Cruising Europe’s Rivers
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Cruising Europe’s Rivers

My husband and I recently returned from a fantastic Viking River cruise on the Rhone River in the South of France. The area is known as “France’s Hidden Corner” and is full if hidden treasures and breath-taking Scenery. It is pretty serious Wine country, but I was pleasantly surprised to find there was so much more to this region. We found Roman ruins, castles and fortresses to explore everywhere we went. Art and culture is important to the locals and plenty of it to enjoy. The cities and towns were charming and had great shopping…and did I mention the food? The food was fantastic…both on the ship and off. We loved the small Bakery’s on every corner…and didn’t pass up many of them.

I have had the opportunity to cruise with 3 River cruise Companies: Viking River Cruises: (Rhone River in France, Lyon to Avignon), Uniworld River Cruise: (Netherlands, Antwerp to Amsterdam) AMA Waterways: (Danube, Vilshofen Germany to Budapest). All 3 companies were awesome and I would recommend them.

Here are some of my favorite and least favorite things about each.

Uniworld: I was on the Maria Theresa ship. If you want to feel like a Princess and enjoy Over-the-top Luxury Décor, then you will love Uniworld. Each ship is different, but all are elegant and Luxurious. My favorite things about Uniworld: 1) THE BEDS! I am a bed girl. If I don’t get a good night sleep, I’m not much fun to be around. It might be the most comfortable bed I have ever slept on. I’m a pillow snob (or so my husband tells me) and always bring mine along…but I wouldn’t have needed it. 2) THE FOOD WAS AMAZING. All 3 cruise lines had good food, but Uniworld wins. 3) All-inclusive shore excursions and Drinks. Although the other 2 lines offer sodas and some alcohol with Lunch & dinner, they don’t offer it any other time. Most Shore excursions are included, which can really add up if you have to pay for them. 4) Amenity’s on board: Bikes, exercise room, salon, and small indoor pool…even a small theater (although I never saw anyone use it). My Least Favorite Things about Uniworld: 1) Cost. If you don’t have plenty of disposable income, this may not be for you. 2) Personally, I didn’t love the décor. It was a little over the top for me. I used the lobby bathroom and couldn’t find my way out…too many mirrors.

AMA Waterways: I was on the AMA Prima Ship. I love the look and feel of the ship. I like the round, clean lines of the décor. I would call it understated elegance. My Favorite things about AMA: 1) STAFF! I don’t know if all Cruise Directors are like the one I had, but he was amazing. I think he had everyone’s name memorized before we even came on board! My son (21 years) sailed with me on this cruise and he became fast friends with the staff members. 2) Food was very good. They focused on local specialties which was fun. 3) Local entertainment on board: It may have been the area we were in, Austria (known for Classical music), but the evening entertainment was excellent. 3) Shore excursions: There were a few offered that had a cost,but most were free. 4) Computer in every room + decent Wi-Fi for free. 4) Amenities on board: Bikes, exercise room & Salon, library, small pool on deck. My Least Favorite things about AMA: 1) the beds! They were hard as a rock. After returning home, I learned you could ask for a pillow top comforter (I know someone that asked for two)…wish I had known that while I was there! 2) Bathroom: I was in a standard room so the other rooms may have been better, but there was no shelf space. It was the tiniest of the 3 cruises. I didn’t love the layout of the private rooms on this ship. The closet placement was awkward as well. Over all. I loved the public spaces on the ship…didn’t love the private rooms.

Viking River Cruise: Knowing that Viking comes in at a Lower price point, I was surprised how much I liked the ship, staff, food, etc. I like Viking’s ‘Scandinavian influenced’, uncluttered look. Viking’s Long Ships can carry 195 passengers, compared to AMA Prima’s 161 & Uniworld’s 150. That explains why Viking doesn’t offer as many on board amenities’ (no Salon, exercise room, pool, Bikes, etc.). For me, those things don’t matter too much. River cruising is all about the scenery and Ports. You can get plenty of exercise running around charming European towns…although I must say that we did enjoy the bikes on Uniworld and AMA, but you can rent them in most cities.

Things I Loved about Viking: 1) Price! For the price, I would go on Viking again in a heartbeat. 2) Food was very good. I think as good as AMA (although Uniworld still wins out on food). I also love that you could eat any meal in the Lobby as well as the dining room. Eating in the lobby is quicker (for Dinner) and allows you to eat outside on the deck. 3) Rooms were a much better lay out over AMA’s. They do a great job of giving you more drawer and shelf space and higher beds which allow you to store bags underneath. Also, the bed was decent. Not great like Uniworld’s, but it I slept OK. I was happy I had my own pillow though. My Least Favorite things about Viking: 1) they claim to have Wi-Fi, but it wasn’t good. I couldn’t get it in my room at all and the 2 onboard computers were so slow, they were almost not usable. 2) a little more crowded. The extra 30-40 passengers make a difference in finding a place to sit in the lobby lounge and dining room. Not a deal breaker, just something I noticed. 3) They offer a free walking or bus tour in almost every place they stop, but anything beyond that will cost. I thought the cost was very reasonable, but it can add up.

I LOVE RIVER CRUISING! I would recommend it to anyone. It has become so popular that they can barely build ships fast enough. With all the new inventory hitting the rivers, the cost is becoming much more affordable. If you are thinking about it…don’t wait, give us a call. You won’t regret it.