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Is River Cruising for You?

clock 23rd August 2018 | comment0 Comments

Over the years river cruising has become an increasingly popular way to see the world, in a relaxed setting. This is evident in the fact that more than 150 river cruise itineraries have been launched in the last 5 years alone. But what is it all about? Read on to find out if river cruising is for you.

 

 

A Quick Overview of River Cruising

 

River cruise ships are much smaller than ocean cruise ships, which is often what attracts people to travel onboard. In many cases the smaller size means guests are more personally catered for, and truly receive that flawless service that you might not get on a ship of over 3,000 passengers. River cruise ships general accommodate between 100-200 people; creating a perfect, intimate experience.

The size of the vessel also creates a completely different kind of cruise holiday where destinations are concerned. The ships traverse the world’s rivers, which often pass through integral inland cities, such as Paris, Budapest, and Cairo. On a river cruise you will usually visit a new port each day, and possibly more than one a day sometimes. This means you might visit an incredible four or five countries in just one week, which is very uncommon on ocean cruises.

 

 

What’s Life Onboard Like on a River Cruise?

 

With fewer people onboard, river cruise ships are generally comfortable and intimate, but with plenty of space for everyone. Usually, you’ll find a restaurant, one or two lounges, and a deck on top with loungers, a bar, and sometimes a pool.

Generally all meals onboard are included, complete with complimentary drinks such as wine, beer, and soft drinks at dinner times. Along with those drinks, you’ll often have unlimited coffee, tea, and bottled water. During meal times there is open seating, so you are able to sit where you like each night. Tables are usually arranged to sit between six and ten guests, so you’ll be able to mingle with and get to know fellow cruisers more easily.

 

 

The dress code onboard is laid back, with no formal requirement. However, it is suggested that you bring at least one smart outfit, to wear at events like the Captain’s reception and gala dinners. You should also bring comfortable shoes and clothing due to the extensive menu of excursions, which range from castle hikes and bike rides to walking tours and wine tastings.

Entertainment on river cruises varies depending on the vessel and destination. Most river cruise lines prioritise the destination rather than onboard entertainment, as the itineraries are so port-intensive. This doesn’t mean there is nothing happening onboard however. You’ll often find a pianist playing during cocktail hour and after dinner, and many lines invite local entertainers onboard to provide a culture show of some sort.

 

What Are Excursions Like with River Cruising?

 

Excursions are a huge part of river cruising, so much so that generally all of them are included in the overall cost of the cruise. This is great because often excursions can tally up to a significant sum on an ocean cruise. This is one of the main attractions of this type of holiday to many frequent river cruisers.

 

 

The excursions themselves are designed to highlight the local culture and history of the port you’re stopping in. So if you are someone who enjoys getting out and about and discovering new things, know that river cruising creates captivating, unforgettable memories with truly insightful opportunities. You could visit a local orphanage in Southeast Asia, go to a cookery demonstration in Africa, or see some important World War II sites on a European river cruise, to name just a few.

 

Why should Ocean Cruisers try a River Cruise?

 

Many fans of ocean cruising will find themselves thinking about a river cruise at one time or another, so here’s why we think you should take the plunge and give river cruising a try.

 

  • The inclusions in your fare. All your food, free-flowing wine and beer at dinner, and all your excursions are completely taken care of.
  • The size of the ship. Whilst some ocean cruisers love the city-like feel of a liner that can take over 5,000 passengers, we promise you will enjoy the personal service and intimate surroundings of a river ship.
  • There are almost no days without a port stop. You’ll never find yourself bored on the ship with nothing to do, as river cruise ships do most of their travelling at night.
  • The number of destinations. Just about every day you can get out and about and discover somewhere new. With some excursions starting as early as 7am, no time at all is wasted.
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    Would a river cruise float your boat? Find out more about some river cruise experiences, with a customer review onboard Emerald Waterways!



    Cruise in France with Avalon Waterways

    clock 22nd August 2018 | comment0 Comments

    Fortunately, our very own Jack Lee from the sales team had the opportunity to experience a river cruise with Avalon Waterways, here’s what he thought of the trip.

     

     

    Arrival

    The arrival into Paris was quick, and we were greeted by the transport team who led us to the transfer from the airport to the river cruise port, which was about 45 minutes. Upon arrival to the ship, the first noticeable thing would be that there are only 3 decks. The ship holds 120 passengers in total, the entrance might look small but there is ample space for everyone. The gangway is small, and the ship is not located in a big port. Instead, you are seconds away from getting into Paris city centre when walking from the ship.

