This week, we’re going to consider river cruising!
River cruising is extremely popular. Viking River Cruises certainly raised the profile of river cruising across the board, with their wonderful infiltration of advertising on Masterpiece Theatre and Downton Abbey. Everyone wants to river cruise!
River cruising can seem expensive to those who ocean cruise (or those who have never cruised) – but – it’s all about the value! You have to compare apples to apples.
I always tell my ocean cruise clients that the cost of the cruise is a total = the cost you paid to get on the ship + the cost you paid to get off the ship. Very often, we charge shore excursions and alcohol and tips, etc, to our shore account while onboard an ocean cruise. So, the full cost of the cruise cannot be considered to pay the rate that got you the cabin. River cruising is different.
River cruising starts in a different place. River cruising tends to include your shore excursions and alcohol at lunch and dinner. That puts you in a different place than ocean cruising.
River cruising is also different than ocean cruising. You are where you want to be on a river cruise. You can open your french balcony door, and hear birds. You can’t do that on an ocean cruise.Here’s a snippet of some of the chirping outside my river cruise door as we sailed through Germany.
River cruising’s demographic is always changing, but the people who choose to river cruise are self selecting to a certain degree – river cruisers automatically tend to be well traveled, have already done ocean cruises (unless they fear waves), have seen various ports and stops, but want to see it differently. They tend to travel in like company, and often times their families are older and/or raised (unless you go with a Uniworld or Tauck or AMA family offering). River cruise tends to attract people of similar age, education, interest in art and music and history, etc.
Viking is a great company. Because of their huge investment in advertising, they probably control 50% of the river cruise market. They have 62 ships, and are adding more all the time – and have started a push into ocean cruising too.
Sail with Viking, and you’ll have a great experience. But, Viking is not the only river cruise company. So, what sets them apart? Which company is right for you?
In river cruising, the phrase is “the box is the box.” Almost every company has the same size river cruise ship – because they all have to deal with the same rivers in Europe, they have to go under the same bridges, and they have to navigate the same crooks and crannies. So, every company is pretty much dealing with the same box, or same shell of a river cruise ship. What sets the different companies apart, then, is what they do with their box.
Some companies, like Viking, will strip away the amenities and inclusions (they’ve determined their clients would rather not pay for something they won’t use), and they focus on giving you a reliable river cruise experience as economically as possible. Viking also puts about 190 people onboard their ships. They don’t have bikes or salons or fitness rooms that some others do. They are not family friendly (requiring all guests to be over 12 years of age), and they don’t include alcohol whenever you want, or transfers, or gratuities, etc. They are a very different company than Tauck, say, who chose a different path.
Tauck puts aout 113-130 onboard their ships. They do no advertising. They instead focus on customer experience, and word of mouth referrals.
Both Viking and Tauck have great repeat guest experiences. So – it’s knowing which product is right for you.
Tauck puts no more than 130 people on the same size ‘box’ – but they also include bikes, a small fitness room, and other amenities. Tauck includes all gratuities and transfers, and alcohol whenever you choose. Here’s a little video of my sailing with Tauck. (Tauck will have 9 ships next year, but they consistently win “top river cruise” company with folks like T&L and Virtuoso.)
Both Viking and Tauck are both wonderful companies, and would give you a terrific holiday experience. But – it’s all about matching your expectations and what you value to ensure you have the best holiday for you.
I love matching clients with the best supplier for them.
River cruise lines can be thought of as hotel chains – if you know the style of hotel chain you like, then I can help match you to the best product for you. Obviously price is a consideration (and Canadian dollar offerings are particularly important to some right now), but price is only one differentiating factor. River cruise companies also differ according to the number of guests onboard, the number of tour directors onboard to help you, the inclusions and choices with shore excursions, the size of the room, the amenities, the dining options, the recreation offers, the inclusions, the style of accommodations, where they sail, etc.
Atthe higher end with Tauck, there would also be Uniworld (who does some family-friendly sailings, as does Tauck). Both Uniworld and Ama have been encouraging artists to travel with them. Uniworld also focuses on wellness. And fleshing out the higher end offerings, there is also Scenic.