The city of Les Andelys, on the Seine in Normandy, as regarded from a back deck the Avalon Tapestry II.

Contemplating a river pilgrimage in Europe? It’s all the rage nowadays, and also river cruise lines space racing come introduce brand-new and far better ships to meet the insane demand from travelers. A flow cruise is a scenic and also effortless means to travel, for sure, yet take heed: plenty of of the rule that use when choosing a hotel or a huge ocean cruise delivery don’t lug over to river boats. To acquire the finest value for your dollar, right here are 7 things to store in mind. (I’ve portrayed these 7 things with photos from my trip on the Seine, from Paris v Normandy, plank Avalon Waterways’ brand-new Avalon Tapestry II.

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Mistake No. 1: Splurging ~ above a balconyYou’d probably assume a balcony is critical—for the view, the fresh air, the photograph ops, the extra space, the privacy. A balcony is a big plus at a resort and also on a large ocean ship, however on river watercrafts it can actually it is in a drawback: flow ships have actually a broad limit (so the they can fit with locks), which means that cabins have the right to only be so wide, i beg your pardon in turn means that a balcony takes far from your internal room space. If it’s chilly or raining—as it occasionally is—you’ll worth the interior room space more than the balcony. Also, a balcony lets you see just one side of a river, whereas somewhere else on the delivery you deserve to see both sides at once. And who wants to miss half a river?

This is why countless savvy river cruisers opt for a “French balcony” rather of one “outside balcony.” A French balcony is a glass door or wall-to-wall home window (here’s one example) that opens to give you fresh air and also the feel of a veranda, minus the exterior floor, tables, and also chairs. The best such pseudo-balcony I’ve seen is on Avalon Waterways’ more recent ships. The outside wall surface of the cabin is floor-to-ceiling glass that stretches 11 feet broad and slides open up 7 feet wide. Basically, it transforms your whole room right into a veranda.


My cabin (#312) aboard Avalon Tapestry II top top the Seine river in Normandy.

Avalon calls these cabins “Panorama Suites.” Technically, they’re no actually suites: each is one room that steps 200 square feet and has a comfy sit area (a chair, a loveseat, and also a table) overlooking the water. The bed encounters the view—a bed place that is unexplained for flow ships and also is a pretty touch, as the see is the very first thing girlfriend see when you wake up in the morning (unless you’ve attracted the curtains, you’re in a lock, or another ship is parked alongside you—which is a reason why most people do attract their curtains at night).

With cabins that transform into open-air terraces, who requirements a balcony?


Looking the end my window from the various other side of the bed.

Mistake No. 2: Assuming the your totality itinerary is on the riverThe beauty of a river cruise is the it’s a picturesque and also easy method to see towns and cities along a river. Typically, the ship drops you off in town, and also you can pick to walk around and explore on your very own (always my preference) or take it a walking tour or bus tour v a team from the ship. Sometimes passengers space bussed to sights an hour or 2 (or more) far from the river. And also sometimes those bus tours can mean missing whole stretches of the river. ~ above the Seine, for instance, opting for the bus tour to Honfleur or Normandy’s WW2 landing beaches might mean absent a it s as beautiful as picture stretch the the river due to the fact that the bus choose you up in ~ one port and drops you turn off at the next. (Which is why, on critical week’s cruise, i opted no to walk to Honfleur or the landing beaches.)


If I’d opted to go through everyone on the bus, i would have missed riverscape favor this.

So uncover out even if it is the cruise line and itinerary you’re considering may pressure you come choose in between the river itself and also the sights far from it—and whether those stretches of river room not-to-be-missed picturesque or okay-to-miss industrial. A an excellent cruise director will certainly answer these questions honestly and accurately, and also Google earth can assist too. If the cruise director can’t tell you which follow me of the river are most interesting, execute what ns do—even though technically it’s no allowed: hit on the wheelhouse door, befriend the captain, and ask the (at a moment when he’s not busy steering approximately barges or into locks). Captains constantly know.

Don’t stroked nerves spending priceless time attempting to uncover out wherein your ship will certainly dock in each town. We pick hotels for your location, of course—so the understandable that you’d want to know where a ship will certainly be situated—but, because that the most part, they all dock in the same spot. Some ships can have better real legacy in particular cities. In Budapest, because that instance, Viking’s point out is best under the Chain Bridge. As a basic rule, though, all the pearls park in pretty lot the exact same area—and, to some degree, whereby they park can not be known far ahead anyway. In Passau aboard Viking, us docked in one spot and then later on the ship relocated several slips downriver.


Parking the Avalon Tapestry II in Paris

Mistake No. 3: Insisting the your ship have a gym and a poolI desire these in a hotel or on a large cruise ship as lot as the next person, but the fact is, on river ships, you rarely see anyone in the gym (which is tiny and only minimally equipped) or the swimming pool (which is same tiny except on part Uniworld pearls that have actually gorgeous at home pools and also some AmaWaterways ships that have a relatively spacious pool v a swim-up bar). There simply isn’t enough time to usage the gym or pool, together you’re off the ship trying out all day. And if you’re no off the ship, opportunities are either it’s night time or you’re gliding down a far-reaching stretch the river the you won’t want to miss. Cruise-line execs save gyms and pools top top ships as marketing devices to acquire travelers to pick their ship, yet the fact is the you likely won’t end up using either.


