About Alex

Who is Alex Leete? A passion for travel and over 15 years' experience in the industry encouraged me to set up Global River Cruising, our own family run company. Over the last few years we have been on as many river cruises, ships and seen as many destinations as we possibly can so we can rightfully call ourselves "experts". As independent specialists we work hard to find the perfect river cruise for our clients - at the very best prices too! A little more about us ...

The Beauty of the Royal Clipper and the Adriatic

Royal Clipper Visit August 16th 2015

With so many modern cruise ship experiences on offer these days, why would you turn back the clock and aim to produce a 21st century version of a vessel that Thomas Cook would recognize or take the lead from that famous BBC serial “The Onedin Line”? At Star Clippers, the desire is to be able to offer the romance of sailing to guests who may never have experienced it or those that know only too well what a feeling it has and are happy to be able to enjoy it without the need to cook or man the rigging!

Royal ClipperWe joined the Royal Clipper whilst it was visiting Kotor on its voyage from Venice and back to Rome via the highlights of the Adriatic. We took the tender from the quay and took around 5 minutes to return to the ship. The 220 maximum guests that the ship holds enjoy being able to get closer to the best sights that’s for sure. The entrance to Kotor harbour is right next to the old town. In Dubrovnik, the Royal Clipper was the only ship which could be seen from the historic unesco awarded old town due to its smaller size. With a draught of only 5.3m, guests can tender straight into the medieval icon. The MSC clients were over 45 minutes away and then had to take a shuttle bus. Unlucky! Old world beats modern.

Royal Clipper Masts

With 5 masts and 42 sails it has the Guinness world record for the worlds largest sailing ship. The certificate is on the wall. Within the body of the ship are nooks and crannies designed for the care free life at sea. A library with Chesterfield leather sofas and port holes and a table with incomplete jigsaws. The main bar is open on both sides with the breeze blowing through in the most refreshing way. So much so, an area of smoking is allowed. The dark wood and open area is where the evenings low key entertainment takes place. Resident pianist Emile Pandolfi plays in the piano bar which has classically styled chairs and brass. A lovely place to have an after dinner drink.

Michelin Star Dining Experience onboard the Royal Clipper

Go down a level again and you will enter the restaurant which serves buffet breakfast and lunch. And then in the evening there is the 3 star Michelin inspired formal dining experience from consultant chef Jean Marie Meulien which included Veal Parmigiana, creamy snail soup and wild mushroom risotto with sautéed chicken liver. The recommended bottles of wine are Mouton Cadet and Marlborough Valley are offered for €25 and €30, a reasonable price. Dinner starts from 7.30 and continues to around 9pm. Free seating is used and if the ship isn’t full then tables of 2 can be accommodated. But the idea is to intermingle and the various nationalities do usually encompass American, Australian, British, Italian, German. With the bar hours, then it is open all day and dependent on the nationalities on board stays open to around midnight or 1am most nights. People are relaxed and enjoying their sailing experience and drinks are purchased on a drink by drink basis or on a package.

The cabins on the ship are cosy unless you are in the owners suites but fit the feel of the ship. Category 1 features doors opening onto an outside deck area and the deluxe suites offer a veranda area, all cabins of this type are on the main deck, the next deck down below the sun deck.

Royal Clipper Cabin Image

For those that like the trappings of cruise life there is an adorable spa which is below water level, called captain nemo’s spa. And there are a few unique treats such as the full marbled hamam which is free to use. And a massage which involves tiger-striped clams from the Philippines which are then sanded and polished and warmed to be used in in either a full full Philippine Spa Ritual at 2 hrs 15 or a massage only.

The sun (upper) deck is however the place to know that you have come to the right holiday for you. The 5 masts and rigging tower over the beautiful vessel and the opportunity is there for every guest to host a sail at least once on a cruise. The lone is also there to be able to climb to the lower level on a mast and higher for those that can stand the height. For any guest that really wants to learn aboUt sailing the crew will put them to work and each cruise has at least one day at sea so who could resist.

Lunch on the Royal Clipper

So, moving along the deck there are 3 pools for relaxing and many shady and non shady areas for sun loungers. There are advantage points for feeling you are off the side of the ship and great for photo opportunities as well as more nooks and crannies in which to hide. This is not a ship for small children due to ropes and metal and all the trappings of a working vessel.

