Amadeus Silver II (River-Ship) Review

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(Click to enlarge all images)

Background

I have taken a number of ocean cruises on big and small cruise ships, but my only experience of a River Cruise was on the Nile, Egypt (here), some years ago.  Although very enjoyable, the experience was a more basic one. Since then, European river cruising has expended considerably. I decided that it was time to try one.

There are now a multitude of river cruise lines, cruising Europe’s waterways. ‘Viking Cruises’ are the biggest and have the strongest media presence, but I decided to choose a lesser known line.

I chose ‘Amadeus River Cruises’, which was formed by the Austrian ‘Luftner’ family, 30 years ago. Why? Because they offer a five star (well maybe 4.5) product but their fares are lower than many of their rivals. (More about fares below).

Amadeus at the time of writing (Dec. 2015) has thirteen ships cruising in Europe and two of which cruise the Mekon and Myanmar (Burma).

I chose their newest vessel, ‘Amadeus Silver II’ which entered service in April 2015. (I guess they have run out of imagination as there will be a ‘Silver III’ soon?)

The vessel was built in the De Hoop shipyard, the Netherlands and was the third generation ship built for Amadeus. I chose a one week Christmas Rhine cruise from Cologne, Germany, return.  Silver II was only eight months old when I boarded her.

The Fare

Most river cruises (all?) are aimed at the Grey Pound or the Grey Euro .  None are ‘mass market’, few are truly ‘budget’. However most claim to offer a five star experience.

River cruises are rarely cheap and this had always concerned me. River cruises can cost more than twice the price of many ocean cruises. In fact I’ve seen new cars for sale,  that are cheaper than some river cruise fares for a couple! Remember you are paying for an intimate experience and hopefully a high quality one.

However there are some deals to be had.

Extras such as drinks, excursions (and even flights) are often included in the fare by many river cruise lines, so this needs to be taken into account. Some lines will even pick offer a door-to-door travel service from passengers homes. Obviously  all of these ‘perks’ do not really come “free”.

Amadeus fares are rather complex. They have fares in euros, dollars and sterling.  They also have several different web sites ‘Luftner Cruises’ and ‘Amadeus’.

I have noticed that the fares in Euros were a little cheaper (2016) than the sterling ones, but some additional perks (wine with lunch and internet) were included in the sterling fares.

Amadeus do not include travel-packages in their fares, excursions or gratuities. Wine is included with the evening meal.

I suppose the reason that river cruises are so expensive when compared to ‘standard’ ocean cruises is because of the ‘economies of scale’ created by most ocean cruising.

Modern ocean cruise ships normally carry 2,000+ passengers, some many more. In complete contrast European river boats normally carry less than 200 passengers.  Ocean ships also generate 30% of their income from on-board sales such as drinks, the casino, shopping, photographs, spa treatments, alternative dining  and excursions etc. River boat fares often include drinks and excursions in their fare and the facilities for on-board spending are very limited. Most river boats are also providing excellent cuisine compared to the mass-market fare on-board standard cruise ships.

However less passengers requires less crew – Silver II has 46. The cost of building river boats and all the overheads must be so much lower. Fuel costs, for example, must be much smaller than an ocean vessel traveling longer distances, at higher speeds, battling against the sea.  I guess river boat fares  are matter of supply and demand – passengers are well prepared to pay a high price for a more intimate, premium product.

Some say you cannot compare a river cruise to an ocean cruise; well that’s exactly what I’m going to do below. After all they are both holidays afloat.

I am focusing on the ship and the on-board experience, NOT the itinerary or ports of call.

The Ships Layout

I am reliably informed that river boats are in fact ‘ships’. You will notice that I will be using the word ‘small’ very frequently in my description.

Modern river boats tend to be of a similar length, height and breath. They often have similar cabin and public room layouts. It is the décor, on-board experience and ‘package’ which can vary.  For example, Amadeus Silver II’s design is not unlike Emerald Waterways ‘Star’ ships, which are constructed at the same shipyard, in Holland.

The size of river-ships is constrained by the size of the locks, the width and depth of the rivers and the need to sometimes fit under low bridges. However the comfort and facilities on-board are improving each year as new ships enter service.

