Well, I’ve currently been on five Europe river cruises with my family, (these are family holidays that I organise for myself and my family) and have included eleven nights on board in my first ever Founder’s Tour at Christmas this year, once again travelling with my family. And I’m personally hosting our third Europe river cruise charter, next April. So, why do I love doing Europe river cruises? And why do we sell so many to our Privilege Club members, year after year?
As the founder, owner and CEO of Seniors Holiday Travel Team for the past two decades, I’ve done a fair bit of travel, and of course, I get offered travel deals and travel styles and travel destinations every day of the week – temptations!
I first went to Europe back in 1978, when I was 26 years old, and I spent fifteen months living and working in Europe and the UK, before returning to my job in the Commonwealth Department of Veterans’ Affairs, where I spent a total of 23 years. Back in those days, we were happy to stay in cheap European hotels, with share bathrooms down the hall – something we “Baby Boomers” wouldn’t think was too acceptable these days, and our 23 year old twin daughters probably couldn’t comprehend even existed!
I can well remember when my younger brother Bruce (yes, “that” Bruce Morcombe) came to visit me in Europe in 1979, and we were staying in a cheap but clean hotel in Spain, and he came racing in to our room to tell me to come and see this toilet down the hall – it was the first squat toilet either of us had ever seen, or even heard of. Anyway, I digress. There are no squat toilets on a Europe river cruise ship!
Each ship is like a floating hotel, with en-suited cabins, (all cabins have windows, or French Balconies, or Balconies you can sit on, there are no “inside cabins” on a Europe River Cruise), your own restaurant, (some have multiple places to eat), a lounge area, a sun deck on the top level, some have a lift, some have small swimming pools, but, sorry, no squat toilets onboard!
Let’s have a look at the Amsterdam to Budapest Europe river cruise, the most popular one for Australians, year after year. All of our major wholesalers operate this cruise, including Scenic, Evergreen, APT, Travel Marvel, Avalon, Viking, Tauck and Riviera. These cruises between Amsterdam and Budapest usually take fifteen days, and you’ll generally enjoy shore excursions in Amsterdam, Cologne, Rudesheim, Wurzburg, Bamberg, Nuremberg, Regensburg, Passau, Melk, Durnstein, Vienna, Bratislava and Budapest. Some of these are famous cities that we’ve all heard of, others are smaller towns or villages that are “off the beaten track” for major coach companies, such as Melk, with its magnificent eighteenth century Benedictine Abbey.
Well, one of the great things about Europe river cruising is that your “hotel bed” floats along the river while you sleep, so that when you wake up, it’s time for a leisurely breakfast in the restaurant, then after breakfast, you’ll often be at your shore excursion, and your local expert host guide will be waiting to take you and proudly show you their town or village. Most times, the tour starts right at the gang plank, as your ship will be stopped right where the historic part of that town or village is. So easy!
Then, when your shore excursion is completed, you’ll come back on board, then cruise for a while, watching Europe glide by, and you’ll have lunch on board, then it will be time for another shore excursion, and your next local expert host guide will be waiting to take you. When this tour is completed, you’ll come back on board, then cruise for a while, and it will be time for dinner on board. After dinner, they often have entertainment, or a piano player. The Cruise Director will make sure you are given information about each shore excursion before you go ashore, often the day before.
Breakfast is generally buffet, with an omelette station (I always enjoy omelettes when I’m cruising, and I also love hot chocolate whenever I’m in Europe, (not for breakfast), just gets me enjoying my holidays, lunch and dinner are generally a la carte dining, and if you don’t like anything on the menu one time, they’ll make you something else. They also cater for vegans, vegetarians, gluten-free and so on.
What generally happens is that as your Europe river cruise travels from Amsterdam to Budapest, the meals will change to reflect the country or region you are passing through. This is because the chef buys fresh produce along the cruise, and it also gives you a more European experience. You’ll enjoy bratwurst in Germany and Hungarian Goulash in Budapest! They also have a Welcome Dinner, a “Captain’s Gala Dinner” and a Farewell Dinner during your cruise.
If this sounds pretty relaxing, well, I’m a good story teller, because it is just SO relaxing, Europe river cruising. And what a combination they package up, to make your holiday so enjoyable.
Your Europe river cruise package includes your accommodation, all meals onboard, many include drinks for dinner, or for lunch and dinner, or 24/7 during your cruise, (depending on the wholesaler, our travel experts will be able to explain who offers what), your locally hosted shore excursions (some wholesalers include some and have some as optional extras, some include them all), a Cruise Director who is there to make sure you have just the very best time on board and ashore and of course, all that history, culture, food and much more.
Most Europe river cruise ships carry about 150 passengers, the equivalent of about three coach loads, so they are not at all like “big ship cruises”, which can carry 2000 or more passengers. Shore excursions will have a number of different local hosts, so that you are exploring with a small number of other travellers, all from the ship. Many Europe river cruises include “whisper” headsets, which you wear, so that you can easily hear your local guide, who will have a microphone with their headset as well. So, if you do have hearing problems, or if you want to linger and look at something that’s caught your eye, you can still hear the expert description of what you are exploring.
While Amsterdam to Budapest, or vice versa, is the most popular Europe river cruise for Australians, quite a few of our Privilege Club members also book the optional extensions offered by our wholesalers, adding on three nights in Paris and three nights in Prague, two truly beautiful cities, and suddenly you have a twenty one day European holiday package!
And, solo travellers, some of our Europe river cruise wholesalers really cater for you. For example, Tauck have “no single supplement on all bottom deck cabins on all itineraries on all departure dates during 2017 and 2018”. It’s not often that I can say those words “no single supplement”! And, of course, as an added bonus, while there are obviously no guarantees, it is almost certain that there will be other solo travellers in other cabins near you, so you’ll have the best of both worlds, your own cabin at night, with no single supplement (I just love typing those words…) plus there will be other solo travellers, who will be wanting to link up with you during the day, so you have someone to sit with at meal times and to travel with during the day on shore excursions, or when you are sitting and relaxing on board, watching Europe glide by, just metres away.
Europe river cruising is just so popular with members of our Privilege Club. Last year and this year, we chartered and filled a complete Europe river cruise to take in Tulip Time, and next year, we’ve chartered a five star ship, the William Shakespeare, as our first Founder’s Cruise, travelling from Amsterdam to Basel in Switzerland, and ending in Cologne, which I’m personally hosting. Here is the link to this wonderful package.