The Best European Luxury River Cruise Lines
The major success story in the cruise industry in recent yearshas been that of river cruising, with a huge increase in vesselsintroduced each year, additional itineraries researched andoperated, and the sudden expansion of quality river cruise vesselsthroughout Europe and further afield.
So many companies are jostling for position, claiming to be thebest, that it’s hard as a consumer to make a judgement on which tochoose. First of all, a quick rule of thumb – you get what you payfor! If something looks cheap, that’s either going to be because itis out of season , or becauseit is of an inferior quality.
Whilst in the ocean going cruise market it is quite easy todifferentiate from brand to brand, when choosing a European rivercruise, you will be more likely to find many similarities. If youare paying top dollar, you should expect included shore excursions,included drinks with meals, included gratuities, localentertainment, a lecture programme, whisper headsets and bicyclesfor passenger use. In our opinion, the following companies are thevery best luxury river cruise lines in Europe:
Who Has The Right Itinerary And Shore Program For Me
Celebrity has more ships and therefore offers a greater number of itineraries than Viking. If you are seeking a longer voyage Viking offers Grand Voyages and Worldwide Cruises.
With two Expedition ships, Celebrity offers expedition cruises of the Galapagos on Celebrity Flora and Celebrity Xpedition while Viking will commence expedition cruising in the polar regions on two new expedition ships in 2022.
While its not the case for all their voyages, Celebrity Cruises offers more round trip journeys, starting and finishing in the same port whereas Viking itineraries tend to start and finish in different ports, except on a handful of voyages. For example, an itinerary with Celebrity to the Norwegian Fjords will generally start and finish in the same port, be that London or Amsterdam. Viking itineraries will, in all but a handful of cases, start in one port and finish in another, such as starting in London and finishing in Bergen, Norway. This is noteworthy for travel plans or tours you might take to complement your cruise experience.
Viking Ocean Cruises Silver Spirits Package:
The cost for the Viking Silver drinks package is $19.95 USD per night per guest. The total cost varies according to the length of the ocean cruise.
For a 7-night cruise, the cost is $139.65 USD p.p.
For a 14-night cruise, the cost is $279.30 USD p.p.
Beverage gratuities are included in the package.
See the 2020 rates for the Silver Spirits package .
Note: Both guests in the stateroom must buy the package.
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How To Get A Free Beverage Package And $200 Shipboard Credit On Vikings New Itineraries
If youve got the bug to travel again, youre in good company.
We kicked off our Partner of the Month promotion with Viking Cruises last week, and featured their cruises this summer to Iceland, Bermuda, Greece and Croatia, and the response has been tremendous. These are selling really quickly, but theres still some space left if you want to travel in the next few months. Heres the link if you missed it:
If you book one of these Welcome Home cruises between May 14th May 31st, youll receive a complimentary Silver Spirits Beverage Package!
Not only that, but if you book ANY Viking cruise through us during the month of May 2021 youll also receive a $100 per person shipboard credit from us. Everything is exactly the same as booking directly with Viking except youll benefit from our friendly, professional service AND youll get an extra $100 per person to use towards pre-paid gratuities, Silver Spirits Beverage Package, or optional excursions.
This week, well talk about what Viking is known best for: European River cruises. Viking is on all the major European Rivers and are the largest operator there. Most first-time river cruisers end up on the Rhine , or the Danube . But there are other rivers in Europe that Viking sails too:
- Portugal .
- Elbe River
A Typical Day on a Viking Longship in Europe:
Featured Trip: The Passage to Eastern Europe
Domestic Travel Opportunities
What Alcohol Is Included On Marella Cruises
- Draught Beers
- Aperitifs, Liqueurs, Ports and Sherries
- Gins, Vodkas, Rums and Tequilas
- Whiskies and Brandies
Soda, juices, and mocktails are also included.
To see the full list of the drinks available on Marella cruises check out the post here:
What Alcohol isnt included?
When cruising with Marella it is possible to upgrade to a premium beverage package. This costs £50 a week and means you can have premium spirits, soda by the can instead of fountain soda, and premium teas and coffees.
Drinks packages on other cruise lines can cost in excess of £50 per day so £50 for a week is an absolute bargain.
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The Bottom Line For River Cruises Vs Ocean Cruises
We think they’re completely different experiences, albeit both vessels that sail on bodies of water.
Generally, we’ve found you can go on an ocean cruise for less money than a river cruise. Yet we’ve found there is a correlation for the type of attention and customer service you get on small and large ships. Ocean cruises have good customer service onboard in most cases but you feel less camaraderie with fellow cruisers than on a river cruise. A river cruise can feel like coming home again at the end of each day exploring a port city, returning to your ship.
If you want to be more anonymous on a large ship that sails into big ports, and want a plethora of options everyday, in every way, stopping at big ports of callsand you’re okay paying extra for excursions knowing it’s simply a variable of the type of vacation you’re choosing, perhaps an ocean cruise is for you.
