To read about sailing on the eastern Danube from Bucharest to Budapest, click here:
For tips on how to choose the river cruise that’s right for you, click here:
Scenes from the journey:
Nearly all European river cruises include Wi-Fi, meals, coffee and tea throughout the day, and some excursions. But some include only the most basic city tours in groups as large as 40 or 50 people, charging extra for experiences that are unique; others include a wide range of excursions in the fare. Some lines charge extra for dinner wines and gratuities, while others include them. Cabin designs and menus also vary.
What matters, of course, is what matters to you.
Our group of 12 decided on the river less traveled — the eastern Danube, then traveled overland on our own to the easily reached cities of Vienna and Salzburg.
Once we decided on a destination, we made a list of all lines that sailed that route. Then we created a group spreadsheet on Google Docs to ensure that we were comparing features correctly. Each couple was assigned a line; some called the company directly, while others consulted with cruise travel agents recommended by national magazines.
Once we had narrowed to a handful of lines, we consulted our favorite of the river-cruise specialist travel agents we’d spoken with. She served as a reality check against our own research, so we felt confident.
More importantly, she alerted us to a special airfare that was far cheaper than anything we could book on our own, and another promotion that allowed us to book into a higher cabin level at a small premium. She also arranged a group discount and handled the air bookings and payments — no small matter with this group.
Everyone in our group agreed we would recommend her: Angelica Berwick at Fine Voyages.
When we added up inclusions and promotions, we found the value of upscale Scenic Cruises outweighed lines with lower base fares. Included were all tips, house liquors and wines, butler service, a wide range of small-group tours and electric bicycles. Because we booked on the “Diamond deck,” a rave-worthy degustation dinner and laundry were included.