There are so many people talking about river cruises lately, and I have been doing some research about them, as well as asking our lovely travel agents at Exquisite Excursions(EE) their opinions and I have to say that I am pleasantly intrigued by this form of travel, and here is why. There are so many different choices however, that I started getting a little confused, so I chose one thing to look at, and here it is.
I am not a teenager, and I am someone who likes to travel a bit more lavishly than a few of my co-writers. I like to fly first class, but I don't always like the hefty price tag that is included with it.
While looking into river cruises I realized that most ships are quite elegant, and many have wine included with your lunch and dinner (depends on the brand). This is nice, because let's face it, who doesn't like a nice glass of wine with dinner, and it's included in the price of your fare. That being said, I am also a fun loving gal, and I like to dance, and explore.
I looked at three different river cruise brands (with a little help from EE). Viking River Cruises, Avalon River Cruises and U by Uniworld River Cruises. They each had an eight day Paris to Normandy trip. It was round trip, and was seven nights and eight days.
They all included breakfast, lunch and dinner each day, and they all had some form of excursion included at each stop, with other excursions available for an extra cost. Most of the included excursions seemed to be decent. One of the included options was a walk to a farmers market with the chef to learn about the local ingredients, and how they create their menus on the boat. They also all offer impressive pre and post cruise packages on hotels and excursions.
U by Uniworld was an interesting thing to learn about. Their program is intended for guests aged 21-45. No older, no younger. This is kind of awesome in my opinion, because it means that I have a good chance of meeting up with people my own age, that I can both have a relaxing dinner with, or a fun time at a nightclub with. The starting price without airfare for their 8 day trip was $2150.
Viking River Cruises (logo below) has been around for a long time. Lately you can see pamphlets in your mail, or television commercials. I think that this brand is the most well known brand that there is. Well, most visible brand I suppose. When I started this little project Viking was the only brand of river cruising I had ever heard of, and now it's not. They include the free wine, soft drinks and juices with lunch and dinner. Definite plus for me there, and they offer local guides for their included excursions at each port. Their 8 day trip from Paris starts at around $2,000 which includes the port fees and taxes. So, still less that $200 that differentiates the first brand from Viking.
The last brand that I researched was Avalon. They were right up there with the excursions, and I have to say that they all were pretty even on that. The Avalon cruises start at around $2,600 without airfare, and they also offer the alternate excursions for a charge. This was $600 higher than Viking and almost $400 higher than U by Uniworld.
Out of the three, and remember, this is just my opinion. I would have to say that I would end up choosing Viking as my top choice with U by Uniworld as my second. The main reason is that I like the fact that wine and all port fees and taxes are included in the price, where as I read with Avalon and I forgot to ask about with U by Uniworld, they were extra on top of the trip price. Also, Viking seems to be the most bang for your buck, and they are very well known.
Like I said, it is my opinion, and I hope that the little bit of research that I did on one trip that is offered helps you at least a little bit. If you would like to talk to our lovely friends at Exquisite Excursions to get some more information, I will attach their Viking link as well as their phone number.