Is a river cruise holiday right for me?

If you are not sure whether a river cruise is right for you, rest assured you are not alone.
It is a lot of money to spend on a holiday and if you are not sure, it is much easier to do nothing.

is river cruising the right holiday for me?

As a river cruising travel agent, we get a lot of people like yourself who ask us for a brochure and then we don’t hear from again.  They still are not sure whether a river cruise holiday is something they will enjoy.

Where does the enthusiasm go and when do the nerves set in? Or there are other reasons which mean what seemed like a good idea is now not so urgent.  Did life get in the way?

So, thinking of the main objections that people have and nerves about trying it for the first time, let’s see if we can put them to rest.  We’d like to make it happen for you.

1.Why can’t I fly from my local airport?

The main reason is probably that there just aren’t any direct flights or they simply don’t go on the right days.  River cruise destinations in Europe tend to be starting from great capitals like Budapest or Vienna and from a smallish local airport these flights won’t exist or won’t be on the right days.  But if your local airport has flights with low cost carriers like Easyjet or Jet2, then we look at flights first and then which rivers work well, second.

2. I don’t want to fly, I’d rather go by train.

is a river cruising holiday right for me?

Trains are a great way to avoid the airport security restrictions or if you have a fear of flying.  London is a great hub to get to and travel by Eurostar.  It is then easy to get to Brussels or take a longer train south through France.  Journeys can however take a lot longer than a flight and it is worth considering this when making your decision.

3. I am a single traveller and the supplements do seem high


River cruise ships are small and hold between roughly 100-190 people. We can be very politically correct about this and say that you get the space for two people. Most operators will look at 50% supplements over and above the twin passenger price.

Our Advice: If the price of the supplement has put you off, then we do know other operators who charge far, far less than 50% and would be happy to talk you through those options.

4. I’m not sure whether I am fit and able enough for a river cruise holiday at the moment?

If this seems like a stumbling block, then I always suggest breaking the holiday down into portions and working out whether they are manageable. If you are happy with getting on and off buses but don’t want to walk far, then river cruising is still for you.

If you don’t want to feel that you have paid for tours that you are not going to use, then we can look at operators who don’t include tours. No one wants to pay for something they are not going to use.

Our Advice: You need to be able to get up and down stairs, however slowly, but you can watch the world go sailing by, or indeed go off on your own.

5. The dates don’t work for me this year

River cruising seasons go on sale usually in March the previous year, so to get the best choice of dates – June and September are by far the busiest months, then plan ahead. A deposit will secure the holiday of your choice with the balance paid usually 3 months before travel.

Finally – Am I going to enjoy it?

is a river cruise holiday right for me?
River cruising is about culture, sightseeing and the of luxury of having a floating hotel in the centre of some of the world’s most beautiful places. The atmosphere is very relaxed, but it is a touring holiday where the destination is king. Entertainment is low key in the evenings and dining is good to excellent but there is only usually one main dining room. With around 150 people on board, you will make friends easily. And remember, it doesn’t have to be something that you do every year for the rest of your life, a river cruise for you may just be a way of seeing a part of the world you have always wanted to go to.

So, I hope that this blog post has moved you closer to knowing whether a river cruise is for you.  Each river offers something different as does each cruise operator.  As a specialist in our field.  We look forward to making river cruising work for you.

Alex

 

Review of Uniworld’s River Empress Ship

I’m finally getting around to writing about my visit to Uniworld’s River Empress. I do find it hard to write about Uniworld ships as I am so biased. What can you say other than it’s lovely.

River Empress is a 110m Ship

Having had my head turned by Uniworld’s “Super Ships” the Antoinette, Maria Theresa and Catherine, I was looking forward to seeing again one of their 110m ships. In the world of European river cruising, new build ships tend to be of the longer, 135m variety. They are able to hold more passengers and feature slightly more amenities onboard. However, they also take longer to traverse river distances, don’t always fit into the best mooring points and some can look a little like a low rise block of flats from the outside, Continue reading

The Best Christmas Markets River Cruises

I am not thinking about a Christmas markets river cruise for myself but I am recommending them for others.

