River cruise lines are experiencing a boom in passenger numbers. As River Cruise Passenger reported last month, Europe has seen a 21 per cent increase and Australia may well be experiencing similar numbers.
Cruise lines are putting their offerings in the best possible light. And the important question potential guests need to ask is: What’s included?
To help, we’ve compared the same route sailed by seven different cruise lines for the upcoming season. Each occupies a different category of cruising, from ultra-luxe to high value.
We put five common inclusions under the microscope: drinks, Wi-Fi, excursions, laundry services and gratuities.
We compared them on Crystal Cruises, Avalon Waterways, Evergreen Cruises & Tours, APT, Scenic, Viking River Cruises and Teeming River Cruises.
Our findings? There are wide differences – and some similarities.
And it’s not just the line that can change your inclusions. The route you sail on matters too.
We examined the inclusions on seven lines sailing the popular Amsterdam to Budapest route in September and also included the lowest available fare with each line.
Complimentary Wi-Fi is offered on all sailings we looked at.
However, Wi-Fi is not available on Avalon Waterway’s itineraries to the Amazon or Galapagos in South America. While the Asian destinations on the Mekong and Ganges have complimentary Wi-Fi available in the Panorama Lounge on board.
Read on to see how the other categories compare:
16-night ‘Grand Europe’ Budapest to Amsterdam from USD12,450 (USD779 per night), AUD17,430 (AUD1,089 per night)
Drinks: All included on Crystal are fine wines, champagnes, premium spirits and specialty coffees. Also available on board are Master sommeliers and a Connoisseur Wine List. Premium spirits include Grey Goose, Herradura Silver, Knob Creek and Hennessy VSOP.
Wi-Fi: Unlimited Wi-Fi/Internet access
Excursions: All Crystal River Cruises itineraries offer a complimentary shore excursion in every port. More than 200 included excursions are available to passengers and the line also has tailored options that are available at extra charge.
Each river cruise with Crystal also comes with a complimentary Signature Event. This could be one lunch or dinner per cruise in a Michelin-starred restaurant, including wine, gratuities and transfers. Or, a private concert of Viennese music in Vienna’s Belvedere Palace after normal closing time.
Laundry: Complimentary launderettes
Gratuities: Crystal cruisers enjoy pre-paid gratuities aboard and ashore. However, an additional $400 per person is required for taxes, fees and port charges.
Other inclusions: Complimentary airport transfers
14-night ‘Magnificent Europe’ Amsterdam to Budapest from $8,981 ($642 per night)
Drinks: Choice of complimentary wine, beer or soft drinks with dinner & lunch and sparkling wine with breakfast on Avalon Europe river cruises. Coffee and tea are available free of charge throughout the day from “early riser” breakfast through dinner.
Wi-Fi: All Avalon ships in Europe have complimentary Wi-Fi available.
Excursions: There are 14 optional excursions available on this itinerary. The cost of each excursion varies, ranging from $59 for a half-day tour at a working windmill at Zaanse Schans to $152 for an in depth tour of Salzburg and its surrounds. They also offer private tours and celebration packages for any special occasions you are celebrating.
Laundry: Laundry service is available on board at a fee.
Gratuities: Gratuities to Cruise Director and ship’s crew and port charges are only included in the cruise price for European cruises with Avalon Waterways. Gratuities and port charges are not included in Avalon’s sailings to other destinations.
Tips to your Cruise/Tour Director, local city guides and other ship personnel are also not included, unless specified.
Other inclusions: Airport transfers vary by destination, as well as the type of cruise you purchase. Air-inclusive river cruise itineraries/bookings would have complimentary airport transfers. The service may not be available for other kinds of itineraries or it would come with extra charge.
Evergreen Cruises & Tours
14-night ‘Splendours of Europe’ Amsterdam to Budapest from $11,590 ($828 per night)
Drinks: Complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks served with lunch and dinner on board.
Wi-Fi: Complimentary Wi-Fi.