    Cabins

    Once checked in, we were able to go to our cabins and get to see them for the first time. The French Balcony is a very nice sized room; to the left when you open the door is the bathroom with a shower. On the right-hand side is a large mirror, which makes the room seem even bigger, and a large dressing table. The beds are set up as twins, but these can be made into a double if you wanted to. The balcony doors are floor to ceiling and can be opened half way.

     

     

    Dining

    Avalon Waterway’s dining is set every night at 7pm with around five exquisite courses. If you arrive any later than scheduled you may miss a course, which you aren’t able to request again. Having said this, there are always extra appetisers supplied for passengers in the evening. Drinks like wine, beers and soft drinks are included at dinner and lunch times, but other than dining and lunchtime you will have to purchase drinks.

    Onboard Activities

    There are many ways to enjoy yourself on the vessel, and when in port you are able to use one of the six onboard bikes to cycle around independently. If you stay on the ship, there is evening entertainment every day, which is held in the main public lounge. On the top deck, there are plenty of sun loungers that you can relax on. There is also a hot tub, which can be very relaxing even in the heat. There is no swimming pool onboard.

     

     

    Excursions

    Passengers usually get together at the nightly cruise director speech, at which you’d find out about the excursions available on the next day. Most are included in your sailing but you can purchase some extra special excursions.

    The excursions are great; there was one in particular that really stood out for me – the trip to the landing beaches of World War II. We started at Pegasus Bridge where the British invasion happened, walked around a beautiful museum where you learn about the battle that took place there. Next was the crematorium, where the sheer amount of people who lost their lives in the war really hits you. This was such a beautiful and thought-provoking place, as you walk around seeing name after name. Then we went to an area where the British army had come onto the beaches, it was amazing to see some of the man-made piers/platforms. The final part of the tour was a visit to the Canadian landing beaches. Here we went to a museum and watched a video after a tour. The film shows some original footage, and the touching moment of the film comes at the end when it shows the fallen soldiers walking behind you on the beach just outside where you take a walk yourself.

     

     

    Would a river cruise be for you? The option to have almost all your excursions included is amazing, as is the quality of food and intimate style of the ship. Take a look at our range of Avalon Waterways cruises to see where you could explore on a river cruise.



    A Cruise Expert's Review of Symphony of the Seas

    clock 31st July 2018 | comment0 Comments

    We love sending our staff out on various cruises and ship visits so that they can continue to hone their expertise and pass on knowledge to our customers. This being said, we felt it absolutely necessary to send a few of our guys out on what is now (at the time of writing!) the world’s largest cruise ship; Symphony of the Seas. Find out what cruise specialist Chelsea thought of this incredible ship . . .

     

     

    There are many, many awe-struck moments that you will feel with Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas. But this is what they do best.

    When you arrive you are hit instantly by her sheer size. She dwarfs all other ships in port and dominates the views. Many people are a little worried about the 5,518 passenger capacity onboard, but they really don’t need to be. Most of the time, you don’t even realise you are sailing, never mind on a cruise ship!

    The ship is so vast that you don’t feel swamped by other passengers at all, and instead, you feel simply relaxed. The only time you would see the majority of the other passengers would be in the Theatre, which spans over 2 decks towards the front of the ship. I was lucky enough to watch Hairspray here and was taken aback by the staging, the lights, and the whole performance. It really does rival the West End!

    Inside the ship, you feel as though you are in a huge shopping centre, it’s filled with entertainment, restaurants, shops, and bars. Each ‘Neighbourhood’ is truly amazing in a different way;

     

  • Central Park with its trees and plants really makes you feel like you’re having a coffee in a park.
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  • The Boardwalk boasts the Aqua Theatre and sports bars.
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  • The Royal Promenade is the heart of the ship, and where you will find the shops and bars.
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    Not to mention all the other amenities onboard the ship; water slides, the Abyss, the Pools, FlowRider, the zip line, rock-climbing walls, laser tag - is it possible there’s too much to do?

    The cabin we had was a Balcony cabin overlooking the Boardwalk. The cabin itself was perfect for two people and had a sofa area by the balcony. We had a great view of the Aqua Theatre, but this did also mean we could hear the Aqua Theatre Show when our door was open. If the door is shut, you hear next to no noise at all which is great for the evenings.

