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11th February 2020

When it comes to setting off on your holiday, the thought of choosing which line to cruise with may feel a little daunting as there are so many, all offering different onboard experiences and itineraries. [More]

Is River Cruising for You?

23rd August 2018

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. Because of this, guests can experience a multitude of events, festivals and celebrations in just one cruise, such as Christmas markets, New Years celebrations and LGBT Pride parades.

 

 

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. This is also particularly appealing to those who are susceptible to seasickness, and would benefit from extended time onshore.
  • 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? There are countless top-class river cruise lines sailing Europe, Asia and beyond, including Emerald Waterways, Saga River Cruises, AmaWaterways, and more,so you'll find countless itineraries to choose from. For sailings tailored around a specific country, try Discover Egypt and Pandaw River Cruises, both offering excellent knowledge and guidance throughout their journeys.

    For those who have previously cruised on ocean-ships, many cruise lines have brought their fantastic service to the river, such as Thomson-Marella. With TUI River Cruises sailing the waterways of Europe, you will enjoy your favourite cruise line on a smaller, more intimate scale.

    If you're still undecided you can also find out more about first-hand river cruise experiences, with this customer review onboard Emerald Waterways, or get in touch with our expert team for more advice!


    Cruise in France with Avalon Waterways

    22nd August 2018

    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.


    Live in Luxury with AMAWaterways

    25th May 2018

    We sent some of our lovely ladies out to experience the wonderful luxury onboard AMAWaterway's AmaKristina, watch the video and read the review to find out just what they thought.


     

    First impressions of the Ship

     

    Having only ever been on large ocean ships, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but from the moment we arrived at the port it was clear that AMAWaterways was on another level. Having only been built in 2017, AmaKristina stuck out against the other river ships with her modern and elegant exterior. Once onboard and checked in, we headed to our cabin where our luggage was already waiting for us, along with a welcome package. This included the ‘Daily Cruiser’ newsletter which features the weather forecast and itinerary, a ‘Meet the team’ leaflet featuring key staff members, and a multi-national charger adapter (which we very much appreciated!). We had a Category AB Twin Balcony stateroom and were delighted by the space (235 sq. ft), not to mention the amazing views. Having struggled with seasickness before, I was worried I would feel too closed in, but the floor-to-ceiling windows let in plenty of light and opened up the cabin space. The bathroom also had switchable glass, letting more natural light into the bathroom if desired. I would recommend this stateroom category to anyone thinking of travelling with AmaWaterways, as the size felt noticeably larger and more open than the fixed-window cabins on the Piano Deck, which would be perfect for single occupancy. The suites on the Violin Deck did have again, noticeably more space, with a sofa, double sink, and Champagne on arrival; if you were looking for a more exclusive and luxurious experience, a suite would be the choice for you – but with only four on the ship, be sure to book early!

    We were also delighted to find every cabin had an iMac, providing you with TV programmes and a selection of recent films, the internet, and a music system. It was already clear that AMAWaterways is all about the small details, catering for all people and leaving you to want for nothing.

     

     

    Food and Things to Do

     

    During the first day we were left to do self-guided tours of the ship followed by a light lunch, including a range of bagels, soups, and dessert. I was impressed with the whole ship, from the restaurants to the spa and gym facilities, which I would definitely have made use of (along with the deck chairs and heated pool on the sun deck) had we had a longer period of time onboard. The fleet of bicycles were also a nice touch; however we weren’t fortunate with the weather so I was unable to give one of their tours a spin.

    In the afternoon we had some free time to explore Amsterdam central, which was easily accessible with just a short 6 minute walk from the ship.

    Upon returning to the ship, we had our welcome and safety speeches, accompanied by free-flowing Champagne, and pre-dinner canapes.

    As members of the prestigious La Chaine des Rotisseurs, the dining throughout the trip was amazing and continued to demonstrate the attention to detail with incredible, colourful presentation. Each nightly menu features a ‘chef recommendation’, as well as a several-course menu with multiple options for starters, mains, and desserts. Each menu also highlights a healthy choice and a local choice, based on the itinerary of the cruise. They will also do their upmost to accommodate any dietary requirements, but I would recommend this be noted when you book. I would also recommend any of their soups; my top dish would have to be the Crayfish Bisque with puff pastry sticks.

     

     

    The wine was also delicious with an extensive list and choices made to complement the daily menu.

    Although the second night was a formal night, the food excelled on both evenings, and celebrations carried on post-dinner in the main lounge and bar with music entertainment.

