Ms. Toody Goo Shoes

Ms. Toody Goo Shoes

I've hung up my dress-for-success clothes, and pulled my domestic "genes" out of storage.

Monday, May 28, 2018

TEN THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT RIVER CRUISING

I am not affiliated with Tauck, nor am I being compensated in any way.


This is a multi-part series about our Danube River cruise.




Thinking about a European river cruise? Here are 10 things you should know. | Ms. Toody Goo Shoes
Scenery along the Danube River


Have you ever been, or thought about going on a river cruise? 
We just returned from our first river cruise experience 
along the Danube through eastern Europe.

 The itinerary took us through five countries,
starting with three days on land in the Czech Republic's beautiful city of Prague.
From there we went to Germany to board our floating hotel, 
and cruised through Austria and Slovakia, 
until arriving in Budapest, Hungary, where we spent the last two days on land.

Thinking about a European river cruise? Here are 10 things you should know. | Ms. Toody Goo Shoes
The dark blue and yellow lines show our route (photo by Tauck).


A host of river cruise lines offer a wide range of pricing.
Overall, the experiences are similar, but depending on whether one chooses 
budget, luxury, or something in between, things can vary from ship to ship.
The size of cabins, quality of food, types of excursions, range of amenities, 
extra charges, caliber of tour guides, etc. are some of the variables.
We thoroughly researched several companies before making our decision to go with Tauck.

Thinking about a European river cruise? Here are 10 things you should know. | Ms. Toody Goo Shoes
Our ship, the MS Joy

The couple we were traveling with had used Tauck before,
and recommended them highly.
In the end, that was good enough for us.
Plus, a bonus for me was that Tauck's itinerary gave us two days in Vienna, 
while most (all?) others offered only one day.

Almost everything was included in our tour  --
 excursions, all meals on the ship, drinks (including alcoholic beverages), 
transfers, and gratuities.
The only additional costs were for a few meals on land when we were on our own.  

Having been on one river cruise doesn't make me an expert, 
 but I can share some basic thoughts on the experience.

Thinking about a European river cruise? Here are 10 things you should know. | Ms. Toody Goo Shoes


1. Our river boat, the MS Joy, was comfortable, luxurious in an understated way, 
and had all the necessary amenities.

There were no ice-skating rinks, no bowling alleys, and no casinos or comedy clubs,
yet, we had everything we needed.
The ship had a main dining room, spacious lounge/bar area, smaller restaurant 
for more casual fare, hair and nail salon, spa, small gym, and boutique.
I meant to use the gym......I really did, but the closest I got to it 
was the hair salon across the hall. 
I did get a workout at the boutique, however.


Thinking about a European river cruise? Here are 10 things you should know. | Ms. Toody Goo Shoes
Main lobby and boutique above; restaurant below.

Thinking about a European river cruise? Here are 10 things you should know. | Ms. Toody Goo Shoes
The Compass Rose -- main dining room

Thinking about a European river cruise? Here are 10 things you should know. | Ms. Toody Goo Shoes
The Panorama Lounge and Bar area


The upper outdoor deck had lots of seating, canopies for shade, 
a putting green, and a hot tub.
Bicycles were available for use on land when we were docked. 
Fortunately, the weather was perfect, and we spent a lot of time on the deck 
enjoying the scenery along the Danube River shoreline.

Thinking about a European river cruise? Here are 10 things you should know. | Ms. Toody Goo Shoes

Thinking about a European river cruise? Here are 10 things you should know. | Ms. Toody Goo Shoes

Thinking about a European river cruise? Here are 10 things you should know. | Ms. Toody Goo Shoes

2. There are relatively few cabins which made for an intimate group 
of fellow travelers. 

The MS Joy has 67 cabins, and accommodates 130 passengers.
That's a far cry from the 4,000 people on our Norwegian Breakaway cruise!
The intimate size made it conducive to meeting people.
Most folks on our ship were from the US, but there were a few from more exotic locales, like New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong and Portugal.