However, I would recommend it as an adventure on the high seas for teenagers and twenty something’s. Climbing the masts and sun bathing in the rigging is pretty cool. And water sports take place off the back of the ship so kayaking and snorkelling opportunities are plentiful and the joy of jumping in from height. There are no kids clubs or much of an Internet connection but the crew perform a show each sailing which guests are able to join.

Watersports on Star Clipper

A Perfect Holiday for Teenagers on the Royal Clipper

Perhaps a young guitarist could be encouraged or a singer, dancer or actor to join in the fun. Let them discover their inner selves through inventiveness and then post that on facebook. Who wouldn’t envy them their life as a pirate? Find them a voyage during school holidays with other teenagers on and new friends can be discovered as well as new places. Is there really a teenager who will turn down a sailing holiday to the Caribbean even if it is with mum and dad? And for 2017 they are returning to Thailand and Indonesia. And Grandma and Grandad you will feel at home too. With short tenders to port on the days you would like to explore and shady areas to hide on board when you just fancy feeling the breeze with a book in hand whilst the family explore, or hold regular nautical conversations with the crew. A stroll on deck to help the sumptuous six course dinner settle and then to Finish the day with star gazing from the bridge for all generations in an uninterrupted clear night sky and there is a holiday for all generations on board the Royal Clipper’s bygone romantic era of sail.

Star Clipper voyages are available all year round covering Europe, the Caribbean and the Far East. To watch a little video about the Star Clippers and learn more click here:

Simeon & Alex on Royal Clipper

Alex & Simeon

Tulip River Cruising In The Netherlands

The waterways of The Netherlands are ideal for a river cruise especially in springtime to see the stunning Tulip and Bulb fields in full bloom.  Ranging from a 4 night mini cruise to a luxury 10 day voyage.

One of our favourites  is with Amadeus onboard the beautiful Silver III – their brand new flag ship ( see a little preview of this amazing ship in the video below).

I also learnt that “Holland” is the name of only two provinces – North Holland and South Holland, so strictly speaking isn’t correct.  The country is called The Netherlands.

Watch our little video to appreciate what a springtime tulip river cruise in The Netherlands is like and then ring us as we still have some availability on 0800 471 4754.

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Introduction to No Fly River Cruises in France By Rail

This week’s blog post is an introduction to the reality of doing a French river cruise without having to set foot in an airport.  In the UK, our rail system is poor apart from routes leading directly into London.  But once at St Pancras for the Eurostar, then the European mainland is waiting.  So, our introduction to no fly river cruises in France focuses on the quickest rail options available to our customers and explains where rail with a French river cruise works well and where it becomes more complicated.

Paris on a Seine river cruise

Paris No Fly River Cruises

By far the easiest river cruise to attempt by rail from the UK to France is a Seine river cruise. This will be a cruise that will start and usually end in Paris as well.  There are lots of trains from London to Paris daily.  Or you could even do Ebsfleet or Ashford in Kent.  You will be provided with the docking location of the ship, so you could then either take a taxi or the metro, or a transfer may be included by your cruiseline.

If you are travelling more widely in France, then the french regional trains and the high speed TGV will easily bring you to one of the Paris terminals.

Exact timetables for Eurostar and TGV are not available until 3 months before departure.  Savings are available for senior citizens.  If you’d prefer not to navigate the complexities of the Eurostar or French operator SNCF timetables, then we are here to help.

Examples of operators who run Seine cruises from Paris and back into Paris from May – October are: Riviera, Avalon, Amadeus, Amawaterways and Uniworld.

Bordeaux No Fly River Cruises

River cruises along the Garonne river start and end in Bordeaux.  This makes train travel a possibility but will be less straightforward than Paris.  If you are travelling by Eurostar, then you will have to cross Paris to Gare de Montparnasse to catch a train going Southwest on the TGV.  The good news is that the TGV also offers discounted rates for senior citizens and the prices are very good.  It is best to leave yourself plenty of time to make the change.  The journey takes between 2 hours and 2 hours 15 minutes.  It is then a short journey from Bordeaux St Jean station to the boat. If you were to become later than planned, then it is best to check that you are booked on a cruise where they ship doesn’t leave on arrival day.  That way, you won’t be left behind.

Examples of operators who run Garonne cruises from Bordeuax and back Bordeaux from May – October are: Avalon, Amawaterways, Viking and Uniworld.

South of France No Fly River Cruises

When we talk about river cruises in the South of France, we primarily mean cruises along the Rhone and Saone rivers.  These cruises run through Burgundy, Provence and down to Avignon. These cruises work really well with Eurostar and TGV as there is now no need to change stations in Paris.  Various options can be looked at, including a direct train to Marseilles, which runs on certain days.

