I sailed on the October 31st, 2011 sailing of the Avalon Scenery on the “Burgundy and Provence” itinerary. Since this was the last sailing of the season, this was a wine themed cruise. The Avalon sailings are usually booked as a cruisetour that includes a few days of land touring along with the 7 night cruise. We took just the 7 night sailing.
I have done independent touring in Europe several times. River cruising is superior to land touring in several ways. River cruising is a much more relaxing way to see several destinations during a week. Being on the ship means that all of the hassle of moving all of your stuff between cities is eliminated. I found that I was able to enjoy each destination more because I wasn’t worn out from the mechanics of moving around. While the captain is navigating the river between destinations you are blissfully watching the beauty go by. Or, maybe you’re taking a nap. Maybe you’re playing cards or another board game with some of your shipmates. But, what you are most certainly not doing is dragging luggage and trying to lift it onto a luggage rack on a train. You are not checking in and out of hotels. You’re not wondering about directions. You’re not lost. You’re enjoying yourself.
River cruising is also superior to ocean cruising in several ways. The size of the vessel, for one thing. The Avalon Scenery has a maximum capacity of 138 guests. Our sailing had almost that many people. This means that you’re never waiting in a line of any size. When you call on a port there isn’t a small army descending on the town. This also means that, by the end of the week, you know most of the people on board. The staff on board certainly knows everyone. You’re not anonymous from the moment you walk on board. You’re on a first name basis with the front desk people and the cruise director. You are truly a welcomed guest. You’re never lost. You don’t need a map to get anywhere on the ship. You can always pop back to your cabin for a forgotten item because it isn’t far from anywhere.
Another difference is the itineraries that are possible on river cruising as opposed to cruising on a river. On a river cruise, you usually see smaller cities for most of your itinerary. A river cruising ship just pulls right up to the town and parks. There isn’t a cruise ship terminal needed, and you never have to worry about if you’re going to have to tender in. You just step off, and there you are. Depending on how many ships are in town on a given day, they may stack them two deep, so you may have to walk through a ship parked next to yours and then out on to the street.
I was quite pleased with river cruising in Europe. I will do it again. Where to next?
Earlier this week I answered the phone and was asked by a lady to help her understand if she would be needing a visa for any country she would visit on her upcoming cruise. I thought that was an odd question because that information would have been covered in our booking process. So, I asked her for her name so that I could pull up her reservation.
She quickly explained that her reservation wasn’t made with us. She had booked her cruise directly through the cruise line.
At that point I let her know that she would need, then, to contact the cruise line for the visa information. She said that she already had and the cruise line told her to call a local travel agent to get the information.
1) If the cruise line is going to handle retail business, then they need to be fully equipped to handle all aspects of it. How dare they farm those questions out to the local retail travel agent when the traditional business model is such that the agent would not be compensated in the least for the time it would take to correctly research the answer.
2) This is just another example of why consumers really need to utilize an agent to book vacations. The question about the visa was, I’m sure, one of many questions that she’ll have between booking and traveling. Wouldn’t it be nice for her to have a single source to answer all of those questions? Wouldn’t it be nice for her to have some accountability for the answers she is given? If the cruise line agent did actually answer the question incorrectly and the clients trip was affected by the misinformation, what could the client do? She would likely have no proof of with whom she spoke. No accountability. How could she ever count on the information?
What are your thoughts on this topic?
What hidden expenses can I expect on my cruise vacation?
You’ve done your homework. You’ve compared several different types of vacation. You want to be prudent with your money. (Who doesn’t need to do that these days?)
Lucky you! You’ve found what appears to be a great deal on a cruise. What could be better? All of your meals are included, all of your onboard entertainment as well. What a value!
You need to know what other charges you’re going to be responsible for once you get on board. Because the value of that price you got on that cruise isn’t complete until you know what you spend on the vacation from beginning to end.
The cruise price you pay prior to departure does include your cruise fare, your port charges (what are port charges, anyway?) and your taxes. For that you can expect to receive accommodations onboard the ship as well as your meals. Most onboard entertainment is included as well.
You will most likely have a significant amount of additional charges after your cruise. First of all, you will be expected to pay gratuities. On most mainstream cruiselines this comes to approximately $10.00 per person per night of the cruise. So, for a family of four on a seven night cruise this would be an additional $280.00. This is if you tip the standard amount. You have complete latitude on this, but most people do tip the recommended amount, if not more.
Additionally, all of your alcoholic drinks, all of your carbonated beverages as well as things like bottled water are an additional cost. This is just one of many ways an all inclusive resort differs from a cruise vacation. The costs for these beverages frequently adds up to a substantial cost.
Passengers on board a cruise ship typically take organized shore excursions while in port. Because passengers are in port for just the one day, there is no time to become familiar enough to really strike out on one’s own. Most passengers, in fact, take the shore excursions sold through the cruise line. Passengers feel safe in taking these excursions because they feel like the ship won’t leave them behind if they’re on a ship sponsored adventure. They also feel safe because they believe that they will receive what they have paid for. That’s great, but the ship’s own shore excursions are also the most marked up. They do have a captive audience.
Beyond the drinks and the shore excursions, you’ll find countless other ways on board to part with your hard earned vacation dollars. Some ships now have coffee shops that cost extra (think Starbucks). Of course, the spa is a huge draw. There are art auctions at sea on many ships. Ships even now have optional restaurants that carry an additional charge. Some lines charge also for room service. A couple of years when I was sailing on Carnival Cruises I found a very nice assortment of what appeared to be room amenities. Upon closer inspection it became evident that the cost of these items would be added to my room bill if they were consumed.
Back right after 9/11 when no one was traveling, I remember reading an article in a trade publication explaining that even if the ships were to sail with passengers who boarded at no cost, the cruise line would make a profit just from the onboard revenue.
So, beware. Keep track of what you’re spending on board. If you don’t, be prepared to experience what several of our clients have experienced. Upon returning home, discovering a credit card bill and believing that you’ve been double charged for your cruise. You haven’t been double billed… Those are just your on board charges!
When we started to think about how we would celebrate our 45th wedding anniversary we considered a family vacation. The problem what type of vacation would be suitable for all family members, especially with the ages of the grandchildren running from 6 years to 16 years. We decided on a Caribbean Cruise on a family friendly ship. One of the best decisions we made. The ship offered a host of activities that met the needs of all age groups and had a suite that accommodated the entire family. And the Caribbean Ports of Call provided an ample choice of shore excursions that pleased all
One of the most memorial shore excursion was to Dunnâ€™s River Falls in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. My grandson thought we were going to just see the Falls but was ecstatic to discover on our arrival that we would be climbing the Falls. It was truly a family adventure since we were required to hold hands and climb the Falls together, helping each other in making the climb creating a great family experience.
In Georgetown, Grand Cayman we all participated in different excursions. Some went snorkeling, others to the turtle farm and swimming with the stingrays while we toured the Island
Our last port of call Cozumel, Mexico gave us the opportunity to swim with the Dolphins, and spend some time at the beach.
Family Photo Formal Night
Another highlight that we did not expect was that the grandchildren enjoyed dressing for the formal nights.