Silver II is 135 meters in length and 11.4 meters wide. she is 25 meters longer than their earlier vessels. Her top speed is about 15 mph. (25km/h).

She has three internal decks and a sun deck.  A main staircase serves all of the internal decks as well as a lift for those with mobility issues. (The lift is almost exclusively available for those with mobility issues, so it is never in high demand).

Given the fact that river ships do not need a hull and superstructure reinforced again rough seas, large amounts of glass are used.  All the public rooms largely have glass walls offering excellent vistas as you are rarely very far from two river banks. This fact brought home to me how little there is to see on an ocean cruise, apart from sea.

Silver II carries a modest 168 passengers and has 46 crew, earlier Amadeus vessels carried 140-150 passengers. It is worth noting that ‘Oasis of the Seas’, the world’s biggest ocean cruise ship, has lifeboats that carry 300 passengers each.

Silver II  has three types of cabin, although these are given six grades, depending on their location. There are normally no ‘inside’ cabins or river boats.

All the cabins are for two persons, some river boats river boats have a few singles, but few  have 3-4 berths. River cruise lines have not traditionally aimed their products at multi-generational families. Maybe that will change in the future?

Click to enlarge (Courtesy Luftner)

Click to enlarge (Courtesy Luftner)

The lowest deck (1), the Hydan deck has 18 cabins in the forward half, which are low in the hull, partially  below the waterline. They are 172 ft sq in size with a VERY small window located high up on the outside wall, above head height, which does not open. The window is right on the water line and provides light rather than a view. They are of course the cheapest grade of cabin on-board, rather like an inside cabin grade on an ocean ship, but with a little window. However I would suggest a large panoramic window (or patio door) is essential on a scenic river cruise, if you can afford it.

The Hydan deck also has a very small Gym and a massage room. The rear half of the deck is divided-off form the passengers and contains crew cabins and the galley which sits below the restaurant above.

Deck 2, Strauss deck has 35 ‘standard’ cabins in its rear half. The cabin corridor is surprisingly long, but of course all the ships dimensions are still very small even when compared to the smallest ocean cruise ships.

The cabins on this deck measure 188 sq ft and have a large floor to ceiling window. The top half is motorised and drops down to create a balcony-effect. (On earlier Amadeus ship standard cabins were 161 sq ft.)

Cabin with panoramic window (Courtesy Luftner)

Cabin with panoramic window (Courtesy Luftner)

The front half of the deck features the reception desk amidships, in a small atrium with a staircase to the deck below and up to the deck above.  A lift to all decks is located here.  In addition there is a very small shop selling a few gifts, postcards and toothpaste etc. Forward is the Restaurant with its many panoramic windows. This can seat all of the guests in one sitting (normally 7.00pm). It has a buffet station in the middle.

Deck 3, Mozart deck, features two types of cabin in the rear half of the deck. First there are 12 suites which are 248 sq ft. (Earlier Amadeus ships had suites that measured 236 ft.) These have a very small walk out balcony with one small stool, but the balcony  is not big enough for one regular sun lounger, let alone two. The suites also have space with an extra seating area and more window space. Behind the suites are 19 cabins which are the same as the ones on Deck 2.

Balcony Suite (Courtesy of Luftner)

Balcony Suite (Courtesy of Luftner)

At the stern is a small hairdressing room and the ‘Amadeus Club’, a 35 seats lounge.  This offers a nice view over the stern of the ship. It is not normally staffed and does not normally serve alcohol, but does have a 24 hour tea/coffee machine (free). The room also contains a small selection of books and some board games and jigsaws. Occasionally the room is shut and used for private functions.

The front half of the Mozart deck features the ‘Vienna Café’ an attractive little space with some seating, but it largely went unused. The large ‘Panorama Lounge’ which once again has many floor to ceiling windows, contains the only bar on-board and a small dance floor. The musicians performed adjacent the dance floor.

At the bow is the small open air ‘River Terrace’ with seating and is accessed from the Panorama lounge.

The sun deck features the booth which is the ‘Captain’s Bridge’. The bridge can retract to pass under low bridges.

