River Cruising 101...
One of the first of 2 items you need to determine is the River Cruise company that you choose and there are many good options available. Some are more “inclusive” and luxurious but many of them offer a wonderful experience. I can certainly vouch for the one we experienced with Emerald Waterways, sister company to an Australian company called Scenic. Both Emerald and Scenic offer many location options and also offer an insurance policy for issues related to high or low water which can be quite a problem in Europe on many of the waterways at various times of the year.
Their quality of service, food, and people make them a very good choice. Emerald is the “value priced quality option” vs the more upscale and fully inclusive Scenic ultra luxury option. Having experienced the Emerald one leads me to believe that Scenic is likely even more impressive which would be a tough accomplishment based on what we experienced with Emerald.
Another important decision is which river to cruise on. There are so many and they all offer a very different experience. France (3 completely different river options), Portugal, the famous Rhine and Danube and so many more!
The next important decision is timing. That so depends on your comfort level with the ‘state of being cold’ and of course one never knows what one can get with the weather anywhere in the world. There are no guarantees with the weather as you well know. I do have to say though that being a warmer weather person, I would recommend the more assured time frames for the weather although shoulder season and off season will be much less expensive; however can potentially put a damper (so to speak) on your experience so that it needs to be an important one.
Being on the Saône and Rhone, in the south of France, for example can be much cooler than you may think due to their quite famous(or infamous) “Mistral” - which is a very chilling wind that travels either up or down the river and can dramatically lower the temperatures making it more uncomfortable. We had some fabulous weather days and others where we wished we had some warmer clothing so it’s important to keep this in mind when selecting timing and then packing for it.
The make-up of the passengers on Emerald included a very good mix of folks from the U.K., Canada, Australia and the U.S. all English speaking with various accents from these wonderful parts of the world. A great place to meet some fabulous people and have some terrific conversation!
The staff on Emerald were also wonderful and helpful starting with the Captain who was very informative about all the logistics relative to the # of locks we went through and all the technical details of the river boat.
The ‘cruise director’, Darren was outstanding! A brilliant sense of humor and a great variety of events for us to participate in that were a lot of fun. He also always had great port talks that were also witty and informative.
Andrea was wonderfully helpful to me with my celiac/gluten free issues and also very gracious and kind. Dushenka was terrific with her help with laundering/dry cleaning when we had a slight accident in the dining room. She also had such a delightful sense of humor throughout the cruise with some event nights that she participated in. Great fun!
Charlotte helped us immensely upon our departure with transportation and hotel issues at the end of the cruise. She was very patient and helpful with everything and always with a smile!
The people on Emerald Waterways clearly seem to be like a family and are treated well by their employers. Happy staff always make for happy clients - I’ve always believed this throughout my careers.
If you haven't tried river cruising, then I highly recommend it! Great culinary cooking with superb wines, informative, interesting tours steeped in history, good level of activity including biking/hiking options with many cruise lines including this one, and fabulous people!