    As great as our accommodation was, I would, in fact, recommend an Oceanview Balcony cabin on this ship. You can see the ocean beyond the Aqua Theatre and also from the windows in the main restaurant, but it isn’t visible elsewhere on the ship. Staying in an Oceanview Balcony, you would know you were holidaying on a cruise ship after all!

     

     

    A cruise isn’t a cruise if you don’t mention the food. The Main Restaurant on Symphony of the Seas is beautiful, and the standard of the food you just cannot fault. The Windjammer is everything you expect and caters for every fancy. The speciality restaurants that you see on other Royal Caribbean ships are also present; Jamie’s Italian, Izumi, and Chop’s Grille for example. Like more of the large ships in the fleet, 150 Central Park and Wonderland are also both onboard. My only regret is not being able to try Wonderland’s ‘Imaginative dining’ - I would advise anyone to book a table here in advance through your Cruise Personaliser, so as not to miss out!

    And as for the staff, we couldn’t fault any of them; they always, always went above and beyond as usual.

    Take a closer look at life onboard Symphony of the Seas, or if you’re already sold, browse through our range of Symphony of the Seas cruises.



    Celebrity Cruises to Transform Entire Fleet

    clock 23rd July 2018 | comment0 Comments

    The highly-anticipated new cruise ship, Celebrity Edge, is set to make its debut sailing in November 2018, and after seeing all the hype and excitement she has caused, Celebrity Cruises have made the decision to redesign and refurbish their entire fleet to meet the same standards.

     

     

    Working with more than 500 eminent architects, engineers, and designers, and spending more than $500 million, the cruise line aims to be able to offer all cruisers ‘the vacation they truly deserve’, says President and CEO, Lisa Lutoff-Perlo. Here’s a little glimpse of what’s in store for the thirteen Celebrity Cruises ships.

     

    The Retreat

     

    All suite-class guests can enjoy the highest luxury in the stunning Retreat Lounge and Retreat Sundeck. The latter venue has a top quality resort feel, where you can indulge in some delicious cocktails and snacks while relaxing on comfortable loungers, and the Retreat Lounge is where you’ll find some excellent entertainment, complimentary drinks, and a range of food.

     

    The Accommodation

     

    All suites and staterooms will benefit from a redesign. The highly-sought after designer Kelly Hoppen brings her skills and expertise onboard to help create some impeccable suites, which will evoke a real sense of calm and comfort thanks to the neutral tones and subtle details. Staterooms will also see a fabulous refresh, including new Cashmere mattresses and eXhale bedding.

     

     

    The Spa

     

    Celebrity Cruises have collaborated with the brilliant people at Canyon Ranch to bring guests the ultimate relaxation opportunities onboard their ships. All spa facilities and treatment rooms will be given a refresh, and even more therapies will be available to choose from. Additional AquaClass rooms will also be built, meaning more chances to unwind or take part in a class.

     

    Bars & Restaurants

     

    The main restaurants onboard will be adorned with new fixtures and fittings, giving the venues a fantastic uplift and creating a great environment to dine in. The popular Qsine restaurant will now be available on all ships, where guests can watch their meal being virtually prepared by the world’s smallest chef! The Oceanview Café will boast a spacious marketplace design, with a wealth of international cuisine choice, and the gastro-style Passport Bar will offer more than 40 craft beers, a range of cocktails, and delicious meals.

     

     

    Environmental Responsibility

     

    In addition to the Celebrity Cruises’ ambition to change the way their guests experience the world, they also want to make sure they do what they can to look after that world. With this in mind, the cruise line has vowed to reduce emissions across the fleet, and increase fuel efficiency by 20% on all Celebrity Millennium Class ships.

    Celebrity Edge will grace shores later on this year, in November, and Edge features will be introduced across the fleet from early 2019 until 2023, starting with Celebrity Millennium.



    A Customer Review of the Rhine with Emerald Waterways

    clock 16th July 2018 | comment0 Comments

    Some of our lovely customers – Marjorie and Bob Hewiitt – have recently returned from a wonderful European river cruise on the Rhine, with the brilliant Emerald Waterways. Luckily for us they were kind enough to share their thoughts about the experience in this helpful and authentic review.