I usually dread Christmas! It seems to involve having to find an extra 10 hours in each day.  This is of course not actually possible.  Christmas involves children’s activities, school plays, carol services, balancing budgets and expectations, logistics and food preparation.  Plus, last year, having deal with a misbehaving Aga on Christmas Day itself. I simply can’t wait for 26th December!

Aerial view of Nuremberg Christmas Market

Nuremberg Christmas Market

17 Different Christmas Markets to Choose From

Now that I’ve got that off my chest I’ve remembered that my Auntie is cooking Christmas dinner this year – yeah. I have not calmly spent the last week going “aaah” over the beautiful sparkly lights and snowy scenes of Europe’s best Christmas markets. Looking through the lovely itineraries we have to suit all budgets, I have so far counted a choice of 17 different ones covering France, Belgium, Holland, Austria and Hungary.

Bruges Christmas market

Bruges Christmas Market

Christmas markets run from mid November through to Christmas or even up to 3rd January in some areas. They came to the UK a number of years ago and I have eaten many a Bratwurst in Albert Square in Manchester when we used to live “up north”.
For repeat river cruisers it is a chance to visit places that you may have already been to, such as Vienna but without the need to join the organised excursion or encountering the same crowds and to simply wander the streets a bit, taking in the new smells and sparkles and then always knowing there is a cosy welcome awaiting you back at the ship. Has hot chocolate with brandy ever tasted so good.

Cologne Christmas Market

Cologne Christmas Market

Christmas shopping this year will also seem better value as the Euro exchange rate is definitely working in our favour.

Food Choices at Christmas Markets

So, why not enjoy a short Belgium cruise with all your food and drink included and match it with some low cost flights. Or enjoy a Kurtosh Kallach traditional Hungarian pastry, washed down with mulled wine in Budapest’s Vorosmarty Square.

Hungarian Sausages at Xmas Market

Budapest Christmas market

 

Or instead of a bar crawl, go on a sausage crawl to compare which area has the best – always an extreme local riviary. Regensburg prides itself on its bratwurst above all other areas.

Whatever your wish this Christmas, we can find a cruise that will fit the bill!

Alex

Island Hopping Cruise in Croatia Review. Day 1

MV Amalia trip with Titan, 1st-3rd October 2015

We arrived at Venice Marco Polo airport whilst it is having renovations done. Beware at the moment as Venice Marco Polo airport is a little messy and quite a walk to the water taxis so be prepared.

We were off for our journey to Rijeka via a 3 hour coach journey which as we’d all met at Gatwick at 4.30 was a welcome chance to sleep.

The MV Amalia is a pretty 3 star ship which can take 36 guests. Titan have contracted it as part of a wider Istria and Croatia tour. There is a restaurant dining area with small bar, , several outside places to sit and sip drinks and a large sundeck Withi modern style loungers.

Onboard are a captain, a ship mate, a waiter called Nemo and a female cook. This being October, the wind is chilly but it is easy to see how lovely it would be to simply sun bath whilst the sea drifts past.

Sunbathing on MV Amalia

We arrived in time for a late lunch of beef consommé and then a lovely slow cooked beef stew (Pasticada) with gnocchi which is a favourite of Croatian wedding banquets, followed by salad and then ice cream. We were all getting used to the motion of ship whilst eating. I have on my seas bands so was able to eat the food. Others were not so lucky as there was a bit of a swell today.

We sailed into Krk at dusk, the second largest island in the 1200 or so Croatian Islands. Since the 1980s it has been joined to the mainland by a bridge but this being a windy area, the bridge was shut today. We walked to discover Vrbnik, the wine producing area of Krk and were treated to a short talk and then a proper Croatian sit down of meats and cheese with which to savour the family made wines.

Wine tasting in Vrbmik, Krk Island, Croatia

Wine tasting in Vrbnik, Krk Island, Croatia

It was cosy and homely and we just had to order a few more bottles of this incredibly drinkable wine. I can’t imagine that any even makes it off the island. I have two bottles for Simeon to taste, if in deed they make it home.

 

 

 

Back to the ship for dinner of spaghetti and a rich tomato sauce to be washed down with large half litres of pivo (October ) Croatian draft beer. A chilly but successful day!

The Beauty of the Royal Clipper and the Adriatic

Royal Clipper Visit August 16th 2015 in Kotor

Royal Clipper in Kotor Bay

Royal Clipper in Kotor Bay

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