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Recommend Your River Cruise

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I think I might have convinced my husband to try a river cruise. I am in unfamiliar territory. We're planning Paris/Normandy, and I'm looking at Viking, AMA and Avalon. They all look great, so how do I choose? To all of you who have done one or more river cruise, what are your recommendations?


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  • 2 weeks later...

We did Southern France from Arle to Chalon-sur-Soane and then a train to Paris for 2 days. My wife prefers red wine so we visited the Rhone wine country. We sailed on Uniworld and loved it. I have put people on AMA Waterways, Viking, and Avalon and no one has been disappointed. I would rank them as AMA Waterways and Uniworld being premier and Viking and Avalon more mass market. The newcomer is A-Rosa, which was formerly catering only to the German market with buffet dining only, but hired a NY marketing agency and is catering to North Americans now on some itineraries. They all range from about 140 passengers up to about 200 on some of the new Viking longships. The vessels they use in Myanmar, Vietnam/Cambodia, and south Africa are much smaller, from 28-58 passengers.

Look at the detailed itineraries. Not every line does identical itineraries on the Paris to Normandy itinerary. The 2014 season is about sold out, unless you are interested in the Christmas Markets in Germany or the Danube. This is the time to book 2015 to have the best cabin selections and prices.

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We’ve done five river cruises in Europe so far and can’t wait for the next one! We’ve done the Paris to the beaches of Normandy sailing twice; here’s our review of the first one:


We haven’t sailed Viking River (yet!) but from what we’ve heard from friends and read John is correct, they would be considered more “mass market”. There’s nothing wrong with that, we have friends who’ve sailed Viking a few times and wouldn’t switch for anything. Here’s just one example of a difference though. Wine included with dinner (and sometimes lunch) is a big part of the river cruise experience. Because they have so many ships and so many passengers I understand Viking has purchased their own vineyard and serve their own wines every night on every itinerary. The other river cruise lines still serve different wines each night, usually from vineyards in the location you are cruising through that day! For us, that really adds another dimension to the experience – and if you’re going to France, don’t you want to try the local wines?

In our experience, Avalon Waterways and AMA Waterways were almost identical products. AMA may get a slight edge in accommodating special requests and flexibility in adjusting the itinerary or excursions at a moment’s notice as issues arose. Avalon’s “suite ships” are amazing but I don’t think they’re sailing the Normandy rout yet.

The river cruise experience is amazing – more immersive and fulfilling than any big-ship cruise we’ve taken – you won’t be disappointed regardless of your choice. Happy cruising!

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