Cabins were on three levels, with seven different pricing categories.
I didn't see the other staterooms, but ours was spacious,
with a large bathroom and huge walk-in closet.
Our suite had two large floor-to-ceiling french balconies,
and when we opened the doors, it was like being outside without being outside.
The king-sized bed faced the windows,
which was a marvelous way to watch the scenery go by.  
The mini bar was complimentary, and there was a Nespresso machine, 
should we have an coffee craving.
One thing to note.........river cruising has become quite the rage,
and because there are so few cabins, they sell out quickly.
We booked ours a year in advance to make sure we got the cabin type we wanted.

Thinking about a European river cruise? Here are 10 things you should know. | Ms. Toody Goo Shoes


Thinking about a European river cruise? Here are 10 things you should know. | Ms. Toody Goo Shoes

Thinking about a European river cruise? Here are 10 things you should know. | Ms. Toody Goo Shoes



3. Most of our fellow travelers appeared to be in their 50s to 70s.

It's a well-known fact that river cruises attract an older crowd,
and I reluctantly admit to being in that demographic.
Tour companies have tweaked their marketing campaigns to attract younger folks, 
and while there were a few people in their 40's,
I'm guessing the majority of guests were not the type to be up partying till the wee hours.  
Most of the people I spoke to were well-heeled, and seasoned travelers, 
 but, like our host, the MS. Joy, they were quite low-key and understated.

Thinking about a European river cruise? Here are 10 things you should know. | Ms. Toody Goo Shoes


3. The majority of meals are on the ship, which limits the number of 
local dining experiences

This is just a fact of cruising life,
and was one trade-off I knew I'd be making when deciding to go on a river cruise.
A big part of my joy of travel is sampling regional cuisine.
I was actually glad that some of our meals weren't included,
as it gave us a chance to try some local restaurants while on land.

On the upside, dinners on the ship always included regional fare.
There was spatzle and strudel in Germany, weiner schnitzel and sacher tortes in Austria; goulash and gundel pancakes in Hungary.

Some of our meals were outstanding; one or two was disappointing, 
but overall, the ship's food was quite good.
White glove service was excellent, and the waitstaff was first-rate.


Reservations were not needed for dinner, nor were we seated with 
people we didn't know, although I wouldn't have minded that on occasion.

Should hunger strike at any time of day, 
Arthur's, the smaller restaurant, was open all day until 11:00pm,
and a Bite To Eat menu was available from 10:00am till midnight.
Food or drink could be delivered to your room, or to the outdoor deck, the lounge, 
and I dare venture to guess, the salon, 
if you really wanted to eat while getting your hair blown out.

 Suffice it to say there was no shortage of food aboard the MS Joy
and I may or may not have had dessert twice a day...........
plus chocolate croissants and muffins for breakfast.

Thinking about a European river cruise? Here are 10 things you should know. | Ms. Toody Goo Shoes
Zweibelroastbraten in Austria

 4. On-board entertainment is low key, compared to ocean cruises.

Even without the elaborate shows that large cruise ships are known for,
we were amply entertained on our river boat, 
albeit on a scale in keeping with the size of our vessel.
Every evening, Corrado played piano in the Panorama lounge,
and one night, he led us in a group karaoke sing-along.
Local entertainers came on board several evenings when we were docked.
In Austria, a trio of string musicians treated us to a classical music performance;
in Slovakia, performances by Slavic musicians and dancers was enjoyable,
especially when Mr. Goo Shoes was pulled out of the audience
to waltz with one of the dancers!
There was a strudel-making demonstration,
a scarf-tying presentation (after which the scarves were suddenly front and center 
in the boutique), and information sessions on the places we visited.
By far, the best entertainment of the week was the staff show,
which was absolutely laugh-out-loud hilarious! 

 There were also several evening excursions off the ship,
where we dined in elegant palaces, 
while being entertained by classical musicians, singers and dancers.