MS Amadeus Provence Sun Deck

MS Amadeus Provence Sun Deck

Our favourite way of doing a river cruise through this region is catching the direct train to Lyon from St Pancreas and returning the same.  The MS Amadeus Provence, does a 7 night round trip from Lyon, to specifically take advantage of the shorter train journey.  The average journey time from London to Lyon is about 5 hours 30 minutes.

Or, other operators start or end in the south , so would use the train from Marseille. Again, with the direct link to either Paris or London, it makes the journey very easy.  The average journey time for this longer train journey is 6 hours 30 minutes.  We do recommend doing the longer journey at the start of your holiday, if at all possible.

Alex

Amadeus River Cruises – Amadeus Silver II Review

Amadeus Silver II Exterior

Amadeus River Cruises by Luftner , a family owned company, offer high quality river cruises on the major rivers in Europe. Unlike some of the better known and much, much larger American owned companies, Amadeus has stayed in the same family for the last 40 years and prides itself on a small fleet of custom designed river ships. I was lucky enough to cruise on the brand new Amadeus Silver II in March 2017 and here is my review of the ship.

We joined the ship in Amsterdam. The Amadeus Silver II is one of the new 135 square meter river cruise ships being launched by Luftner. The ship will cruise the river Rhine and The Danube throughout the season from early spring and including Christmas markets and Christmas and New Year cruises as well.

Stepping onboard, the modern interior with greys and pinks is bright and welcoming. The staff are also very friendly and I recognise them from a previous cruise I have taken with Amadeus. Due to the family nature of the cruise line, there is a very small staff turnover and our customers are often telling us that they look forward to meeting familiar staff again on their next cruise. Again, the larger American river cruise lines would not be able to offer this very welcome element of customer service. It takes a long time to train a member of staff.

What facilities are there on the Amadeus Silver II ship?

Well, there is a fitness room with equipment, hair salon, massage room, a gift shop, complimentary bicycles to use when in port to cycle into towns etc. Additionally there is a laundry service which is payable locally.

The Public Areas

Amadeus Silver II Cafe Vienna

Moving up a level from the lobby, there is a coffee and tea area, the Cafe Vienna, with Viennese coffee specialities which allows customers to sit and enjoy the view out of the large glass windows whilst enjoying the complementary hot drinks from the 24 hour coffee station.

Amadeus Silver II Panorama Bar
Moving into the main panorama lounge which is full of full length windows and light, the bar area again is modern and with plenty of seating throughout the area, you will also be able to find somewhere to sit and read a book or browse a newspaper or the internet. In the evening, the Panorama lounge and bar is where the entertainment of either the pianist or local performers who are brought onboard will be enjoyed from.

Amadeus Silver II River Terrace

Moving forward in the lounge you can access the outside seating area, known as the “River Terrace”, an absolute must for when the ship is scenic cruising. As it was early spring, we were able to take advantage of the blankets on offer whilst enjoying a hot drink and the view.

The sundeck is the best place to catch the 360 degrees river views from and it enjoys a Lido-bar, lounge chairs, shade awnings, giant chess board and shuffleboard.

Amadeus Silver II Club Lounge

Additionally at the rear of the ship, there is the Amadeus Club Lounge. With windows on three sides and again an outside area, this is a lovely quiet area with again a coffee station and computers to check emails.

Size of the Amadeus Silver II

Built in 2015, over 3 floors the ship offers 84 staterooms in total of which 12 are suites. The maximum number of passengers on board is 168 and the number of crew is 46. This ship is although the same size as the Amadeus Silver, has much bigger staterooms and suites and less passengers.

The Restaurant and dining onboard the Amadeus Silver II

You will find yourself enjoying up to 3 meals a day on your Amadeus Silver II cruise. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are offered in the dining room, a large, modern area with floor to ceiling windows. Open seating means that you will find yourself a table and sit down.

Amadeus Silver II Breakfast Menu

Breakfast is a buffet with many recognisable continental and American options. So, there is a egg station for omelettes and poached and fried eggs which can be ordered, cereals, fruit and yogurt, fried breakfast items and more Germanic breakfast items. There is free flowing coffee and tea as well as self service fruit juice. The waiters are there to assist you with special requirement, just ask.
Lunch is also a buffet with free seating with salad options, soup and meat dishes.

Dinner is a table d’hote menu with multiple courses and the standard here is very high.