Here’s the ship’s gym.


The ship has a hot tub, back I never ever saw anyone usage that either.

Mistake No. 4: selecting a ship based upon the number of passengersMost world I know, when selecting a hotel or one oceangoing cruise ship, veer away from anything too huge. However on europe rivers over there are only two sizes of cruise ship: 110-meter vessels (which hold around 128 passengers each) and also 135-meter ship (which hold around 166 passengers each). Viking’s longships squeeze out 190 passengers onto a 135-meter ship, which completing cruise present say do it feel crowded. Honestly, though, I cruised on a 190-passenger Viking ship and, various other than chairs spaced close together in the monitoring lounge and also trouble detect seats because that my party of four at dinner one night, the delivery didn’t feeling crowded to me. (Then again, I prospered up in Manhattan, for this reason my an interpretation of “crowded” might differ native yours.) no one did I suffer less an individual service on Viking, partly due to the fact that Viking (unlike other river cruise lines) has actually a devoted concierge who provides such service. If i were you, rather of choosing among river ships based on the variety of passengers, I’d choose based upon factors that ns think will impact your expedition more—namely, itinerary, flow landscape, cabin type, and like-minded other passengers.

Mistake No. 5: Booking the least expensive cabinIn a hotel it can make sense: pick the lowest-category room in ~ a fabulous property, for this reason you can take benefit of whatever the hotel offers, and also use the room just for sleeping. On a river cruise, though, the least expensive cabin can be yes, really tight—170 square feet or less—with tiny windows the don’t open. It’s usually worth the numerous hundred dollars more to acquire a French balcony. The aforementioned Avalon “Panorama Suite” cabins cost about $100 an ext per human being per day 보다 the ship’s lowest-category rooms. They’re worth it.

Mistake No. 6: suspect you deserve to dine on her ownIn a hotel or top top a megaship, it’s basic to stick come yourselves, but on a river ship, yes a many of forced socializing. Every night yes sir a four-course (at least), two-hour (at least) dinner where you’re sit at tables with various other passengers, several of whom you simply met. I’ve made some an excellent friends in ~ these opportunity meetings, but I’ve also been stuck with some louts. Viking is the only river heat I know that offers an different venue whereby you have the right to grab a half-hour dinner top top your very own if you simply don’t feel choose making chit-chat v strangers.

Mistake No. 7: Assuming there’s room serviceRoom service is a given in hotels, and also it’s usually free on s cruise ships, but on river ships that barely exists. On certain ships, in particular cabins, friend can obtain a room-service breakfast, yet you nearly never can gain a room-service dinner. (Avalon is now offering room-service dinner for a fees of 20 euros, therefore you deserve to dine in the privacy the your very own room, overlooking the water.)

It’s no clear come me why you’d ever need a room-service breakfast, though, provided that on plenty of ships food is obtainable in the observation lounge—which is no much more than a 30-second to walk from her cabin ~ above these small ships—starting at around 6 a.m.


“Early risers’ breakfast,” in Avalon Tapestry II’s monitoring lounge, precedes the continuous breakfast buffet in the dining room.

Attention, caffeine addicts: Don’t suppose to uncover an in-room coffee machine in many river-ship cabins. You yes, really don’t need one, though: Every vessel I’ve sailed on has a sophisticated coffee device mid-ship (either off the lobby or in the monitoring lounge) that whips up espressos, cappuccinos, and also machiattos, plus there’s warm chocolate, one assortment that teas, and also snacks such together cookies and fruit. And that coffee device is never an ext than a 30-second go from her cabin. In fact, on the Avalon Tapestry II, there space two such coffee set-ups—one in the former lounge, one in the earlier lounge. Which method coffee is never much more than 15 seconds away.


The coffee machine in the ago observation lounge that Avalon Tapestry II is among two coffee-and-tea set-ups board the ship.

Finally, one mistake you room too smart to make: assuming the Wi-Fi will occupational at all timesThe good news: The Wi-Fi on flow ships is free. The poor news: the comes and goes, relying on whether she in a lock or on a remote stretch that the river or the other passengers space sucking up every the bandwidth. Whereby you’ll have Wi-Fi and where you won’t is unpredictable—and none of the flow lines are better or worse at providing it—so just know that, usually speaking, your finest windows of connectivity are when you’re no in a lock and other passengers space off the ship or have gone come sleep. Understand that coffee shops in towns along the method offer much better and complimentary Wi-Fi. Additionally know the nobody requires more frequent Wi-Fi 보다 I do, and a flow ship is actually one of the ideal working settings I know: You have the right to sit at her laptop for hours yet have actually an ever-changing view.

As one example, here’s a fellow passenger at work-related in the monitoring lounge board Avalon Tapestry II. It’s Gene Sloan, who writes Cruise Log for USA Today—and here’s what Gene had to say around Avalon’s panorama-view cabins.

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Fellow passenger Gene Sloan at work in the front observation lounge.

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