There are enough sun loungers for every passenger – how many ocean ships can claim that? There was also , shuffleboard and a giant chess board. There is no plunge-pool.  Smoking is only permitted on the Sun Deck. Being a winter cruise the sun deck did not get much use.

The wi-fi is chargeable for some passengers, but I believe all Sterling* bookings got it included in their fare. In the Receptionist’s own words “it could be unreliable and slow” – so why would you want to pay for it?

*(It is well worth comparing Sterling brochure rates and Euro ones).

For the Technically Minded

The ship has Azipod propulsion and bow thrusters to aid maneuverability. Modern radar and GPS ensures that travelling in darkness and fog etc. are not a problem.

Cabins 233, 234, 235, 236 at the stern of the Strauss deck are sold a little cheaper as they are nearest the engines. I had wrongly assumed that as river boat’s engines did not need to be so big/powerful compared to giant ocean ships, so noise/vibration would be minimal. However I am informed that there can be some unpleasant noise pollution, especially in the rear two cabins port and starboard.

Food supplies we occasionally brought up the passenger gangway. There is no other way to get them on board. I suppose tons of food and drink are not required as they are on board an ocean ship, although I imagine that 168 passengers can still consume quite a lot in a fortnight.

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Embarkation – First Impressions

Nearly all aspects of life are so much simpler on-board a river ship, than they are on-board an ocean ship.

Embarkation was between 15:00 and 18:00. Given that there is only a maximum of 168 passengers who don’t all arrive at once, check-in was a breeze.

There is no cruise terminal, no complex check-in procedures, no forms to fill in, no scanning of luggage and no ID photographs taken – you just walk up the gangway and a crew member assists you with your luggage.

The Reception staff, who were lovely,  just check your passport, tick you of a list and give you an electronic cabin key. No paperwork was required. There is no sea-pass card and no swiping procedure to get on and off the ship. A card is not even required for cashless purchases – you just sign a chit and add your cabin number. You are invited to register your credit card later in the cruise so they can charge you your on-board expenses.

The ship was of course immaculate and still looked like new, apart from a few external paint scuffs due to berthing.  Interestingly the ship does not have that ocean ship smell: those with good noses will understand what I mean.

A lifeboat drill took place at 18:00 in the Panorama lounge. It was very short. Lifejackets were not required for the drill although there was a demonstration how to put one on. Given the fact that the ship does not have ridged lifeboats, it has inflatables, I do not recall it being explained how they would be deployed.  I guess they would add the finer detail if we ever muster for real.

Demographics

The ship uses  both English and German languages and sometimes French, depending on the passenger mix.

I would estimate that the cruise passengers were 65% German and 30% English speaking (UK, America and Australia etc). This is not surprising as Cologne, Germany, was the embarkation port.

The vast majority of the passengers were probably in their 60’s and 70’s, but there were some in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. River cruises rarely attract families with children.

The crew were mainly from Eastern Europe (Hungry, Romania etc.), but some other countries were represented. This international mix worked very well. In fact some of the German passengers spoke excellent English and were more sociable than some of my fellow Brits.

The waiters were mainly male and the cabin stewards were mainly female.

Most passengers were part of larger groups, I was an independent booking.

The Cabin

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An Amadeus cabin key.

My wife and I were allocated cabin 223 on the Strauss deck, which is conveniently on the same level as the Reception and the restaurant.

River boats cabins have slowly become  a little more spacious over the years and ‘Silver II’s cabins are an improvement on their earlier ships.

The cabin has two single beds pushed together to form a double. This of course does not entirely work because of the gap in the middle. The linen, mattresses and pillows were all of very good quality, although the two single duvets were not quite wide enough to allow much body movement, without the air coming in at the sides.

223 Strauss deck

223 Strauss deck

The beds themselves were quite narrow – I’m not a big man, but never the less I nearly rolled out a few times. Larger framed passengers may find this a challenge.

My wife particularly liked the walk-in wardrobe, a very nice new feature, although if two people had fourteen nights of clothing, it would not seem quite so spacious. The safe was quite small so would probably not accommodate cameras and I-pads etc.

