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 ...

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.

 

 

 

 

Wine River Cruises in France on the Rhône

Wine for elevenses? It’s almost obligatory when sailing on a Rhône wine cruise in France.  How do you fancy a relaxing morning being taken to the local vineyards to see the vines tumbling over the hillsides, before sampling the various wines the local vineyards and wineries have to offer along the Northern and Southern Rhône?

As well as the stunning views of medieval towns and colourful landscapes, the Rhône River winds its way between the many vineyards that line its banks from Lyon to Avignon.

Rhone River Cruise, Beautiful Rhône Valley Vinyards

A Provence itinerary on a Rhône river cruise takes you through this prized wine-producing region in southeastern France, known throughout the world as the Rhône Valley. You’ll also get to savour some delightful wines from the Beaujolais region just to the north, where the Rhône meets the river Saône. The valley traces the path of the river for almost 150 miles, with views of grape-covered vines gripping its steep sides. Since it’s so large, the climate varies greatly from north to south as does the soil and wine quality.

The Northern Rhône

The Northern Rhône is a smaller wine growing area than the South, but still offers prestige wines.  Offering a continental climate with granite soils and grows Syrah grapes used in the famous Hermitage wines, so impressive that it’s the only red grape grown in this region to create the full bodied, rich and tannic wines, the white wines are made from Viognier, Marsanne, and Roussanne.

The Southern Rhône

A warmer climate is enjoyed in the Southern Rhône with hot summers and mild winters. This larger sub-region is responsible for nearly 95% of the entire region’s wine, including a wide range of everyday whites, rosés and Grenache-based red blends from the more commonly known Côtes du Rhône appellation. The south also creates a variety of powerful, high-quality reds and whites in areas like world renowned  Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Rhone River Cruise, Fine Wines from the Rhône Valley

What to expect on a Rhône wine cruise

Whilst on a Rhône river cruise  you can look forward to sampling some of the hand selected local wines recommended by the on board wine host with your evening meal.  Wine tasting of course goes hand in hand with talks on winemaking and other activities including an evening excursion in Vienne pairing red wine and delicious chocolate at Chateau De Tournan , A hike in the vineyard of Tain- L’Hermitage  followed by a visit to a local vineyard to sample the wine, whilst in Avignon you can either visit Pont Du Gard an impressive roman aqueduct or take a Provencal cookery lesson before wine tasting at Chateauneuf-Du-Pape, that give an insight into the local gastronomic traditions and history of the local area you are sailing through.

Rhone River Cruise, Avignon, France

Away from the vineyards, there’s nothing quite like a visit to the Carrières de Lumières—an impressive underground art show held at a limestone quarry near the town of Les Baux. You’ll be surrounded by colour and light from every angle at this stunning visual exhibit, which brings famous paintings to life as they are projected against the rock faces of the quarry.

A visit to Avignon, where truffles are a highly prized delicacy sometimes referred to as “the diamonds of the kitchen.” No man or machine can locate them, only specially trained dogs can detect their scent beneath the roots of certain types of trees such as oak, beech or hazel. You can take part in this authentic and  unique experience on a visit to a Truffle farm.

And finally no visit to this area would be complete without a wander around the streets of Arles, one of France’s most beautiful cities,  where  Vincent Van Gogh lived and painted such well known pictures including “Starry Night” and “The Irises”

Update – Rhone Wine Cruise Offer for Summer 2017

We have negotiated an exclusive price with our partners at Amawaterways.  Their 7 night Rhone wine cruise from Arles to Lyon onboard the AMACello luxury river ship on 3rd August 2017 features an exclusive wine tasting in the chateauneuf-du Pape region and tour of a local vineyard.  On day 4, you will enjoy an onboard wine lecture from your wine host.  In the evening you will enjoy a “red wine & chocolate pairing” at a Tournon Chateau.  Day 5 enjoys a scenice drive to Tain-I’Hermitage for a wine tasting.  Finish the day with a Chaine de Rotisseurs paired wines with dinner.  Day 6 features another wine lecture and tasting whilst cruising to Lyon.  Day 7 is either free time in Lyon, or a Beaujolais vineyard tour and wine tasting in the Oingt hilltop village in the home of a local vintner.  Prices start from £1699 for the cruise based on 2 sharing.  Flights and transfers are available.  Please ask  for a quote: enquiries@globalrivercruising.co.uk