We just returned from our sixth R.S. tour (Best of Paris). We were given a box full of free goodies (tour books, maps, money belts, etc.) Last spring my husband and I did a Danube River Cruise with a major tour company. We received a name and baggage tag, that's all. Our name tags had bus #3 of 4 buses. Does this say anything for the number of people on this tour. The tour company did met us at the airport, great start. The Munich hotel was miles from center of town, not a convenient location to anything. (R.S. puts you in the center of town, walking distance to all the right places to see, with maps &/or a guide) Our bags were placed on the bus and then delivered to our rooms. Some people not traveling light, may think this is good service, but it took a huge amount of time waiting. With so many people, it took forever to check every one in. During those two weeks, we kept saying Rick Steves would never do it this way!! Jana
Jana, thanks for the information. I've wondered about some of the river cruises that I've seen advertised, so I welcome the alert to check out group sizes. I hope you enjoyed the cruise despite the woeful logistics of the big group. Four buses? Good grief!!
Suz Actually, we have been thinking of doing another river cruise, but with a different, more popular tour company. The cruise itself was enjoyable, relaxing for us seniors. The time on the buses was not something I would want to do again. Each of their buses were full, not like a R.S. tour (each traveler gets two seats if they wish).
Which cruise line did you take Jana? If I ever do a river cruise I would like to avoid one like that.
We took YMT(Your Man Tours) They advertise in a lot of different magazines, AARP, AAA, NEA. We saw quite a few Viking Tour boats during our time on the Danube. Their brochures look interesting and a lot of stuff is included, so they advertise. Most of the travelers on YMT tour were at least 50 to over 80 years of age, so it is not for everyone.
Please don't even try to compare a YMT cruise to one of the premier mainstream river cruise lines. You just picked a bad cruise line. However I'm sure you'd never try a river cruise again, so it's really a moot point for you, but maybe a good heads up for others. BTW - the food must have been horrible if 86 people wanted Hamburgers while on a cruise down the Danube. No self-specting European revier cruise line would even offer hamburgers. UGGH.
That was the report on the Viking ship on the Rhone where the writer said 86 people wanted a hamburger. It's on flyertalk, under cruises, dated 9/15.
Bets: You are right, we really aren't thinking of another river cruise. Why would anyone, except the super rich(or stupid) think of spending that amount per day for a river cruise. Years ago, we did the Rhine K-D Line, hoping off when we wanted. Traveling light, you can do that. Great fun!!
We have seen these people that order "American" while in Europe. We were in Paris during Thanksgiving. People on R.S.tour had to have their turkey dinner. We had a great French meal near rue Cler. While on the river cruise, we thought we would get regional meals. The meals were good, but they could have been served in any nice restaurant in the States. Did not serve any hamburgers, guess that is only on the better river cruises, ha.
We have taken two river cruises with Grand Circle Travel and were very pleased with both. Their prices are reasonable and the boats quite comfortable. If we take another river cruise, Grand Circle will be our choice again.
We've done three river cruises over the last decade. They have all been with Avalon. Each ship holds about 130 people. I agree I can do Europe better and for less money but my wife really likes them. Our last two cruises were with friends that didn't feel comfortable joining us on one of my self-guided trips. You have the advantage of not having to worry about your luggage while on the ship. I also agree that if you pack light this isn't much of an advantage. We do get a chuckle out of couples showing up with 3 or 4 massive suitcases for a 12 day trip. On all of our Avalon cruises the food was very good. The wine at dinner was as good as my palette could enjoy. Yes, there were plenty of opportunities to pick up some finer wines on shore to enjoy in your room. They charge a corking fee if you bring wine into the dining room and they also have higher quality wines for sale on a separate wine menu. My wife likes meeting people on this trips. There's a good collection from across the US, Canada and Australia. The cruise a nice relaxing, programmed vacation. I always stick a few days on the front or back of the trip to better enjoy the cities we're already at. I think we will do more cruises when we start having mobility issues. Many of the passengers are 70+. Some are in their 80's. I can't see myself going on the kind of trips I do now when I start to have some of their mobility issues.
Ken Thanks for your comments. We really did enjoy the cruise portion of our tour. It was the bus part that gave us a big negative. This company, not the ones you have taken, should not combine bus and boat. The first day,they spent 30 minutes looking for one person. They tried to do Neuschwanstein Castle and Rothenburg ob der Tauber in one day. (after a 30 minute delay) We arrived in Rothenburg just before 8pm. The hotel was off the tourist map; we had to ask "where are we and how do we get to the city?" All the shops and most restaurants were closed. The Night Watchman was just leading his group. We had been on his tour before, so did not mind missing it. We left 7am the next morning in order to get to Prague that evening. Other times, the bus dropped us off and we had to figure out where to find a meal, no information or suggestions were given and the hotels were usually not in touristy areas. Considering this is a popular tour, it just seemed so unorganized, compared to how well Rick Steves tours are conducted. My husband and I are in our 70's and would like to do a river cruise again. It was as you described it, except all our wine was extra, even with our meals. Can you believe it!! As you can tell I would not recommend this tour company.
We are in the process of packing our backpacks (Rick Steves') for a trip to Barcelona and Valencia in March. Seems we always have another trip in the planning stage.
I felt that same way with the Viking cruise we did with friends. My husband and I had to stiffle our tongues not to compare it to a RS tour out loud. didn't fully grasp that regional food did not mean regional cuisine Didn't realize that even though we were touring France, the only French person on board was the captain -didn't need to practice our French after all! RS guides are universally great. We had some good ones, but also some stinkers. When mobility becomes a major issue, we'll do it again.
I have to say that after taking a RS and Viking tours that they are really different. RS tours are expensive and Viking are but both offer included tours and with Viking all meals, wine/beer at lunch/dinner. We like both for different reasons, Viking is a truly relaxing way to go and RS will get you to all sights but more physical (thinking of Paris 7 day.) We really enjoy travel with friends where we rent a house and a couple of cars and do our own thing but when traveling as a couple we find tours that meet our needs best. We really like the river cruise in that the people are mostly over 50 and like to sit and talk with other guest (so it is not for everyone) RS is also for the very friendly more physically active person as they cover alot of tours on the ground. If you invest alot of money in a tour it is best to know what you like and what the tour will offer, read all the reviews, just not the ones on the tours website and remember Airfair is usually extra. (I took my mother to Ireland once and we did a Brendan tour bus and there was a NY couple complaining about the twin beds, now in alot of Europe b&b's they put 2twins together and call them full beds but this couple was so mad, they should have stayed home if they didn't want to get the full experience)
You do know...you can do it exactly as a RS tour would do. You can choose to stay city center, you can choose to pack light. And here's the secret: You don't have to pay somebody else $5000 just to pick out your hotel in the center and tell you to pack light. You can do it all yourself and save a substantial sum of money.
Rick's tours aren't for everybody. River cruises aren't for everybody. We have been traveling in Europe on our own for years but recently took a wonderful tour of Poland that we thoroughly enjoyed. We will also be taking a river cruise/tour on the Danube in May with Gate 1 Travel. The pre-cruise hotel in Prague looks wonderful as does the post-cruise hotel in Budapest. Both are centrally located with nearby transportation options. While these tours ARE more expensive than we normally spend when traveling on our own, they offer a completely different travel experience and we're happy with that.
@Tim, I completely agree with you. No matter how nice Rick Steves tours are a person can do the same thing for a lot less money.