     

    Overall Experience

     

    The genuinely caring and friendly service is what stood out to me, along with the attention to detail, providing facilities beyond expectations. This service extends to post-cruise, where a few weeks later I received a hand-written thank you post card from the Cruise manager, Nick. This is on top of the thank you letter posted into cabins on the day of departure. I would recommend to anyone looking for a hassle-free and luxurious trip, with top class facilities and service. As a river ship, the smaller size does call for those more social-minded or solo travellers looking to mingle with just the one indoor lounge; however, if someone was really seeking solitude, the in-cabin entertainment and twin balcony space would more than meet requirements, in addition to the sun deck space in the warmer months.

     

    by Imogen Henderson

     

    Find out more about AMAWaterways, or take a look at the range of cruises you could take with AmaKristina.


    River vs Ocean Cruising

    9th May 2018

    If you’re new to cruise, or indeed have always stuck to either river or ocean cruising, you might be curious to know more about the differences between the two. The fact is, both kinds of cruising offer some incredible opportunities, but of course there are many aspects which contrast. Find out more with our overview of river vs ocean cruising.

     

     

    The Destinations Visited

    There aren’t many crossovers when it comes to the destinations travelled to on river and ocean cruising. While an ocean liner can sail across the seven seas transporting you to countries and islands all over the globe, river ships traverse the world’s rivers, from The Rhine in Europe to the exotic Mekong in Southeast Asia. Usually, a river cruise will allow guests the opportunity to be in a new destination every day, with the ship sailing through the night, whereas on an ocean cruise you might find one or more sea days. So depending on whether or not you’re looking to spend time relaxing on the ship, or prefer a port-heavy itinerary, this could sway your decision.

    Activities on the Ship

    With the above in mind, it should come as no surprise to learn that ocean liners will generally offer a lot more in the way of things to do onboard than river ships. You’ll usually find a plunge pool, gym, and possibly spa facilities on a river ship, however on an ocean cruise ship there will this plus a lot more. From F1 simulators with MSC Cruises and ice rinks with Royal Caribbean, to cookery schools and Strictly Come Dancing events with P&O Cruises, there’s no denying that ocean ships offer a lot more onboard activities. This is one aspect specifically worth considering if you’ll be cruising with children.

     

     

    Atmosphere Onboard

    There is a certain family-friendly, excitable atmosphere on larger, mainstream ocean cruise ships that you won’t find on a river cruise ship. With more guests, – Symphony of the Seas can hold almost 7,000 – more attractions, and larger social areas, these vessels are great for kids and those looking for fun and thrills. Alternatively, if you want to relax and soak up the surroundings and local culture, a river cruise could be the better option. With a much lower passenger-count, and often just one bar and one restaurant, the ambience on a river cruise ship is calmer and arguably more refined. Having said this there are a number of luxury ocean cruise lines which provide a similar experience.

    Onboard Food and Drink

    Those travelling with little ones, or foodies who enjoy plenty of choice and variation, would probably prefer an ocean cruise where dining is concerned. Some of the bigger lines offer a fantastic array of restaurants, for instance Carnival Cruises boast everything from Guy’s Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que to the brilliant Dr Seuss themed Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast for kids. On a river cruise on the other hand, you’ll often get just one or maybe two restaurants, serving a small a la carte menu. While the food onboard is delectable, there is limited choice. Those with dietary requirements should mention these at the time of booking, and then again when onboard.

    Entertainment on the Ship

    Generally speaking, entertainment on a river cruise ship involves some unique experiences which allow the guests to become immersed in local culture. You can expect things like local musicians and dancers, or talks about upcoming destinations. These sorts of opportunities are also seen on ocean liners, however you’ll also often get some extravagant productions. Find the likes of Hairspray and Jersey Boys among other Broadway/West End style performances, and a fantastic aquatic acrobatic show with Royal Caribbean.

     

     

    Conclusions

    The differences between river cruising and ocean cruising can be seen as pros and cons depending on your likes and dislikes, and what you’re looking to get out of your cruise holiday. Each certainly have their merits, and while cruisers might tend to stick to one or the other, it can be refreshing and usually rewarding to try something new, so be sure to be open minded and consider all options.

    On the other hand, some cruise lines offer both ocean and river cruising itineraries, ensuring you never have to choose between your favourites. With the highlights of ocean cruising on a smaller scale, more intimate-sized ship, passengers will love the best of both worlds. One of the most popular cruise lines to cater to both markets is Thomson-Marella who also operate TUI River Cruises. If you’re still unsure of what option to go with, get in touch with our expert team for more advice!


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