Excursions: There are 13 included excursions, such as guided tours around the cities and towns, museum and abbey visits as well as a canal boat tour in Amsterdam. Passengers can also take part in experiences with the locals as part of the “You’re invited” program, such as home hosted coffee and cake or traditional performances.
European river cruise itineraries also have at last one EmeraldACTIVE activity included. Look forward to bike tours, hikes when you get onshore or yoga, pilates and aqua aerobics in the pool while aboard.
Laundry: Laundry facilities are limited on board. The service comes at an extra charge and may not be available on all ships.
Other inclusions: Airport transfers to and from the ship. Port taxes and charges and all tipping and gratuities (all drivers, local guides, porters – 1 piece of luggage only, and meals included in your tour).
Teeming River Cruises
14-night ‘Encore European Tour’ Budapest to Amsterdam with Christmas Markets from $1,869 ($134 per night)
Drinks: There is complimentary coffee and tea while drinks packages are available for house wine, draft beer and sodas in the Restaurant. The drinks package for the 15-night itinerary comes up to $179 per person ($12 a night).
The drinks in the ship lounge come at additional cost and is not included in the drinks package.
Wi-Fi: Complimentary Wi-Fi
Excursions: Shore excursions are not included in cruise fare. They may be purchased for an additional cost. There is also a complimentary Teeming App for a self-guided City Walking Tour in most ports.
Laundry: Laundry is available at extra charge.
Gratuities: Prices exclude gratuities. Typical gratuities for Crew and the Cruise Director run €15 per person a day ($23.85 or $357.75 for the cruise).
Viking River Cruises
14-night ‘Grand European Tour’ Amsterdam to Budapest from $8,595 ($614 per night)
Drinks: Complimentary hot teas and specialty coffees available on board anytime. House wines, beers and soft drinks with on board lunches and dinners are also included.
Wi-Fi: All of their ships offer free Wi-Fi.
Excursions: The itinerary includes 12 guided tours, one shore excursion in each port of call. The excursions are often walking tours in the cities and town or visits to the main attractions like castles and some UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Gourmet tours to sample Dutch cheese and German beers or visits to history and other museums are also offered but come at an extra charge.
Laundry: Laundry service is available aboard and charged per article of clothing.
Gratuities: Shipboard gratuities for shipboard personnel and local guides are included in your cruise fare on Viking Cruises’ Europe itineraries.
Other inclusions: Transfers are included with roundtrip airfare purchase. If air is not purchased from Viking River Cruises, transfers between the airport and ship/hotel may be purchased separately at an additional cost per person, per direction.
14-night ‘Magnificent Europe’ Amsterdam to Budapest from $9,695 ($693 per night)
Drinks: Complimentary beverages are served on board. Premium spirits, French Champagne and selected wines are available at an additional charge.
Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi is included.
Excursions: All-inclusive sight seeing in up to 16 destinations.
Laundry: Complimentary laundry is available for select suites only.
Gratuities: Prices include transfers, port charges, gratuities and sundries.
Other inclusions: APT is currently running a fly free offer for travellers departing from Australia. APT will pay air taxes of up to $300 per person. Surcharges will apply if air taxes exceed this amount.
14-night ‘Jewels of Europe’ Amsterdam to Budapest from $9,690 ($693 per night)
Drinks: Unlimited complimentary beverages. Choose from their extensive bar menu and enjoy their complimentary in-suite mini bar.
Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi is included but Scenic advises that there is limited Wi-Fi available on Scenic Space-Ships in Europe.
Excursions: The itinerary includes 10 Freechoice and Enrich excursions and local experiences.
Laundry: Laundry services are available on river cruise ships at an additional charge. There is no dry cleaning on river cruise ships.
Gratuities: Scenic Tours has pre-paid certain tips and gratuities for you, including all drivers, local guides, porters (1 piece of luggage only), and meals included in your tour.
Other inclusions: Return airport transfers, Scenic Sundowners – Exclusive cocktail events, where you can cap off a day’s exploration in the company of newfound friends. Scenic also run early bird fly-free offers.
* All information is accurate at the time of publication. Inclusions are subject to change.