will be interested to hear and add your observations to others.
_________________________
JoAnn

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#5152 - 09/27/10 09:49 AM Re: River Cruise Reflections and Comparisons
Dreps Offline
cruiser

Registered: 02/16/04
Posts: 1434
Loc: Washington, DC
The one comment that I'm surprised about was the noise at night. I'm not a heavy sleeper--just ask Gail--and I don't remember ever being awakened by going through the locks even though we went through about 10 during the night. Maybe because Jim's friends were in a lower cabin, it was more of an issue.

As I said, we were also surprised at the amount of walking we did because we thought that there would be more day time cruising. But the up side to all the walking was that we didn't gain weight.

Another issue that I didn't mention in my post was the noise in the dining room. I think it is the result of the low ceilings in these ships together with the fact that everyone eats at the same time so that the room is packed. At times, it really is difficult to carry on a conversation at one's table because it is so noisy.

Nevertheless, we'd still do it again.

--------------------

Eugene

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#5153 - 09/27/10 11:34 AM Re: River Cruise Reflections and Comparisons
Jim B Offline
cruiser

Registered: 02/12/04
Posts: 3639
Loc: Miles City, Montana
On our cruise we did not have a problem either
with the locks. I do remember a couple of times we hit the side pretty hard, but you just go back to sleep.
Yes I agree the dining room was noisy and everyone piling up at the doors when they opened was irritating. But that is the way they do things.
Yes we look forward to doing another river cruise too.
_________________________
Jim


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#5154 - 09/27/10 12:16 PM Re: River Cruise Reflections and Comparisons
jbittle Offline
cruiser

Registered: 03/14/06
Posts: 783
Loc: Maitland, FL
On the Paris cruise we loved all the walks. We never had a problem getting into the dining room because we sipped our wine in the lounge for an extra 10 minutes and were then able to walk right in and our meals came at the same time as everyone else s.
We're doing Prague to Budapest on AMA in Dec, but it's a slightly different itinerary beginning in Nuremburg. Also, it's visiting Christmas markets so things will be somewhat different than Castles. We found the AMA rooms plenty large for us, didn't use all the closet & drawer space and the shower worked fine for us. When you aren't expecting Regent levels, things are quite good on AMA.
Jim

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#5155 - 09/27/10 12:22 PM Re: River Cruise Reflections and Comparisons
ChatKat... Offline
cruiser

Registered: 02/19/04
Posts: 7646
Loc: Westlake Village, Ca.
Has anyone here been on a Viking River Cruise? We won one in a Silent Auction and haven't found much online about them.
_________________________
VOYAGER:
MC to FLL 11/07
MC/Dover 6/06
MARINER:
BCN / Ven 10/11
Alaska 2001|2006
Panama Canal 2003
NAV
Caribbean 11/06
Bermuda|New Eng/Canada 6/04
PG 5/05
OCEANIA
Nautica |Ist/Athens 6/07
Regatta|Baltics 6/08
Riviera 2013 Crossing -Istanbul to Miami

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#5156 - 09/27/10 01:35 PM Re: River Cruise Reflections and Comparisons
Jim B Offline
cruiser

Registered: 02/12/04
Posts: 3639
Loc: Miles City, Montana
You are correct Jim! That was interesting how you could just wait a few minutes, go in and still be served the same time as others.
We also thought the AMA cabin was fine. I'm wondering if Avalon cabins are different from what we had. OR because they went for a less price cabin they maybe were a little smaller.
Will be interesting to get your report after your next river cruise on AMA.

Seems like we had to "step through" a Viking ship at one of our ports. It was a little larger than ours, seemed to have more wood trim but they would not let us look any farther than what we could see passing through it real quickly.
When we got back from our excursion it was gone and our ship was docked at the pier.
_________________________
Jim


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#5157 - 09/27/10 01:45 PM Re: River Cruise Reflections and Comparisons
cruisinfanatic Offline
cruiser

