Before joining the team at Travelwise, I used to work for a top European tour operator so consider myself to be a bit of an expert when it comes to city breaks across Europe. Some personal favourites include Paris, Vienna, Budapest and Amsterdam. Alone, these cities make for fantastic short breaks away to explore the wonderful architecture, cuisine and culture. Easily linked together by a vast rail network, the cities dotted across Europe can be strung together to create contrasting multi-centre itineraries. But what has recently caught my imagination is linking European cities together by River Cruising.
As the newly appointed River Cruise expert at Travelwise, I recently hopped across to Amsterdam to join the CLIA River Cruise convention to see what it is all about! This is a large conference (running now for 6 years!) that allows agents and suppliers to meet and discuss all things River Cruising. Split over a 2-day event I was able to link up with the River Cruise giants such as Tauck, Emerald and OneWorld and see what they have in store for 2017. The second day was a real treat; I got to visit 7 of the ships to explore the features and differences between the boats.
There are several enchanting destinations to choose from; The River Douro snakes its way through north western Portugal, the Rhine creeping through the deepest parts of the Black Forest in Germany and the Seine River running through the heart of Paris. The beauty of River Cruising is that you can start at one end of the river and gradually sail through the scenic countryside and stunning cityscapes of Europe all from the comfort of your cabin or even better the sun deck! Unlike its bigger brother sea cruising, the river cruise ships offer a more intimate stay on board; being likened to a small boutique hotel on water rather than an entire floating holiday resort.
Many of the ships are built in the same ship yards across Europe, so by default they do look very similar when moored up together. With only a few minor differences on the outside to set them apart from one another, on the surface it was difficult to really tell the differences between the cruise lines. But this is where the ship visits on my second day really came into its own. Visting all 7 ships in total I could appreciate the world of difference between the boats.
They are able to carry a little fewer than 180 passengers each, the sleek, slim river boats offer a more tranquil atmosphere on board rather than a hive of energetic activity. Spread over 3 or 4 decks depending on the cruise line, these sophisticated ships offer a range of features; on board spas, gyms and even swimming pools that transform into night time cinemas! There really is something for all tastes on board.
Some cruise lines offer an all inclusive cruise arrangement, including drinks, food, tours and excursions; whereas other operators offer a stripped back and more basic package. This is a great approach as it allows me to promote the different levels to suit individual requirements for clients wishing to embark on a European River Cruise. The ships also cater for different tastes, offering a spectrum of decor and styling. This ranged from ultra modern and contemporary features, to a more traditional style. My personal favourite of the ships I visited would have to be the Amadeus Silver III ship, with her panoramic lounges coupled with rich gold and blue fabrics throughout, she couldn’t help but ooze luxury, comfort and style!
Sea Cruises are a great way to see the world, but can be too busy and brash for some. I really do think River Cruising is a unique way to see Europe and its majestic cities and beautiful countryside in style, sophistication and comfort.
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