Thinking about a European river cruise? Here are 10 things you should know. | Ms. Toody Goo Shoes
Slavic musicians entertained us on board when we were docked in Bratislava.

Thinking about a European river cruise? Here are 10 things you should know. | Ms. Toody Goo Shoes
The staff show was hilarious!

5. Dress was casual, but not sloppy.

 I was all in a tizzy before we left about what to wear at night. 
"On-board dinner attire is 'smart casual,' " according to the cruise handbook.
What the heck does that really mean? 

I packed what I packed, and hoped for the best.

Men's dress code was pretty straightforward:
 khakis or nice jeans and collared shirts were the rule.
Shorts, tank tops, and flip flops were verboten at dinner.

For the most part, women wore pants and nice (but not fancy) tops.
Dressing up was optional for the Captain's Welcome reception, 
and the special evening excursions, 
and most people did get a bit more gussied up for those. 
In the end, it really didn't matter; 
however one was comfortable was totally acceptable,
as long as they didn't look sloppy. 




6. Getting from place to place was effortless.

 It probably goes without saying that the biggest benefit of cruising 
is waking up in a different place everyday
without the hassle of unpacking/re-packing.
Let's face it........schlepping our luggage from here to there is getting old..........
or maybe it's us who are getting old. 
From the minute we claimed our bags in Prague, 
until we landed back in NJ, our luggage was handled for us. 
I loved that part! 
Compared to other travel itineraries, cruising is the most civilized way 
to get from place to place.
We effortlessly sailed through five countries........
Of course, it helped that a drink was almost always in hand while traversing the Danube! 

Thinking about a European river cruise? Here are 10 things you should know. | Ms. Toody Goo Shoes


  7. Sea-sickness was not an issue, as river cruising is smooth. 
 No waves, no sea-sickness wristbands, no drinks toppling over due to rough seas.
Heck, half the time, I had to look at the shore line to see if we were moving.
The other half of the time, I thought we were moving but we weren't.........
chalk that up to the endless flow of free cocktails!  


Thinking about a European river cruise? Here are 10 things you should know. | Ms. Toody Goo Shoes


8. Unlike large cruise ships, river boats can often dock in the heart of a city.

At several of our stops, we were docked right in town.
It was nice to be able to get on and off the ship any time we wanted.
In some locations, however, buses transported us to our destinations.
 Travel time varied from a few minutes to a couple of hours,
depending on where we were heading.

Thinking about a European river cruise? Here are 10 things you should know. | Ms. Toody Goo Shoes


The morning we awoke in Slovakia, this was the view of Bratislava from our bed. 
I don't know about you, but when I wake up at home,
the view from my bed is the bathroom door. 

Thinking about a European river cruise? Here are 10 things you should know. | Ms. Toody Goo Shoes


9. You may have to walk through another river boat (or they may have to walk through yours) to embark or disembark.

River boats often have to dock right up against each other. 
They are so close, you could reach across and shake hands with the other passengers.
 It was a little weird to open our curtain one morning 
and see another boat inches away from our window. 
Yep, we kept the curtains closed while we got dressed that morning!
There was one instance when another ship's passengers 
had to cross through our lobby to get to the dock,
while our vigilant security guard made sure that no one took a wrong turn.
And, one time we had to pass through another ship to get back to ours.

This wasn't a big deal at all, just something to be aware of.

Thinking about a European river cruise? Here are 10 things you should know. | Ms. Toody Goo Shoes
The railing of our ship is on the far right; the brown deck is another ship docked next to us.

10. Water levels can affect river cruise itineraries. 
This is a biggie to be aware of before you go. 
If the river's water levels are too high or too low, the ships can't pass. 
This isn't usually a trip-buster, as cruise lines will adjust itineraries to compensate
by busing passengers to different ports, 
or even continuing tours on land and putting guests up at hotels.
I imagine, however, that it would be disappointing to have to forfeit all or part of the cruise,
which, let's face it, is the main event. 
Fortunately, our trip had smooth sailing for our entire journey.


