Monday, September 13, 2010

River Cruising vs. Ocean Cruising

This was our first river cruise, but I don't think it will be our last.  As with most adventures in life, there were some things we liked and some things we did not like.

We chose Avalon Waterways primarily because each room has a French window.  The larger size of the window gives you better views while in your room.  The room was so small that we found ourselves in the public rooms most often.  On our last two ocean cruises, we've booked a balcony room which is high on my list of "must haves" for future cruises.  It is just so nice to have a quiet breakfast or a glass of wine on the balcony.  I don't think the French windows on the river boat, however, offer as much of an advantage.  All things being equal, I would not pay extra for them.

The room was small, small, small.  It was very hard for us both to be in the room at the same time if we were moving about!  DH needs a lot of space to feel comfortable (it's hard for us to be in the kitchen at the same time, for instance), so maybe other couples wouldn't have the same problem.

I thought the boat was noisier than the ocean liners.  Going through the locks at night caused most of the noise disturbance.  On a positive note, fewer passengers (only 130 on the Felicity vs. several thousand on the Princess ships) means less noise.  Since there are virtually no activities after 9 p.m. other than a chance to dance in the lounge to the music of a single piano player, there is little if any noise from passengers in the hallways.  If you need shows, casinos, bingo, art auctions, spas, shopping, choice of restaurants and bars, river cruising is not for you.  If you like a more relaxed and casual atmosphere, give it a try!

We found the food above average, but not superb.  There were enough choices at the breakfast and lunch buffets to suit us.  We were hoping that there would be more regional specialities as we made our way up the Rhine.  Wine flowed freely at dinner, and there was a nightly happy hour in the bar where drinks were 2 for 1.  This was not true on our ocean cruises.  Avalon has a card at each dining table with their "food rainbow" listed.  Each of the colors represents a type of diet; i.e., low carb, low fat, vegetarian, etc.  The labels on the buffet are bordered by the appropriate color.  This was a nice touch for those on special diets.

We loved the coffee machine in the front lounge.  You had your choice of coffee drinks including cafe latte, cafe macchiato (whatever that is), regular coffee, hot water.  It was easy for DH to bring me a hot cup of coffee first thing in the morning.

Service was absolutely excellent.  We blew a fuse or tripped the circuit breaker in our room halfway through the cruise.  I heard a pop, then all the lights went out.  DH was charging his electric shaver when it happened.  Question:  Did the shaver die?  Did the converter die?  Did we do costly damage to the room?  Answer:  Shaver dead.  Avalon was nice enough to lend us the Hummer of converters just to be on the safe side.  We bought disposable razors for Doug in Heidelberg; he hasn’t used a razor since his Army days!

Unlike ocean cruising, the daily tours are included.  There are also optional tours on the days when you stay in a port long enough for two activities.  I felt as though I was in the Army with revelry at 6:30 a.m.!  Busy, busy, busy …. I've also had this experience with ocean cruising.  Sometimes, it's the old "if it's Tuesday, we must be in Belgium" routine.  I wonder if most passengers would like to slow down a bit.

DH and I loved that the tours were conducted using headphones with FM transmission.  We could wander off quite a distance and still hear the guide talking.  Great idea!

Even though Avalon caters to Americans and Canadians, the bedding is strictly European with a duvet and extra large pillows.  We can't figure out how to be comfortable with this system!  Of course, that is our problem, not Avalon's.

Dress on the river cruise was much more casual than for ocean cruising.  A typical day in port on our ocean cruises allowed enough time for passengers to change into a dressier outfit for dinner and evening activities.  On this river cruise, we barely made it back to the boat for happy hour!  Although I did not like the pace of the days, I certainly enjoyed not having to spruce up!

With only 130 passengers, we had the opportunity to meet far more people than on the larger cruises.  People were very friendly by the end of the week.  We like this.

Will we give up ocean cruising in favor of river cruising?  Not on your life.  We're already talking about cruising to Hawaii on Princess followed by another river cruise perhaps on the Danube.  They are different experiences, but equally enjoyable.

No comments:

Post a Comment