The bathroom was very attractive and did not take away cabin floor space. Although compact, I’ve seen smaller. The size was perfectly adequate for most people. The shower had good water pressure, a ceiling sprinkler-head, as well as  an additional sprinkler-head on a hose, to reach those places the overhead one can’t.   The cubical had a glass door and not an annoying curtain. The shower products provided were of a good quality and replaced daily if required. I don’t normally get excited about Shower Gel, but Ritual’s ‘Sweet Orange & Cider’ was lovely.

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There was a mini-bar in this grade of cabin and above. Two bottles of still water were provided daily, but a  0.75 cl bottle of sparkeling water was provided with a price label of €3.90. Given the cost of the holiday I thought that this was extremely mean. Shore-side I could buy 1 litre of water for €0.80.

There was no in cabin kettle, but nobodies cabin was far away from a 24 hour tea/coffee machine in the Amadeus Club lounge. No ‘room service’ (food or drink) was offered, but once again it was unnecessary.

The drop down window (motorised) created a balcony and two tub-chairs and a small glass table were provided opposite the window.

The TV was quite large but had none of the interactive features that you now find on most ocean ships as standard. For example you could not use it to check your on-board account or to book excursions. However reception (for account information) and the Cruise Directors desk (for excursion booking) were not far away from any cabin.

The only English speaking channels on the TV were CNN and BBC world news. There were no movies in English. I noted that one channel showed a fish tank and one a log fire – which unfortunately says a lot about the quality of the ships entertainment in general.

(A fish tank on TV)

That’s entertainment? A fish tank on TV

Additional pillows were available on request. Bath robes were originally only available for guests in suites (how mean), but I believe they were now available for all cabin grades, if you requested them. (This was not actually documented anywhere).

The air-con/heating was very responsive, being new.

A chocolate was religiously put on your pillow each evening.  Some ocean ships have cut back on this tradition.

I could not hear the passengers on either side of the cabin until they flushed their toilets. There was no vibration or engine noise in my cabin location, unless the ship was performing sharp turns. Even then the vibration was not very obtrusive.  No water movement was felt, making river cruising is ideal for those who suffer from sea-sickness.

(Not all cabins in my corridor, with a panoramic window,  were sold and a number appeared to be left empty. The passengers in the lowest grade, without a panoramic window, did not appear to be upgraded to the  accommodate these empty cabins.  I assume that Luftner have a different upgrade policy to most ocean ships.)

Dining

Most river cruise lines claim to offer five star dining and Amadeus really did, or at least 4.5 stars.

With Amadeus, meal times are fixed and you sit at the same allocated table for the whole cruise. There is only one sitting, normally at 19:00.

All meals were served in the same restaurant, although hot snacks appeared in the Panorama bar at 10.30pm each evening.

The dining room was very attractive.  Even if you sat in the middle you could still see out of the many big panoramic windows, port and starboard. The tables were all a reasonable spaced apart. Most seated four people or more.

The official dress-code is smart-casual. There are no ‘official’ formal nights for those who enjoy dressing-up, but during the ‘Gala’ dinner most passengers made an effort. There were some more formal style dresses, some suits and several Tux’s.

The food was very consistent across all meals and all courses. It was the best I have experience on-board any ship, although I have mainly cruised on four star/mass-market ocean ships. This categorically proves that it is not possible to server consistently excellent food in a restaurant catering to 1,000  passengers or more. Amadeus only has to cater for 168 passengers.

I was amazed to find that there was only eight galley staff and two of whom specialised in washing-up.

There were no queues to eat, no buffet ‘scrum’. It was all very civilised.

The waiters were of course busy, but never over-stretched. There were two dedicated wine waiters, which always helps.

My waiter, Cezar, was very experienced, so excellent at his job. The first evening there was a German menu awaiting me by mistake. When I pointed this out Cezar was mortified and very swiftly swapped it!

There were many younger waiters too and some of them we clearly still learning their trade, but overall the service was very good.

There were never any annoying delays between courses.

The food was prepared in a galley below the restaurant and brought up a staircase in the centre. It was never luke-warm.

