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Rhine Cruise - best river cruise line?

Ormond Beach...
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Rhine Cruise - best river cruise line?

We are booked on the Amadeus Princess to cruis the Rhine River in May 2013. The boat is operated by Luftner Cruises. Does anyone have experience with them? How do they compare to Viking or Uniworld? Are the excursions good? How was the food and small amendies such as free bottled water and readily available coffee or snacks between meals?

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1. Re: Rhine Cruise - best river cruise line?

It will be quite different as Luftner is an Austrian company carrying Europeans, primarily German. Perhaps this is not the case on your departure though if you are in a large group or charter from a US company. Uniworld was the founder of European river cruising adjusted to suit the perferences of the American market so that: guests were not divided by language and culture, dining would include foods that were not so fatty and salty, shore ex would be included and what Americans would want to see/do, and guests would enjoy ultracomfortable hotel style beds and much more. Why, may I ask, did your travel agent suggest this one Debora, I am curious.

Ormond Beach...
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2. Re: Rhine Cruise - best river cruise line?

My husband found the Gate1 travel agency on Trip Advisor and booked a river cruise through them.

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3. Re: Rhine Cruise - best river cruise line?

Gate 1 is not a travel agency but a tour operator. When you book directly with a tour operator or a cruise line they will have just one product to offer you -- theirs.

When you book with a travel agent they will have many options and will work with you to match you to the product that will delight you most.

Hythe, United...
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4. Re: Rhine Cruise - best river cruise line?

We went on the Amadeus Symphony through France last year and were so impressed that we immediately booked another 2 week holiday with Luftner. The Amadeus Symphony was as good as we hoped it would be. Everything was spotlessly clean and comfortable. The food was better than most restaurants we have been in (and we are well travelled 65 year olds) and the complimentary wine with dinner was plentiful and very drinkable. The staff (mainly European) were polite and friendly without being overly subservient, and their English was so good that we were able to laugh and joke with them. We are looking forward to our Danube cruise in June on Amadeus Princess and are now looking into a Rhine Cruise at Christmas. Don't be put off by the previous comments - you'll love it!

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5. Re: Rhine Cruise - best river cruise line?

Welcome to tripadviser Sue S. I'm curious, when you say that the staff was mostly European, what other nationalities (crew and guests) were on your Europe river cruise if you recall. Also, did you have a choice of included shore ex?

Hythe, United...
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6. Re: Rhine Cruise - best river cruise line?

Hi CapeCodCharlie. I seem to recall seeing a staff member who may have come from Indonesia, but the others we saw were from Austria, Hungary and that part of the world - whatever - we could not fault them. The passengers on our cruise (on the Rhone in France from Lyon to Arles) were a mix of British, Dutch and German, and Spanish. We were told that they often have American passengers and certainly the menu indicated that, ie there was a little note on the page stating that home made burger and fries were always on offer! (hope that doesn't sound patronising and they did look delicious!). I must add, the food was superb, with a good menu choice and although some of the portions initially appeared small, we never managed to eat everything because there was a starter, soup, main course, desert, and cheese & biscuits. Breakfast and lunch were equally generous and there were cakes and snacks in the afternoon and late evening. The complimentary wine was very good, and each time the level in our glasses dropped the waiter magically appeared to top us up. Oh and because I like my coffee weak, the waiters brought me a jug of hot water. So that was why I never managed to try the burgers. Sorry I'm being a food bore now aren't I, so I'll switch subjects. The Lueftner tour manager (she may have been Italian) switched effortlessly from one language to another to keep us informed. Our friends went on a European river cruise recently where they felt that English speaking passengers were, at best put last, at worst, excluded, but we never felt that. There wasn't a choice of excursions each day, rather a set pattern, but the range of excursions over the week was varied and excellent and (unlike sea cruises) reasonably priced. For instance, a half day coach trip to a staggering Roman aquaduct, followed by time for coffee in one of the most picturesque French towns I have visited was about 40 pounds. For our 2013 Danube cruise on the Amadeus Princess we have booked through a British company called Titan Travel, and their prices include the excursions. However, the good thing about a river cruise is that the boats are small (only about 150 passengers) and they almost always moor near to the centre of a city or town, so really unless there is something you particularly want to see (in our case the aquaduct) there is no need to go on any of the excursions - you can just stroll off when the boat docks and do your own thing at your own pace. The entertainment was generally low key, ie a very entertaining local group one night, a "ships crew" entertainment another night, but generally it was just a pianist and singer. However the music was varied, and appropriate and we really enjoyed it. Some evenings we wandered off and found a nice bar - the receptionists were always ready to give us a map and advice. We went on our first river cruise 2 years ago and chose a lower priced one - big mistake! We then did lots of research, looking at room sizes, menus, restaurant layouts etc and found the Lueftner company. Last year we paid just under £2000 each for the week but that was to stay in the Amadeus suite which was 225 square foot with a big bed, sofa, French Balcony, and big bathroom with full size bath tub! Their other rooms are about 165 sq ft and obviously much cheaper, but we peered in and they still look quite spacious and equally well furnished with equally nice toiletries and fluffy towels. (we will probably go for the cheaper option when we book their Christmas river cruise on the Rhine). Their prices seem to be reasonable compared to some (eg Uniworld) but we really felt that the quality could not have been better. Sorry I've gone on a bit and I honestly have no connection with Lueftner - it's just that we like nice things but we like to have value for money too and it's exciting to find something lives up to expectations. I hope that this has been helpful. regards Sue. p.s. the only thing we would do next time is take our own English tea bags!