Amadeus Silver II Fine Dining

The staterooms

I was lucky enough to be in one of the 284 sq ft suites. I can highly recommend them. As well as the largest walkin wardrobe I have ever seen on a river cruise ship – it is enormous – there is an additional corner seating area.

Amadeus Silver II Suite Seating Area

The floor to ceiling windows make the suite seem even bigger. there is a small sit out balcony for the warmer days, a large flat screen tv, mini bar. The ensuite bathroom is a great size, with complementary toiletries.

Amadeus Silver II French Balcony Cabin

The staterooms on the middle and upper decks are 188 sq ft – these are a really good size for french balcony cabins. An electronic window allows the french balcony to be opened horizontally.

On the lower deck, again the staterooms are a good size at 172 sq ft with a head height window. Lots of mirrors have been used to allow more light into the cabins and I have to say, that unlike some river cruise ship designs for lower deck cabins I would be very happy to be in one of these rooms. The space has been used well.

My Overall Opinion of the Amadeus Silver II

I really enjoyed my time on the Silver II. I have seen a lot of river cruise ships and I like the fact that the Amadeus ships are all different. There is no “one-size fits all” so there is never a time that the ships feel dated. Depending on which package is booked, you could have drinks with your meals and wi-fi included and selected excursions. As an Amadeus specialist, we are able to advise on the best package for you as well as whether you would like cruise only or flights and transfers. Do check before booking as Amadeus cruises do tend to be tailor made.

Why do single travelers pay more for a river cruise?

“Why do I have to pay double for a single cabin?” We get asked this question all the time.  The worst thing for a single river cruise traveler is the single supplement.  But don’t just get angry.  It’s easy to avoid paying double by understanding the river cruise single market and how it works.

Most cruise lines do not have actual single cabins on board.  River cruise ships don’t have actual single cabins – ones that are smaller than double cabins. Yes, that’s right.  Single cabins are few and far between.  I can think of maybe 20 ships in the whole of Europe which have one small cabin onboard, always on the bottom deck with no french balcony.    A small cabin, on the lower deck and you can have it with no supplement.  I’m not sensing much excitement about that option.

So, as a single customer you are usually getting the same size cabin as two people. This is why it looks like the cruise company is charging more for you to be in a double cabin, but on your own.

Sometimes a cruise line can take the decision to not charge a single traveler double, and lower the supplement.  This usually happens when a cruise first goes on sale for a season, hence these discounted double cabins for sole use always sell out really quickly,

From then on, once these have sold out they will usually charge extra.  This can be anywhere from 10% to 100% extra,

My advise is to book early to get either the single cabins or take up their early booking offers of no supplement.

river cruise on the Douro as a single river cruise traveler

What sort of holiday do I want as a single river cruise traveler?

Are you a solo traveler off to explore with like minded people?  Then often you want to make sure you have a good social group on your trip and that you will have some other solo travelers to socialise and dine with.  You don’t want to feel you are going to stick out like a sore thumb, but want to use the trip to make new friends and talk to some interesting people.  You may also want the tour operator to have thought about you beyond the space in the cabin.  Some even offer to pick you up from home, and a really nice idea is a dedicated tour manager who can get the group to interact and make sure that seats are reserved at dinner?

Are you a single river cruise traveler who is travelling with friends?

This is probably the most frustrating issue as you have all found a cruise you like and a date that will suit you all.  And guess what?  You have to pay the same price as your friends do in total for two people.  Unfortunately on a river ship, there isn’t a way to give you half the space so that you pay half the cabin price.  River cruise operators should really just give a cabin price and be done with it, but there you are.

Emerald Star Ship Balcony Cabin

With this in mid here are a couple of recommendations for single passengers.

Uniworld – Itineraries ideally suited for single river cruise travelers.  An open seating plan at every meal, small group excursions, and kindred spirits who share your passion for fresh destinations.  No single supplement or reduced the single supplement on many of their most popular itineraries! Book early for 2018, while space and no supplements are available.

Riviera Travel – have a number of departures with low supplements for both 2017 and 2018 from the Rhine in Germany to the Portugal Douro River most are window cabins for a very reasonable price, but again try to book early as not many cabins available.

Saga River cruise – has very reasonable prices for a single river cruise traveler, limited availability for 2017, and a good selection left for 2018 dates with low or no single supplement.

You can book some amazing river cruises through Europe and beyond with Global River Cruising, offering a range of fantastic itineraries and budgets suitable to your needs and preferences.