If you want a more personalized experience with a smaller group and you’re okay eating in the same restaurant or two everyday and you want to experience more intimate towns whose tours are included in the price of your trip, then look into river cruising.
While it’s nice to have options that ocean cruises provide, there’s something very special about river cruises. Why not have the best of both worlds and do each? We recommend it.
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Cabins And Staterooms On River Vs Ocean Cruises
Stateroom designs vary so much from ship to ship no matter if it’s a river or ocean cruise. So we’ll simply say that it’s very common to have more space on a stateroom on an ocean cruise ship.
Additionally, you can pay for an upgrade on an ocean cruise to have a balcony or save money by have an interior stateroom without window. Yet on river cruises all rooms face outward and commonly have a balcony. Because the ship is small and narrow there are no interior staterooms or cabins on river cruise ships.
The top two photos above are aboard the Disney Dream, with Disney Cruise Line. The bottom two are from river cruise ships, the Emerald Sky with Emerald Cruises and Viking Alta, with Viking, respectively.
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Youll Need To Use Your Phone
Courtesy of Viking Cruises
Part of the fun of a cruise is getting away from the stresses of your everyday life, and for many of us, that means turning off the smartphone for a while. However, Viking offers a few apps to make your cruise more enjoyable, and if you dont install them, youll miss out.
The Viking Art Guide offers a self-guided audio tour of the artwork throughout the public spaces of the ships, with insightful commentary from your host, Vikings Senior Vice President Karine Hagen, as well as a variety of curators and experts, our source says.
Another essential download is the Viking Voyager app, which lets you see daily events, plan your cruise program, and book shore excursions, spa appointments, and dinner reservations. Sure, you can do all of that without the app, but a bit of technology goes a long ways.
As one of the apps reviewers puts it: This app is an essential tool for getting the most out of your cruise.
Most Inclusive River Cruise Operators
Focusing on those cruise lines who offer complimentary drinks, at the guests’ discretion, throughout the cruise… here are the most inclusive operators:
Uniworld are one of the only truly all-inclusive river cruise operators. They offer unlimited complimentary beverages onboard, including an extensive selection of distinctive wines, craft and regional beers, spirits, cocktails, soft drinks, mineral water, speciality coffee and tea. But it doesn’t stop at drinks… Uniworld are the pinnacle of all-inclusive river cruising Included in your cruise fare is, in-suite butler service, all gratuities, on board dining, exclusive excursions, on board lectures & entertainment, shipwide Wi-Fi and more.
Scenic describe themselves as Ulta-All-Inclusive. From the moment you step onboard youll be spoilt for choice, from your first coffee to the last relaxing nightcap from your mini-bar! Whilst onboard, all cocktails, spirits, beer, wine, soft drinks, tea and coffee are complimentary at any time! But with Scenic, the luxury experience doesn’t stop at the bar, everything else is included fine dining, all shore excursions, all port charges, even a butler for every guest and more!
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What Are The Best River Cruises For Families With Kids
Adventures by Disney is the best option for families since they curate their onboard and onshore activities with kids and teens in mind. Uniworld is also a good choice with an array of added perks for kids of all ages.
Otherwise, most welcome children but don’t offer extra programming for them, and Viking doesn’t allow children at all.
You Need To Think About What All
Courtesy of Viking Cruises
If youve cruised before, you know that Viking cruises arewell, expensive. You can expect to pay several thousand dollars for your trip , which seems costly compared to the $500-600 rates youd find from other cruise companies.
However, once youve paid, you dont need to spend much more. Your fare includes a shore excursion in each port of call , onboard meals with beer and wine, Wi-Fi access, self-service laundry, spa access, and 24-hour room service.
Viking estimates that their amenities are worth about $200, per guest, per day. To get that value, youll have to use as many of the onboard services as possible, but it beats constantly taking out your wallet for things like internet access and port fees.
And not to hammer home the point, but Viking cruises are truly luxurious. Standard features like heated bathroom floors and high-quality wooden deck furniture really help the cruise line stand out from its competitors . With that said, some If you want to enjoy a cocktail outside of lunch or dinner service, youll have to pay for the privilege. However
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Delta Is Asking Airlines To Share Their No
In a word, yes. Youd really have to work at sampling every dish and dining option the ship has to offer, including restaurants and frequent pop-up lunches and the food was always satisfying and often truly delicious.
Bucking the trend of up-charges, there is no extra charge for Viking Jupiters fine-dining restaurants, and beer and wine are included and poured generously with lunch and dinner. Of Viking Jupiters three fine-dining restaurants, Manfredis serves good Italian fare with a wide-ranging rotation of pastas and risottos. The Restaurant is massive but still manages to be elegant, with rooms divided by glass wine cases and big windows providing an up-close view of the waves outside.