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7. Re: Rhine Cruise - best river cruise line?

Okay Sue, you confirmed what I was thinking and trying to convey to the OP. You see uniworld was in fact founded to sort of reinvent European river cruising for the North American market's tastes though it is also now sold in other English-speaking countries like the UK (Titan) and through the uniworld office in Australia. There were many differences between European and American tastes (beyond hamburgers...LOL) that uniworld changed and you mentioned two of them: shore ex and language. Uniworld visits destinations and creates included shore ex (even a choice of included shore ex) and hires expert and certified English speaking guides (employing an audio system so folks will hear every word) for the daily INCLUDED tours. These tours also include 'inside visits' to interesting places (not just a drive by or a walk by) and like to include experiences, many times epicurean adventures. Of course there is free time planned into the day as well and one is not required to take the excellent tours but most like to do so.

Another reason uniworld (the pioneer in this sort of river cruise) was 'born' was to provide an English speaking atmosphere. Yes staff onboard are all (english speaking) Europeans and the folks at each destination, yep, they are Europeans too so you get a European experience but having the guests all speak English means that the 'hotel' with only about 65 rooms (cabins) of guests will not be divided by language and culture. It makes for a more friendly atmosphere sharing stories with other experienced, interesting travelers and, a side benefit too is that speaking just one language for the few announcements keeps the noise level down. It is also important for the informative lectures as well as river commentary on some itineraries like those including the middle Rhine castles.

You described the famous aquaduct called Pont du Gard which crosses the Gardon River and is a technical and artistic masterpiece from the first century. Named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985 it was built to supply Nimes with fresh water from a spring near Uzes. I still can't pronouce Uzes but we certainly did enjoy our stop there which combined with Pont du Gard when we did this cruise last summer. And....like you...whoops I forgot to stop eating all that wonderful french food and go find a hamburger....LOL.

I agree also with your observation that you get what you pay for and that is probably why you found uniworld to be a higher price. And their prices are going up for 2014 since they have announced that they are going from mostly all inclusive to fully all-inclusive for the 2014 season. Happy trails all....

Hythe, United...
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8. Re: Rhine Cruise - best river cruise line?

Do you heppen to work for Uniworld??

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9. Re: Rhine Cruise - best river cruise line?

I keep up with them through friends and know some of the other folks at least as aquaintances. I also read some of the travel trade info for more behind the scenes info. It seems that this is so new (not really) that there is a lot of misconception about river cruising.

Philadelphia...
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10. Re: Rhine Cruise - best river cruise line?

We took this same cruise the beginning of April. We booked through Gate1 which was great because they sent along their own tour manager who took us on several short walkabouts in the towns when there was time between meals and excursions. He was also an excellent source for questions which relieved the pressure on the ship’s cruise director.

In answer to your question Luftner has upgraded their offering a bit since we cruised with them last autumn. You can eat six times a day if you choose; 3 meals, 3 snacks but it’s not continuous so check the daily programs for times as they vary day to day. They also added a coffee, cappuccino tea, hot chocolate machine which is available 24 hours.

Complimentary bottled water was not provided so we just hung on to a small bottle and refilled it before we left the ship. Shampoo and lotions etc. are provided. You are also fortunate that Amadeus Princess is a newer boat and is much quieter the boat we traveled on last fall. I took along ear plugs but didn’t need them. Internet is available for a fee but our group had trouble with it on the new hand held devices.

Here are a few tips for excursions on this cruise. My wife and I took the wine tasting tours on the first two days. If you can only take one, the second was better in terms of the wine tasting but the venues on both were very good. We also took the excursion on the last day which included the "Grand Canyon of France" and lavender farm. I'd consider that the must do excursion of the cruise. If you are interested in shopping, Avignon is the place.

Another tip: We were traveling with 8 other friends and had trouble with various people catching colds. Cold supplies are hard to come by in France without a prescription so I recommend taking along your favorite cold remedies and some travel packs of tissues.

One last item, the cruise doesn’t allow much time in Lyon so tack on a day or two before or after the cruise if you can since it’s the culinary center of France and the second largest city.

Have a great vacation

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