Breakfast (normally 7.30-9.30) featured a very wide range of self-service buffet items. The fruit was fresh and the pastries and bread were freshly cooked. Eggs and omelettes etc. were available from the menu and cooked to order.

Lunch (12.30-14.30) featured both buffet items and menu items. The soup and fresh salads were particularly good. (A light lunch alternative was provide daily in the Panorama-Bar.)

Afternoon Tea (16:00-17:00) coffee, tea and fresh pastries were served but I was always too full to attend or exploring the ports.

Dinner (19.00-21.00) was a five course affair taking around 1.5 hour or more. Several Gala meals were served which were six courses. The salads were always very fresh, the soups tasty. There were some exotic meats on the menu such as quail, venison, caviar and duck as well as beef, pork, lamb and various fish. Chicken was always available. An interesting vegetarian option was always on the menu. The sweets were excellent.  The head chef cut cheese at a table if you required it.

There were no traditional German options on the menu, but I suppose these do not fit in with the fine-dining ethos, but would have been fun for us non-Germans.  Americans beware: there was no Lobster Tail or Prime Rib.

Complimentary red or white wine was served with the meal. It was effectively unlimited for the duration of the meal. (In 2016 booking made in sterling will also get complimentary lunch time wine, soft drinks or beer.)

On the first night I was very concerned as complimentary German red wine tasted like ‘plonk’. The white was a little better, but still not great. However the wines changed each evening and included Chilean, Austrian and French. The standard vastly improved after the first evening.

Other brands of wine and cocktails could be purchased. The draught beer was ‘Bitburger’.  Drink prices seem quite reasonable, but the pound was pretty strong at the time of writing.

A typical dinner menu – click to enlarge (Luftner)

Daily program

Luftner’s passenger communication could be improved a little.  The ‘Daily Program’ is surprisingly spare when compared to the ocean cruise variety. Information about on-board procedures is located in an in-cabin folder, although the information was very general; as already stated different passengers (Sterling or Euro payments) had different ‘perks’ included in their fares.  These were not documented, so passengers should make  sure that you know what they are entitled to.

My Amadeus holiday brochure said that Amadeus ships carry bicycles, available for complementary passenger use. I did not see any bikes and there were no reference to these in cabin literature or program. (I have since found out that they on not offered on winter cruises for safety reasons. This is not in writing anywhere.)

Much of the details about the cruise had to be imparted verbally by the cruise director.

A Daily Program - click to enlarge

A Daily Program – click to enlarge (Luftner)

Entertainment

This was the most disappointing aspect of the entire cruise*.

There was a musical duo on-board: a female singer and male keyboard player.  They played both English and German pop. I don’t doubt their musicianship and they did have a very large repertoire, but there sound was a very bland ‘Eurovision Song Contest’ like muzak.  Apart from a couple of quizzes organised by the Cruise Director, the duo were the only entertainment on offer every evening.

Now I was not expecting a big production show like on-board many ocean ships, after all river ships do not have the facilities. However a little variety and imagination would have been nice. How about a folk show? How about violin and piano recital or Spanish guitar? How about a lecture or two?  The documentation promised TV movies, but there weren’t any  available.

I understand that most of the river cruise lines are not big on entertainment. They appeal to a more mature passenger who may well not want to party until the early hours of the morning. However, what about the 40 and 50 somethings, who do not want to go to bed at 10.00pm or watch a fish tank on TV or do a Jigsaw?

One evening a few of us stayed up until 1.00am, despite the live music which fortunately finished an hour earlier. On leaving the bar, the Cruise Director personally thanked us for staying up late. Obviously it was very rare.

I am convinced that a better entertainment program would attract passengers who are a little younger (or at least young at heart) and would encourage the passengers to stay up later and socialise/drink more.

*(I understand that Amadeus normally provide entertainment a little border than I experienced mu particular Silver II cruise.)

(Part of the on-board entertainment)

One of the on-board activities

The Cruise Director

The Cruise Director was a young woman who spoke both German and English, as did all the client facing crew.  All on-board announcements were in both languages.

The Cruise Director was friendly and thankfully much more sedate in her delivery that those in a similar role on-board many ocean cruises.