Thinking about a European river cruise? Here are 10 things you should know. | Ms. Toody Goo Shoes
We saw many other river boats during our journey.


Service on Tauck was top notch -- our every need was catered to. 
Our tour directors were professional, personable, and ready to help with any question.
The cruise director ran a tight ship, so to speak,
which made for a most pleasant and safe journey.
We had such a great experience, it's likely this will not be our last river boat cruise.  
 I'm already eyeing the Rhine........or maybe the Rhone..........or perhaps the Seine. 
Pick a river.........any river!

Have I piqued your interest in going on a river cruise?
Why not pin this for future reference? 



Thinking about a European river cruise? Here are 10 things you should know. | Ms. Toody Goo Shoes



I'll share details about all of the places we saw soon,
and one thing I can promise you is that the photos are spectacular! 
Here's a sneak peek at my upcoming post about Prague. 





This is a multi-part series about our Danube River cruise. 


Read Our First Day In Prague here.
Read Day 2 In Prague here.
Read Day 3 in Prague here
Read A Day In Medieval Regensburg, Germany here.
Read Picturesque Towns Of Austria Part 1: Engelhartszell here.
Read Picturesque Towns Of Austria Part 2: Salzburg here.
Read Picturesque Towns Of Austria Part 3: Durnstein here.
Read Scenery Of The Wachau Valley here

 
Coming soon:


Vienna: Exploring The Old Town
Bratislava: Slovakia's Charming Capital
Budapest: The Pearl of the Danube River

Resources:
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26 comments:

  1. Thanks for the info. We were going to book in September for spring. We have a vacation planned to France, Spain and Italy with our son and his wife for next spring, but now they are talking babies. So we thought a cruise would be nice for us if they can't join us.

    We're looking at a Viking cruise from Amsterdam to Basel. We thought 8 days is a pretty good amount of cruising for our first time. We will add time on land both before and after.

    Have your friends who recommended Tauck ever used Viking? We were looking at Viking because 3 different couples have used Viking and recommended it. Your experience sounds much like theirs.

    Thanks for the heads up for the year in advance because we definitely want a balcony.

    I'll let you know what we choose.

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    Replies
    1. Sounds wonderful, Carol! I would also like to do that same itinerary from Amsterdam to Basel. Yes, 8 days on the cruise is a nice amount of time - we had 7. plus the days on land before and after. My friends have not used Viking, but my cousin did the Viking Danube cruise with them and loved it. If I can answer any questions, let me know!

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  2. LOVE, love, love this Amy!!
    You know we cruise at least twice a year and for the last three summers it's been over in Europe somewhere. This summer we'll be closer to home in the So Caribbean but one day when the kids are older and it's just me and Mr. Claire we for sure want to do a River Cruise! Can't wait to read more!! xo

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    1. So nice to hear from you, Claire! I know you are big cruisers, and envious that you go every year!

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  3. This sounds wonderful! I'm looking forward to your posting on Hungary because I happen to be Hungarian, plus both sets of grandparents immigrated from there!

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  4. That looks like a stunning trip, thanks for sharing it.

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  5. Lots of great info here Amy. I’ve definitely heard of Tauck and based on their brochures and itineraries they would probably be our company of choice too. We’re cruising in August but on a much smaller boat, probably what could best be described as a yacht. We had the option of all meals on the boat or just a couple and we chose the later for the reasons you mentioned.

    A friend didn’t recommend this method of travel because she said it doesn’t give you the opportunity to truly experience the country. Did you feel that way too?

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    1. Your yacht experience sounds amazing, Doreen! I was a little reluctant at first to go on a cruise through several countries rather than have feet on the ground and immerse myself in that destination. Overall, I felt we had enough time in each place, as most of the stops were to small towns. Adding an extra day in Prague was good, otherwise I would not have felt like I had enough time, and I still would have liked another day. Two days in Vienna was satisfying, but sure, I'd have loved to stay a week. There is definitely a tradeoff to zooming through on a cruise, vs. staying put, but there are benefits, as well -- you get to see more places, and it's easy getting from one to another. I guess it depends on where exactly you are going, and whether you'd be satisfied with the amount of time the cruise allows.

