European River Cruises: Tips for getting the best deal on your cruise

I am sure that by now most European travelers have heard of the many virtues of river cruises. River cruising is a wonderful way to discover or rediscover small-town Europe, as well as numerous world-class capitals.

While river cruising is generally not considered a budget vacation, with a little planning and a solid understanding of your cruise options, most budget-conscious travelers can get on board and experience a high quality, memorable time. As we point out below, there are several ways to save when planning a cruise.

How to Save on European River Cruises

Here are nine tips to help you get the best value out of your river cruise.

1. Book early for selection or book late for discounts

River cruises tend to be booked almost a year in advance. If you have cabin preferences, we recommend that you book early. The suites and the lowest priced cabins typically book up quickly.

On the other hand, when certain cabins aren’t booked within a few months of sailing, companies tend to offer discounts. If you don’t have your heart set on a specific cabin or even a particular itinerary, you might save money by booking late.

2. Ask questions about what’s included

For example, ask what “all-inclusive” means. The definition varies from one cruise company to another. With some companies, it means that your booking price includes port charges and all excursions, but not so with others. Or, you might not care that all alcoholic drinks are included if you are not much of a drinker. So, ask before booking and expect clear answers.

This cabin has a French balcony -- that is, a sliding door that opens to let in air, but doesn't lead to an outdoor balcony.

This cabin has a French balcony — that is, a sliding door that opens to let in air, but doesn’t lead to an outdoor balcony.

3. Consider opting for a “French balcony” for more space

When you consider the square footage of a cabin, that number includes the space on the outdoor balcony, a space that is generally not available to you as living space. Whereas, with a French balcony, the sliding glass panel opens to give you fresh air and a great view without reducing living space. We now prefer the French balconies!

4. Compare apples to apples

Take a good look at the square footage of your cabin, and remember that all river cruise boats are the same length and the same width. The locks and bridges that need to be navigated determine the size of the ship. So, if a river cruise ship allows 128 passengers and another holds 190 passengers, guess which will have more spacious cabins? Pay attention to cabin size and pricing. Why spend more for a tiny cabin?

5. You can save by booking a lower deck cabin

The least expensive cabins on river cruise ships are on the lower deck, and they do not have French balconies. They are partially underwater, so they have high windows that do not open, though they are generally as large as the other regular cabins. You may feel some motor vibrations in these cabins, but generally not enough to be a problem.

So, if you are of the type of traveler who says “I don’t spend any time in my room anyway,” go for these lower-fare rooms. Lots of people must feel the same way, because these cabins tend to book very fast.

6. Organize a group and save

If you can put together a group of 10 people (five cabins) for a cruise, there are perks for you and your group. Talk to your river cruise specialist, who can give you the money-saving details.

7. Ask about discounted airfare

Every river cruise company offers discounted, round-trip airfare from your home city to and from your cruise-embarking city. You will usually get airport transfers included, too. There may be restrictions, but it is often a very good bargain.

8. Ask about pre- and post-cruise options

Buying pre- and post-cruise tour extensions can be expensive if arranged by the cruise company. If you want to extend your stay a few days on either end of the cruise, ask your travel agent to price-out some independent travel options. Or, plan your own adventure.

One advantage to using the cruise company to arrange a pre- and post-travel extension is that they tend to choose only very good hotels and they generally include excursions and tours.

9. Book through a professional for the same cost as booking directly

Finally, if you find cruise advertisements that sound too good to be true, they probably are. I have seen some pretty ragged-looking river cruise ships in port, and when I looked online after getting home, I found that the cruise company was misrepresenting the condition of their cruise ships. I can only imagine how disappointed some cruise customers may have been upon seeing the cruise ship in port.

There are many river cruise companies out there, so it is important to enlist the aid and services of a travel agent or cruise specialist who has the knowledge and experience of selecting and booking river cruises. A river cruise specialist will help you find the right itinerary and the right cruise company to meet your individual needs.

And, of great importance, it costs you no more to book with a river cruise specialist than with the company directly. In fact, you can actually save a bundle because the cruise specialist knows where to find the best buys. We, therefore, strongly recommend that cruise customers avoid buying online before consulting a professional river cruise specialist. Ask your travel agent for more information, or feel free to contact me directly.

An AMA Waterways cruise passing through Regensburg, Germany.

An AMA Waterways cruise passing through Regensburg, Germany.

Popular River Cruise Lines

Here are some of the most popular and well-regarded river cruise lines in Europe:

5-Star All-Inclusive: Scenic

This line, which is out of Australia, has been around for a long while but is now marketing to the American market. Scenic accepts 128 to 169 passengers aboard their Europe-based ships.

Scenic includes your own butler, gratuities, transfers and all on-board beverages (alcoholic and non) in the cruise rate. It also offers several dining options, complimentary Wi-Fi, personal GPS and electric bikes. There are always sales, but booking early is recommended.

4- Star: AMA Waterways

This line is American, based in California, but owned by pioneers in the river cruise industry. AMA Waterways accepts 158-162 passengers aboard their Europe-based ships.

I have taken two AMA Waterways cruises and can highly recommend this line. The food is excellent, and the service is fabulous. Wine and beer are included at lunch and dinner. Look out for their sales; they make their cruises very affordable.

4-star: Avalon Waterways

Part of the Globus family, Avalon accepts up to 168 passengers aboard. Avalon has designed a new concept called panorama suites. There are no outside balconies; instead, there is a wall of windows that open for a unique balcony experience.

Wine and beer are included at dinner. Avalon has great pricing and offers lots of sales and promotions.

4- star: Viking

Everyone has heard of Viking because of their enticing commercials. And, their ships are beautiful; we took a Viking cruise last winter. Viking accepts up to 190 passengers aboard. Because of the many passengers and smaller lounge space, we found it a bit crowded, but our room was spacious and the service was impeccable.

Viking serves their own wines at meals, so I missed tasting wines from the regions we were visiting.

Comparing the costs of a 7-night Danube cruise

Below, we compare these cruise lines for a seven-night cruise on the Danube for April 2023. As you can see, prices are quite comparable. but make sure you are comparing all the amenities and inclusions.

Beginning standard cabin (160 sq. ft.): $3,495 per person
Balcony suite (205 sq. ft.): $4,895 pp
Royal suite (360 sq. ft.): $6,495 pp

AMA Waterways
Beginning standard cabin (160 sq. ft.): $2,899 pp
French/outside balcony (210 sq. ft.): $4,498 pp
Suite (350 sq. ft.): $6,498 pp

Avalon Waterways
Beginning standard cabin (160 sq. ft.): $2,549 pp
Panorama suite (200 sq. ft.): $3,848 pp
Royal suite (300 sq. ft.): $5,048 pp

Viking River Cruises
Beginning standard cabin (150 sq. ft.): $2,399 pp
French balcony (135 sq. ft.): $2,799 pp
Veranda suite (275 sq. ft.): $4,499 pp

Your river cruise tips

Have you taken a European river cruise? Tell us about it, and how you saved on your cruise, in the comments section below.

The post European River Cruises: Tips for getting the best deal on your cruise appeared first on EuroCheapo's Budget Travel Blog.

Source: Euro Cheapo

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