She smiled and said all of the right things during the cruise. However on the last morning of the cruise she was very stern and un-smiling, as she prepared for the new intake of passengers.  Unfortunately when I see this type of behaviour, it brings me quickly down to earth with a bump. It reminds me that for the crew I am simply a product on an assembly line.

Given the lack of entertainment on-board, maybe Luftner should recruit cruise directors from a performance background. At least she would have been able to give us a song or maybe tap dance.

The Rhine

Parts of the Rhine are very attractive with fairy-tale castles and medieval villages. We had one morning in particular when we cruised the ‘Romantic Rhine’.  However some of the Rhine is less attractive and quite industrial.

Cologne’s was the starting and finishing point of the cruise.  Cologne’s Christmas markets and those in the other cities were lovely. Although it is worth noting that most finish on Christmas Eve.

Brits should note that Brussels can be reached pretty quickly by the Eurostar. From Brussels, Cologne is only a couple of hours away by local trains.

Much of our cruising took place at night, after dark, so river views were actually limited. However this was a necessity to reach ports in the morning for a day-time explorations.

Ports of Call/Excursions

The beauty of river cruising is that the ship can normally dock right near the heart of the town or city.  Berthing takes a matter of minutes. There is never any tendering.

Low water conditions can affect the usability of some berths and high water levels , on some rivers, can affect the ships ability to pass under low bridges. In the worst case scenario, It has been know that a river ship has been totally  unable to move. In this scenario the boat is used as a floating-hotel and the passengers are bussed to every port of call.

However, if river conditions are good, and mine were, it’s a real pleasure to wake up alongside an attractive riverbank, with trees, rather than an industrial dock, as often used by ocean ships. It’s also a pleasure not to see a line of ten coaches waiting.

On a river cruise you will find yourself visiting at least some lesser know towns that you have probably never heard of as well as bigger cities.

Most of the excursions offered were two hour city walking tours, priced at around €15 per person. Excursions involving coach transfers were considerably more expensive at around €50+. (Luftner do not include excursions within their fares.)

Headsets and receivers are supplied free of charge. These are excellent as  you can hear your tour guide even if you are not in ear shot.

There is no electronic ‘swiping’ to get off or back on the ship. There is a low-tech system: you simply go to reception, give in your key and get a cardboard pass to leave the ship. When you return you swap the card back for your key.

No Hard Sell

Unfortunately, I am very accustomed to the hard-selling tactics used on-board most ocean ships. many lines relentlessly push on-board sales.

On-board Silver II there was  no hard-sell; in fact they did very little selling at all. I found this very refreshing. However due to the high fares that river cruising often commands, they already have the passenger’s money.

For example: The excursions details were sent to me pre-cruise in a booklet. They were also printed on sheets in the cabin. Apart from that, no announcements were made pushing them even though they had some spare places.  They assume that you can read.

There was no photographer or casino. The on-board shopping on offer was very minimal.  Massage and hairdressing were available but not ‘pushed’ either.

The bar staff/drinks waiters generally waited for you to request a drink.

The self-service tea/coffee was complimentary, as was wine with the evening meal.

(Amadeus do not include tips in their fares. The rate of 5-7 Euros per person, per date is suggested, but not compulsory. Tips were not automatically added to the alcohol prices, as on-board may ocean ships.)

Disembarkation

This was as stress-free as the embarkation process was. You are asked to put your luggage outside your cabin and vacate it at 8.30am on the disembarkation morning. (Not the evening before like on an ocean ships). You can then go to breakfast. You are invited to disembark by  9.30am. Reception will call you a taxi if required. There are no queues to get off, no cabins numbers/colours are called.

Curiously all the luggage collected at 8.30am was stored on the pier, in the open air, although a staff member was watching it.  There was no dedicated luggage room. (I believe that they use the ships foyer if it’s raining.)

Loyalty Club

If you want to be a member of the “Amadeus Cruiser Club”, you are required to fill in a paper or on-line form. Shouldn’t it be automatic? After all, they have all my details. There are too many forms in life already.