Registered: 02/21/04
Posts: 5112
Loc: Oakton VA
Kathy - my clients I mentioned are on Viking River right now, went on them last year for the Amsterdam to Budapest and they absolutely love it. They have also done AMA, and they thought the food was much better on Viking River. They get the cabins with the french balcony, but they have never had anything but good things to say about them. If you go in with the right perspective, based on things you see here, I think you will like it. Its very different from ocean ships, but very relaxed, I would think you could easily get to know most if not all the other passengers.
_________________________
JoAnn

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#5158 - 09/27/10 02:20 PM Re: River Cruise Reflections and Comparisons
pwolftx Offline
cruiser

Registered: 07/21/04
Posts: 1819
Loc: Fort Worth, TX
We've been on a Viking River Cruise (Eastern Europe, Budapest to the Black Sea) and thought it was great--we really enjoyed it. Our experience was very much like what Eugene described on Castles. The one difference was that at the time, they didn't include wine with meals. I could be mistaken, but I think they do now. We've also had other friends and relatives who have been on Viking and all had very positive reviews. Kathy, if you get on their mailing list, you'll get probably more information than you want--we get something from them about once a week.
_________________________
Peggy

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#5159 - 09/29/10 11:14 AM Re: River Cruise Reflections and Comparisons
ChatKat... Offline
cruiser

Registered: 02/19/04
Posts: 7646
Loc: Westlake Village, Ca.
Thanks for the info. Yes, I am on the mailing list and get a weekly love letter. I was at a charity event and met the president who told me he and the Conroys are best of friends. At another charity event, they had a silent auction and I bid and won the Amsterdam to Basel or reverse cruise for less than a week on Carnival(lol) but we can't book until 90 days from sailing although we can start the booking process before. So we have some dates in mind but have to wait to book next year.
_________________________
VOYAGER:
MC to FLL 11/07
MC/Dover 6/06
MARINER:
BCN / Ven 10/11
Alaska 2001|2006
Panama Canal 2003
NAV
Caribbean 11/06
Bermuda|New Eng/Canada 6/04
PG 5/05
OCEANIA
Nautica |Ist/Athens 6/07
Regatta|Baltics 6/08
Riviera 2013 Crossing -Istanbul to Miami

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#5160 - 09/29/10 03:11 PM Re: River Cruise Reflections and Comparisons
FDV72 Offline
cruiser

Registered: 02/21/05
Posts: 646
Loc: Boston
We enjoyed our Xmas/river cruise very much, saw some great things and of course the people we were with made it always a great time.. A little cold for my liking, but that was ok... I thought the food was fine, I did not like the buildup for dinner at all, and didnt like on two evenings being asked at 9pm to call it a night because they have to get up early.. The cabin for me was to small and the bathroom shower was to small for me as well.. Would do again but would want a bigger cabin and maybe a little more flexibility...

FV

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#5161 - 09/29/10 03:20 PM Re: River Cruise Reflections and Comparisons
joannapv Offline
cruiser

Registered: 02/11/04
Posts: 11641
Loc: Ponte Vedra Beach, Fl
Agree Frank with all your comments - and hard on small boat when you have a "lively" group :D :D :D :ch: :ch:
_________________________
Joanna

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#5162 - 09/30/10 12:17 PM Re: River Cruise Reflections and Comparisons
Wandra Offline
cruiser

Registered: 03/19/04
Posts: 3411
Loc: Toronto and Dunedin FL
These comments are all great--a river cruise is on our wish list but we would obviously have to have our eyes open.

One of the things that concerns me is the comment about there being no river cruising time during the day--I'd like some of that, to see the scenery.

Kathy, what a deal! Lucky you guys!
_________________________
Wendy
------
Sailed: Oceania Riviera Crossing, November 2013
Booked: Paul Gauguin, September 2014

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#5163 - 09/30/10 01:11 PM Re: River Cruise Reflections and Comparisons
jackie Offline
cruiser

Registered: 08/13/06
Posts: 259
Loc: chicago, illinois
we have done 5 river cruises and all had daytime cruising. we would stop & see the area we were docked in & move on. we took a 4 week trip from bucharest to amsterdam & we had several long mornings or afternoons of all cruising. it was delightful to see the river life along the river with the local people fishing, swimming, farming, the vineyards terraced up the hills, etc. Lazy/sleepy/reading/eating times on the top deck in the sun.
_________________________
Jackie

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