     

    Amsterdam

     

    The following comments are honest, and include opinions gathered from the many other passengers who we came into contact with on our cruise. River cruising is a far more intimate affair than deep sea cruising in large ships, and the Emerald Dawn held just 180 passengers as opposed to the several thousand in a deep sea cruise ship. This meant that we not only enjoyed repeated contact with our fellow passengers, but formed good friendships with a number of like-minded people. If anything, however, it was a common view that this ship was a little too large and many passengers reported a preference for smaller ships with say 100 guests.

    It was clear however that the vast majority of passengers were very happy with the holiday, and with the general management of the ship. In fact we only met one passenger who was unhappy with his holiday, but his main complaint seemed to be that it suffered in comparison with a more expensive experience. Perhaps it would help if I broke down the different elements of the holiday separately.

     

    The Ship

     

    The Emerald Dawn is a relatively new ship, and this showed in the general condition of the fittings. In fact we have to say that it was absolutely the cleanest vessel we have yet travelled in. Everything was sparkling clean from cabins to common areas. Robert, the hotel manager, deserves much praise for his attention to detail and for the incredible attitude of his employees. Bali, our cabin steward, kept the place spotless without being in any way obtrusive.

    The management of the ship was excellent. The captain and crew were highly professional and provided a smooth and trouble free experience. One, and possibly the greatest attribute, was the incredible energy and humour of Alexander Berger - the cruise director. He seemed to be involved in everything, and kept things moving seamlessly through the day. His commentary on the afternoon when we passed the castles on our way to the Lorelei was very informative and amusing. His two evening events, one a form of dance bingo and the other a game of lies, were a triumph. He really got everyone involved and a good time was had by all. He definitely deserves a high level of praise, as do the staff on the reception desk who worked tirelessly to resolve any query which arose.

     

    Cologne

     

    Embarkation

    We thought this went seamlessly, but there was some criticism that we had to spend many hours in the lounge awaiting the message that our cabins were ready. I think many passengers would have spent the afternoon in Amsterdam had they known, but felt it necessary to stay in the lounge until called for.

     

    Disembarkation

    The organisation for getting off the boat was brilliant. Once again Alex was to the fore moving cases from cabin to bus. We went down to breakfast at 7am, and there he was beavering away with luggage; what an asset to the ship, he truly deserves a medal.

     

    Food

    The general opinion was that the food onboard was excellent. Of course individual customers noted that they had enjoyed better previously, but it always transpired that they were comparing it with more expensive holidays. There was some irritation with the queues at breakfast particularly when a queue for one item meant joining another one for additional items. A little further thought may be helpful if a solution could be found which removed the need to join multiple queues. We coped with this by arriving in good time, and joining different queues with one getting toast and eggs while the other dealt with other items such as bacon and sausages, etc. These are small things however, and I have only mentioned them as the issue was raised by many of our fellow passengers. Overall we thoroughly enjoyed all the meals and found the restaurant staff to be extremely helpful and attentive. In short; full marks for food from us.

     

    Strasbourg

     

    Excursions

    These were well-organised and very interesting. On the whole the guides were good, but the lady who looked after us on the final day in Strasbourg was exceptional. The coaches were well-appointed and very clean, and the drivers were careful and helpful.

     

    Entertainment

    The entertainment onboard was relatively low-key compared with the shows provided on the large ocean going cruise ships. Nevertheless, the cruise director Alex did a great job on a number of occasions. A violinist came onboard one day and two classical singers on another. The resident pianist, Benny, did a great job and proved to be a popular member of the team. Given the size of the ship the entertainment was perfectly adequate and once again the cruise director proved his worth.

     

    Overall Impression

    We have enjoyed a significant number of cruise holidays, both deep sea and river. This was one of the best. As we have already noted, the ship was quiet and clean and the staff were ever helpful and courteous. The food was excellent and the entertainment wholly adequate. Our fellow passengers were similar to ourselves. There were no children onboard, a ‘leisure’ option was provided for excursions, there was no abuse of alcohol or any gratuitous noise. All passengers arrived on time for excursions and the whole experience was one of respect and calm.

     

    Basel

     

    This is definitely a holiday which I would recommend to anyone looking for a river cruise; we have no complaints to report and would be happy to use Emerald Waterways again. In fact, we are already booked onto a cruise on the Douro River next May and are looking forward to that.

     

    If Marjorie and Bob have inspired you, take a closer look at the places you could discover on a Rhine river cruise.



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