What does that include?
We answer your questions about all-inclusive river cruises, from drinks and shore excursions to tips and wi-fi
The question: what is included in a river cruise, is one that we hear a lot here at Cruise Adviser. It would be safe to assume that it is something of a grey area for many travel agents. Most have heard that river cruises are more inclusive than their ocean going rivals, but when it comes to the details, things start to get a bit foggy.
Well, there’s no job too small for us. So, as well as providing you with a nifty little table (below) we also thought we would run through some of the basics right here.
The all-inclusive brands
When trying to get a decent understanding of the river cruise industry, the easiest place to start is at the top. Like the ocean sector, there are a number of very high end operators that are all- inclusive. Uniworld, Scenic, Crystal and Tauck are the river-going equivalent to Seabourn and Silversea. For these operators, everything is included in the price and indulgence is key. The only real place to spend your money while on board is either in the spa or when booking a ‘specialist’ shore excursion. These can vary from out-of-this-world tours to Paul Bocuse cookery school to dinner at a private chateau.
Are drinks on the house?
The most common distinguishing factor between the all-inclusive river cruise lines and the rest of the pack is your bar bill. With the aforementioned all-inclusive brands, you more than likely won’t have one at all. However, virtually every other river operator offers at least local wines and beers with dinner. It is always worth checking to see if there are drinks packages available at the time of booking, though, if you have passengers who would rather pay everything off before they even set foot on the ship.
With AmaWaterways while speciality coffees are free of charge, soft drinks are put in the same bracket as alcohol. The same goes for Avalon where complimentary soft drinks are served at lunch, while regional beers and wines are included with dinner. Emerald Waterways, the sister company of Scenic, offers alcohol with lunch and dinner as well as hot drinks throughout the day.
CroisiEurope includes all drinks while on board except champagne and premium wines.
Shore excursions are probably the distinguishing factor between river and ocean cruises. Emerald Waterways includes all of its excursions, as well as its Emerald Plus trips, which go a little deeper into a destination — like having afternoon tea with a family in Slovakia to learn more about their way of live. Cruise & Maritime Voyages river product, Signature, offers two half-day sightseeing excursions for each cruise.
AmaWaterways’ cruises include a sightseeing tour in each city or town on the cruise. They also run tours for those who want to go at a slower or faster pace, as well as a late starter tours some ports for those who wantabitmoreofaliein. Shore excursions with Avalon are included in the price, except for a few additional tours, which offer a more “immersive” experience and will cost extra. A number of cruise lines (Uniworld, AmaWaterways and American Queen to name but a few) have free bicycles on board. These are typically available on a first come first served basis.
Airport transfers are a great benefit of river cruising and is something that a lot of lines include as standard. Emerald Waterways includes flights and transfers with its cruises, Riviera Travel offers Eurostar tickets (or return flights for a supplement) and Viking offers a choice of either cruise only or flights included.
Being connected while on holiday is something that is becoming more and more important. While ocean cruise lines haven’t been as quick to get to grips with including the internet within their cruise price, river ships have been a little bit more on the ball. Uniworld, Viking, Scenic and Avalon offer free wi-fi while on board. But, be warned that the signal may become somewhat temperamental, especially when travelling through rivers with plenty of locks.
With many of the cruise lines gratuities are generously included within the price of the holiday. However, it is always worth checking (see overleaf). AmaWaterways recommends £3 per passengers per day in Europe for those who receive good service. Riviera recommends between £5 and £10 per passenger per day if you are happy with the service. Uniworld, Scenic, Emerald and Avalon all include service.