Last week we talked about what happens when the rivers run low. It was an important message to write about due to the historically low levels of the Danube and the Rhine that have resulted in an unusual long hot summer.
I wrote how every cruise line handles the situation differently and how different all the circumstances are. I have a lot of personal experience, especially this past October, so I invite you to contact me at our office to further discuss how different river cruise companies handled the low water levels. Europe is hoping for a rainy November and a snowy December to get the levels up to where they need to be. River ships only need 3 feet of water to sail but the issues remain getting the ships in and out of their docking piers.
So, let's talk about the 5 things everyone should know before their first river cruise experience. I have been river cruising for years, but I will always remember my very first river cruise that I took as a consumer years and years ago.
1. Don't over pack
I packed way too much in my suitcase when I took my first river cruise. All river ships have laundry services for a nominal cost. I wish I had known how inexpensive it was to have my clothes laundered rather than suffering with two pieces of heavy luggage.
Today I take one carry on piece of luggage (my favorite, Away Bags). Away bags feature a compression function, so I can literally get 10 days' worth of clothing plus a folding compact bag I can use for a check in bag for the journey home if I buy too many souvenirs!
2. Do not order to much foreign currency prior to departing
A long time ago far, far away... you could order Euros from the local banks or a local travel office. Remember Traveler's Cheques? Gone are those days. If you order too much foreign currency prior to departure, you will find it very difficult to sell it back to the bank and you will lose money on the deal. Today all you have to do is check with your current credit card company and even you local bank to see if your card is accepted worldwide.
Today I exchange a small amount of American Dollars at the airport when I land (to get the best exchange rate) and I only get enough for tipping, taxi's or food. The best thing is that most debit cards can be used at all ATM's and you can control as much or as little as you take out of the bank. Another benefit is that you can take out as much as you need at the ATM in the currency of the country you are in therefore solving the issue of too much foreign currency. I bring two cards with me. My local credit union debit card and my favorite card, Capital One.
3. Your cabin TV may not have channels in English
When you settle into your cabin at night to listen to the news, don't be surprised if there are no television channels offered in English. There are some river cruise lines that cater to a lot of other nationalities, not just North Americans.
Today I just use APPs on my smart device, connect to the ships free WiFi and watch my local news or my favorite channels.
4. It's not always pretty
The ports are very busy in some areas of Europe and not all premium docking stations are available. For example, Basel. Our cruise docked in a very industrial area and it wasn't very pretty on day 1 of our cruise.
What I didn't know then was that the ships have bikes to use at no cost and often offer transportation back and forth to the heartbeat of the city. What I like to do is just walk and explore.
5. Not all transfer to the ship are created equal
When your cruise is booked with airfare from the river cruise company, you never know if your transfer will be a big motor coach or a small shuttle bus. I wish I had known in advance because we were waiting for a very long time for other passengers on our ship to arrive from their flights so that the entire bus would be full before we pulled out. I was already tired from jet-lag so the wait was unbearable.
Today I know how the process and policies of all the major river cruise companies and what they do for their transfer service but when I travel, I book private transfers. There is nothing quite like clearing customs, walking through the arrivals hall and seeing a well-dressed person holding a sign with my last name on it.
For more information about river cruising, I invite you to schedule a call with me. I haven't sailed all of the river cruise companies out there, but it is my goal to glide every one of them. Our portfolios is growing and we hope to see you on board your first river cruise in the near future.