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  6. Excellent summary of your thoughts, Amy. Thank you very much for sharing!

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  7. We've never done a river cruise but do like cruising as it is a nice one-stop, one-unpack, no hauling suitcases, way to see a lot of places. We consider them scouting trips for later return on land trips. Loved your report - looks like it was great fun!

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    1. It was great fun, and although I'd love to go back to certain places, the reality is that I probably won't, as there are so many other places I want to go, and limited time to do it!

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  8. i always love your vacation posts! a river cruise is definitely on my itinerary...for when i get a little older, HA! i do fear that my bf and i would be much younger than most. my problem (spoiled? first world problems?) is that many of the river cruises stop where i have already been. can't wait to see your prague post, that's on my list, especially as the local airport just started flying there non stop. got back last week from 2.5 weeks in italy, so maybe next year!
    b

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  9. An interesting way to see choice spots along the way. Much better sounding than a cruise ship (got seasick) or a bus tour (up at 6 a.m.)! Looks like it was a great trip and way to travel.

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  10. What an awesome vacation! I would love to take a river cruise.

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  11. I loved this post...we have many wonderful memories of river cruising. We went with Viking River which, I believe was one of the earlier companies to show passengers the wonderful world of the rivers. The staff were wonderful...one evening, I was down with some sort of bug or something, and my dinner was brought to our stateroom, letting my husband enjoy dinner with new friends in the dining room. (He's not the best nurse anyway!)
    Our most spectacular memory of the Danube was sailing into Budapest at night! I'll never forget it, the city on one side and the castle on the other, and me at the bow end of the ship's large lounge.
    I have also, however, enjoyed your cruise via Our World. It's wonderful to be able to travel online now that I'm no longer very athletic (and never was, by the way).
    Kay
    An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

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  12. I really enjoyed your post. So many of our friends have taken river cruises and have tried talking us into going on one. We travel to Europe but always rent a car. I've been thinking about Crystal but will now check out Tauck.

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  13. Oh I enjoyed this post Amy and all of the photos. What a wonderful trip to take. I can't wait to read up on more of your trip. :)

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  14. Interesting! I would much rather be on a smaller ship like that one. I have no desire to do a big cruise ship. My MIL did the Danube a few years ago and really enjoyed it.

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  15. My in laws did a river trip similar to this in a different part of Europe and my husband and I toyed with joining them but I was newly pregnant with my first at the time and just didn't feel like we should be out of the country just in case. Of course my husband and I have always ended up being the youngest couple on most group trips we take. We enjoy getting up early, sightseeing, and a more quiet, laid back non- party atmosphere and always have.

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  16. Excellent commentary about cruise ships. I enjoyed seeing pictures of your room, and the common areas on a Tauck cruise. We did the Rhine and Danube on Viking and enjoyed both cruises.

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  17. I was pleasantly surprised to see how much space you had in your cabin! Thoughts of being in cramped quarters on a cruise has always been a deterrent for us. I guess I need to reconsider that! I think if I ever do a cruise, a smaller ship like the one you were on would be best for us. It looks more relaxed and geared toward more sightseeing. Thanks so much for sharing at Take Me Away for July! I am a little late catching up with all the posts. Enjoy the rest of your week!
    Shelley

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  18. Amy, I've always wondered what a river cruise would be like as large cruise ships have thousands of travelers and something that has never appealed to me. Thank you very much for all the helpful information. I'm glad you had a wonderful vacation.
    Joan-My Cookie Clinic

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  19. Thanks for the river cruise info! I've always thought about looking into one as a way to explore Europe. Stopping by from the Take Me Away link up!

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