ALL RIVER CRUISES ARE BASICALLY THE SAME.
Now... before you throw tomatoes at the screen - let me explain . There are a handful of major players in this "space". Crystal, Uniworld, Viking, Avalon, AmaWaterways, Scenic , Emerald Waterways, Amadeus, to name a few. Their mission is to sail passengers up/down the river: Rhone , Seine, Rhine , Danube , Douro - with not much variance in the itineraries. They all include meals. The majority include tours - from basic to more elaborate. A handful include unlimited premium liquor, most of the others include local beer and wine with lunch and dinner. A special few provide an enchanting off-ship evening at a chateau or palace complete with an orchestral or operatic performance, and even champagne and waltzing! We can educate you on which cruise lines include what amenities - and as a rule of thumb, the more inclusions, the more expensive the product.
IT'S EXPENSIVE TO CHARTER MY OWN RIVER SHIP, ISN'T IT?
No, it's not. An incentive program on a river ship is generally far less expensive than its hotel counterpart - and far more inclusive. There is a river ship for almost every budget - and ships that range from 50-98 state rooms. Forget price for a moment and look at operational ease . Since everything is included - you can eliminate the need for a DMC. The cruise line handles it all for you: transfers, tours, meals, events. Simple!
RIVER CRUISES ARE FOR OLD PEOPLE.
Well, I am not old and I LOVE river cruising. YES, on a typical river cruise the passengers will be 65+, but they are educated, interesting and active. They are NOT onboard to sit around the pool with a mohair blanket (like you might see on a transatlantic or trans canal cruise). They are taking a European River cruise to get off the ship and discover these fascinating ports of call. True, many of the excursions are "gentle" bus or walking jaunts - but lately river cruise lines have added active and rugged tours, all-day outings, foodie adventures and evening discoveries. Additionally, these ships, although they do have one small elevator and a handful of ADA compliant cabins - are not a handicapped person's fantasy vacation. There is a lot of walking in the local ports of call and many times not in areas well-suited for an elderly passenger. Think cobblestone streets, stairs and uneven walkways. So please take AGE out of it. Do you recall when they said that Alaska was a destination for old people? Think again. And always keep in mind that when you charter - the passengers are all YOURS. You get to create the vibe onboard.
RIVER CRUISES ARE BORING.
THERE IS NOTHING TO DO.
Okay, I hear you. You have a point. Onboard, there isn't much to do. Most ships have a small fitness room, a massage cabin, a main bar/lounge, an area for coffee and cookies, some board games, one main dining room and possibly a second option for dinner (where you can go once per cruise), possibly a small pool and an expansive outside deck. Think about it, what does a small boutique hotel of 50-100 rooms have that is any more than what I described above? People don't say THOSE are boring because one can go into town to find activity. They go outside into ONE town - because their boutique hotel doesn't move to different destinations each day like a river ship does. The hotel doesn't include meals (okay maybe a breakfast buffet) - so you are on your own to find food. The hotel doesn't include tours - so you have to contract for those as well. And at night - your invitees are out and unaccounted for. Now ......your "boutique" cruise ship takes you to several different and interesting ports of call - some quaint and charming - and some quite famous and celebrated. Before I forget - most river cruise lines bring in outside evening entertainment, so that each night you are being enchanted by talented local artists: opera singers, pianists, dancers, musical theater performers, musicians, etc. Does that happen in your boutique hotel? The ships also travel with extraordinarily well-informed cruise directors who are well-versed in the history and culture of the various ports of call. This is VERY different than the concierge at a hotel who can give you a map, recommend a few restaurants and maybe share some local area insight.
RIVER CRUISES ARE ONLY SEVEN NIGHTS. MY PROGRAM IS FIVE.
Guess what? There is a solution for that. If you charter a ship pre or post season (March/November) - you can have as few nights as you wish. And - several cruise lines have a handful of four and five night itineraries during the season for charter. I know that Avalon and Crystal have some in 2020 and beyond that are well worth exploring.
RIVER SHIPS ARE TOO SMALL FOR MY EVENT.
Really? Did you know that you can charter two ships to sail in tandem? That means we contract two identical ships, sail them on the exact same itinerary and run your excursions and day/evening events together as if you are one large group. Recently I had the pleasure of chartering two Scenic ships for a group of over 300 guests. All passengers had access to both ships and all food and beverage throughout. One evening, the cruise line created an Oktoberfest event at a beer hall that included traditional food, beverage and entertainment. It was incredible . The cruise directors dressed up in traditional Bavarian garb and created a fun, interactive and LOUD event! It was so much fun that this client is considering a repeat program.
HOW DO I HANDLE A GROUP VERSUS A CHARTER ON A RIVER CRUISE?
This is the one time where I will need to get a bit "tough" with you. Although you CAN put your small group on a river ship without chartering - I don't encourage it UNLESS you do NOT require any private onboard events. You can most certainly run custom and private shore excursions off the ship - but onboard there aren't enough areas to create exclusive meetings, cocktail parties, meals, etc. The big exception is if you are willing to hold those gatherings while everyone else is ashore - but you will want to be ashore too!
OUR GROUP HATES CRUISES. WE DON'T CRUISE. WE GET SEASICK. WE NEED TO FLY PEOPLE IN LATE/DISEMBARK EARLY.
Go ahead. Throw every excuse at me. I have heard them all. There is little to no motion on a river cruise - therefore no seasickness . There are no "sea days" or cabotage laws. You can fly people in/out whenever you want. This is NOT a traditional cruise. Actually, why look at it as a cruise at all? This is a boutique hotel that happens to float and relocate each day. But if you can't imagine that - how about this one: You can use the ship as a hotel and only do a few ports with overnights in each - particularly on the Danube if really all you want is Vienna and Budapest. A European River cruise is more like a European hotel program than it is like a traditional ocean-going cruise. And we haven't even talked about the Mekong River (Vietnam/Cambodia) cruises - which are even more unique - but we will save that for another education session.
Please know that although one European river cruise is similar to the next - there are some very important differences to consider when selecting the vessel that is right for you. There is NO charge for our team of experts to help you choose/operate - and ensure that your incentive on the river is the best one yet!