I do not want to sound ungrateful, but I do not think that any cruise lines loyalty scheme is very generous and Amadeus’s one is no exception. For your second cruise you are awarded 30 Euros per-person, on-board credit and a members cocktail party. That alone is not a big enough incentive to make me re-book a cruise: only a good value, good  quality experience could achieve that.

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Advantages of River Cruising

  • Most river cruise ships hold no more than 200 passengers, often less; you get a more intimate experience.
  • The river ships are small compared to all ocean ships, so ideal for those with mobility problems. (Town’s with cobbled streets my prove more of a challenge).
  • Most cabins have a large panoramic window/balcony, so you get constant views of the passing scenery.
  • River ships normally berth in the heart of each town/city, so coach transport is not a necessity, you can just walk into town. (No ‘tendering’ is ever required).
  • Most river cruises are five stars so the standards of food and service are normally very good indeed.
  • Some river lines include alcoholic drinks, excursions in their fares even flights or coach travel to/from the boat.
  • On-board surcharges and the need to spend money on-board a river ship are minimal, compared to many ocean ships.
  • Seasickness is not normally an issue.
  • The dress code is smart-casual, so there is no need to pack a tux or ball gown, although some passengers do like to dress up a little for dinner.
  • River cruises are more scenic than many ocean cruises,  with constant views of two river banks while underway.

Disadvantages of River Cursing

  • The fares can be considerably higher than some ocean cruises.
  • At present demand is often outstripping availability. River cruises can sell out very quickly and deep-discounts are rare.
  • River cruising generally appeals to the more mature passenger and can have an international mix. (Not necessarily disadvantages).
  • On-board facilities and dining options are a lot less than those offered on-board many ocean ships.
  • Meal times and seating are fixed (with Amadeus) and not flexible.
  • The dress-code is smart-casual, so there are no ‘official’ formal nights for those who enjoy dressing-up.
  • The entertainment and activities on-board can be very low key.
  • There is not the diversity of river cruise products such as style of experience, size of vessel, on-board facilities etc. – many of the currently available river products are similar.
  • River water levels (too high or low) can disrupt river cruise itineraries.
  • The sun deck can be closed when the boat passes under low bridges.
  • River boats occasionally berth next to each other. Your cabin with a view may be looking at another ships cabin when in port.
  • Some cruising make take place in the evening/overnight, limiting the views.

In Conclusion, I must admit that I was sceptical about river cruising (sorry, Solent Richard). However I need to eat my words as almost every aspect of my river cruise was very enjoyable and of a high quality.

The ship was very stylish and functional. The atmosphere was more intimate and relaxing than on-board an ocean ships.

Perhaps some of the key advantages of a river ship are the facilities that they do not have: there were no rock-walls, no water slides, no casino, no tendering and no hard sell.

I particularly enjoyed the constant views of the river while cruising and the convenience of berthing in the heart of the towns/cities. The food was very consistent and the best I have experience on-board any ship.

Unfortunately the very low key entertainment and lack of variety of entertainment and activities on my particular cruise, somewhat spoilt the evenings for me.  Maybe ‘spoilt’ is too strong a word, but the entertainment certainly rarely ‘enhanced’ my evenings. However I appreciate some passengers may well be happy just drinking and chatting.

The big question is: does the extra quality of a river cruise (compared to a mass-market ocean cruise) warrant the extra cost and can you afford it? That is a question that only the individual to decide. However many passengers obviously do think that the higher cost is justified.

I think anybody would enjoy a river cruise, if you can afford one, apart from the young and those who need a high level of on-board activity.  Like ocean cruising, it does have a very addictive quality.

I’d recommend Amadeus, if entertainment is not so important to you. Their cruises are certainly competitively priced, when compared to many of their rivals.

My river cruise made a  very refreshing change. I will almost certainly be taking more.

However in the future, I look forward to seeing a wider range of river cruise products, at a wider range of fares, aimed at a wider range of passenger demographics.

Hopefully in the nearer future, the supply of river berths will continue to grow and better match to the demand, bringing the fares down a little, without degrading the quality of the experience.

Malcolm

Amadeus Elegant, my second river cruise review HERE