The Lobster Thermidor was a big hit.
Theres sometimes a short wait for a table, but The Restaurant still manages to serve throngs without creating the feeling of a scrum. On the last night of the cruise it seemed everyone on the ship had gotten wind of the lobster Thermidor on the menu, but the staff managed admirably.
The World Café made an effort to serve the national cuisines of the countries on our itinerary a German night of sausage, schnitzel and spätzle was particularly delicious and, perhaps needless to say, filling. Yet there always seemed to be a good selection of vegetarian and vegan fare, hot entrees as well as salad and fruit. So eating healthy would not be difficult for passengers who could resist temptation.
Medicover Viking Pcr Testing Partner
Viking has partnered with Medicover to equip its ocean ships with the worlds first full-scale PCR laboratories at sea. As part of the partnership, a strong network of dedicated shoreside labs in Europe will bring the same testing regime to Viking river ships.
Medicover is a leading international Healthcare and Diagnostic Services company with more than 96 highly specialized diagnostics laboratories and a network of 20 hospitals and 120 clinics and medical facilities, primarily across Europe. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Medicover has provided reliable testing at scale across their network of labs.
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Meet Others At Mealtimes
Sometimes the ship is moving during mealtime and you dont have the option to go to a local spot to eat. Take advantage of this time to meet some of your fellow travelers. If you have special dietary needs, you can stay in the dining room and eat at the same table with the same servers who will get to know you and your needs. The same fellow travelers may come and sit with you regularly or you may meet others who join you for a time. We enjoy meeting a variety of people by eating at different tables and even at different venues on the ship. The Aquavit Terrace offers indoor and outdoor dining, so if weather permits, you can get a delicious dose of alfresco dining, too. Its fun to share experiences, conversations, and ideas with a wide variety of people throughout the trip.
Can I Order Room Service
Room service is a rarity on river vessels, as the ships simply aren’t staffed to offer the type of food service that’s a staple on oceangoing vessels. Some lines offer a limited menu that’s available during dining times for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and others provide complimentary room service dependent on your stateroom category. One of the best lines for room service is Scenic, which offers a 24/7 menu of soup, sandwiches, burgers and desserts, as well as in-cabin breakfast service. Passengers in the top suites can have breakfast, lunch or dinner from the main menu delivered to their cabins. AmaWaterways and Uniworld are among the other lines that offer room service to selected suite guests. Avalon offers a Continental breakfast room service to all passengers for an extra charge.
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Bottled Water Is Included On Viking Cruises
Bottled water is available at no extra charge, both in your cabin and around the ship. On most other cruise lines you have to pay for bottled water or buy it as part of a package. There are a couple of cruise lines where even if you buy the unlimited beverage ultimate alcohol package they still will not include bottled water.
Having the bottled water around really encouraged me to drink more water which is always good. Its also great to be able to pick up a bottle when you get off the ship.
What To Expect On A Viking Ocean Cruise
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Lots and lots of details about our recent experience sailing on a Viking Ocean Cruise!
Alright guys, cozy up. Today Im finally sharing all about our recent sail through the Baltic Sea with Viking Ocean Cruises!
As I mentioned in my post about spending three days beforehand in Stockholm, this trip was both Barclays and my first time visiting each of the countries on this cruise Sweden, Finland, Russia, Estonia and Poland. So we were excited and curious to experience this part of Europe. And also, super curious to experience our first Viking ocean cruise.
As some of you might remember, we actually had the chance to sail through France on a Viking river cruise a few years ago, which we both really enjoyed. But we were curious how the Viking vibe would translate to a much larger ocean cruise ship, and how the experience overall would differ. Turns out, it was pretty different. But also, incredibly fun. We had a blast, and were hopelessly spoiled on board, and didnt want our week to end. So to answer the question a hundred or so of you asked yes, we would totally recommend it!
So heres the scoop on everything about our Viking ocean cruise, including details on:
- The Ship
- The Cruise
- The Food
- Our Best Tips
- Ocean Cruise vs. River Cruise
Our cruise ship: The Viking Star
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Get Some Culinary Snacks And Food Gifts To Take Home
When you go ashore, look for interesting snacks to try while you wander around. Stop in a souvenir shop or market and search the shelves for something youve heard about or seen others eat in the destination. When we were in Vienna, for example, we kept encountering these small round chocolates wrapped in foil. When we looked closer, we saw they had the image of Mozart right on the wrapping. We visited a local candy shop to buy some and learned that these Mozartkugel have a long history filled with Austrian pride. Bakeries, markets, convenience stores, and souvenir shops all usually have favorite treats on display. You can also purchase nibbles to take with you and enjoy during your journey or take home as gifts for your family and friends. The coffee stations on each ship often have pastries and cookies to go with your beverages, and sometimes those are local to the region. We enjoyed fresh lebkuchen German iced, soft gingerbread cookies with our tea.