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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT RIVER CRUISING


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So you’re thinking about a river cruise vacation and you have questions or even doubts as to what a river cruise is all about. Maybe you’ve been on an ocean cruise ship, but really aren't sure if a river cruise is for you — right?

Well, we can clear up all those questions with the information contained in this river cruise FAQs page. But, before we jump into the FAQ's, check out the many FREE extras Premier provides each customer, handy items to improve your vacation experience that cannot be had anywhere else except with Premier.

When you book your river cruise with one of our expert Personal Travel Planners, you'll receive a copy of Premier's exclusive destination-specific COMPASSPOINT™ Guides, a 30+ page guide with everything you need to prepare for your river cruise trip. They're the perfect compliment to the perfect river cruise. This exclusive guide is written by Premier's river cruise experts and designed to help you easily sail through every faze of planning, preparing, and most of all enjoying your exciting river cruise vacation.

Each COMPASSPOINT™ Guide contains our experts' personal insights on what to pack [including a detailed packing list for men and women], precise weather information, real guidelines for tipping aboard ship and when on shore, and neat suggestions on secret unknown little restaurants and cafes along the cruise route.


Premier has also recently introduced our exclusive, Premier Thoughts for most of the pre/post river cruise destinations.  Thoughts is exactly what you would think it is, our staff's Thoughts on a destination including all the important sightseeing you need to know about for a short stay in places like Amsterdam, Vienna, Budapest, Prague, Paris and many more.  The other highly acclaimed part of the Premier Thoughts are our staff's remarkable local restaurant suggestions.  No other travel agency or cruise line provides anything like this and is available FREE when you book with Premier.  It is without a doubt the best list of fine local restaurants you will ever encounter, and again, free to customers of Premier River Cruises.

We're sure you have many questions about river cruising and what you can expect. below are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions Premier's river cruise experts hear. If there is an area that is not covered below, please drop an email to Ask Mr. River Cruise; we’ll make sure you get a prompt answer, a thank you, and where appropriate we’ll include your question in this FAQ section.

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Let’s start with the basic question... What is river cruising? In the last five years, river cruising has become one of the “hottest” travel experiences in the world. For the majority of North Americans, a European river cruise allows you to experience a vessel that is, on average, approximately 38 feet wide and up to 440 feet long.   


Why take a river cruise? Taking a river cruise is a win-win situation for you. Many of the world's most exciting and historical cities are located on rivers; river ships generally dock right in the heart of a town or village, centrally placing you where all the sights are within moments of disembarking the ship.   


Do I need to BOOK Early?  The answer to this is absolutely!  Unlike ocean cruises where it pays to wait to close to sailing, river cruises MUST be booked early or you risk not going.  That's because of both demand for them and the smaller capacity of a river cruise ship.  WE RECOMMEND YOU BOOK AT LEAST ONE YEAR IN ADVANCE

Where can I go on a river cruise?
You can enjoy a river cruise on every continent except Antarctica. Currently, the most popular rivers for first time river cruisers are in Europe and include the Rhine, Moselle, and the Danube in Western and Eastern Europe, the Rhône and the Seine in France, the Douro in Portugal and the Volga in Russia.   


When can I go on a river cruise? River cruises in Europe sail March through December, in Russia, from May till early October, and in Southeast Asia, almost year round.  Please check with our team on more remote river cruise destinations.

What is the difference between a river cruise and a barge cruise? Really, the two basic differences are size and cruising area. Because barges operate on smaller tributaries and rivers, they are very restricted as to their size. Therefore, barges carry fewer passengers, generally not more than a couple of dozen — and that only on a few of the larger barges.   


What is included in my price?  Unlike most ocean cruises, just about everything is included in your price.  Really comprehensive shore excursions in each port are included, gourmet meals and snacks while on board including complimentary fine wines and beers at lunch and dinner.  Teas, specialty coffees and bottled water is also alway available and free.  So, really on most river cruises the only extra you can anticipate are onboard gratuites to the ships staff and small gratuities to your local guides.  Other than that, you would need to pay for drinks at the bar [generally around $6] unless you are on one of the lines that is "all-inclusive."

What is an "all inclusive" river cruise? A river cruise that is all inclusive includes absolutely everything in the price you pay, so once on board you never need to pay for anything at anytime.  This includes all alcoholic beverages while on board, all gratuities to ships crew and tour guides, and there are NO optional tours.  Literally, you will never put your hand in your pocket when you purchase an "all inclusive" river cruise vacation.  Currently, Tauck, Scenic and Uniworld provide an all inclusive river cruise experiences  New commer Emerald, includes everything, except spirits at the bar.

What is the difference between a river cruise and an ocean cruise?
Again, the basic differences are size and cruising area. A river cruise ship will carry on average about 150 passengers in a comfortable and intimate setting. Ocean going cruise ships will carry thousands of passengers with whom you will be competing for limited shore excursion space, dining venues and dining times, not to mention the time of getting off and then back on the ship at each port.   


Do I have to get dressed up on river cruise? No, river cruising is a very informal style of cruise and the dress code if you will is more like, "resort casual."  When you book with Premier, our Compass Point Guide will provide you all the in's and out's of river cruising and how to pack for one.  It's like "river cruising for dummies," and is certainly the best river cruise planning guide available anywhere... and you won't get this from any cruise line or any other travel agency.

What does one do on a river cruise?
River cruising is destination driven providing you a lifetime of fond travel memories. It focuses on providing you with an up close and personal view of a region or country.   


What amenities will I find on a river cruise ship?
Amenities now abound on most of the major cruise companies' vessels. Pools and spas are becoming more commonplace, bicycles for use while in port are available with several companies, and most vessels have a small fitness center where you can work off the calories from the meals that are truly gourmet both in preparation and quality.   

What about airfare? Ah, the bain of all travel, airfare.  At Premier we have a special air department that will assist you in obtaining the best airfare at the best price and routing... That's part of our service and another reason to deal with the best travel agency in American to book your river cruise.

What type of food can I expect?
While you may not find food available 24 hours a day as on an ocean cruise, and while the concept of the midnight buffet has not yet caught on [We say bravo to that!], the meals onboard a river ship are 4-star, delightful and offered up by a service-focused and warm wait staff.   


What is the atmosphere like onboard? River cruising's appeal is universal. It attracts a very broad group of people and a wide range of nationalities, particularly from English-speaking countries. Many people taking a river cruise will have taken an ocean cruise. Almost all are seasoned travelers who are looking for a vacation without the crowds, with something unique that neither ocean cruising nor bus touring can offer.   

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Can I bring my child on a river cruise?
Traveling to Europe, China, or Russia can be beneficial to many young people as it exposes them to different cultures and places. Family-friendly or multi-generational cruising has long been an established aspect of ocean cruising but it has not made that much headway among the river cruise companies.   


What does the term "waived single supplement" mean? It refers to the fact that on select sailings, there is no additional fee charged for a solo traveler to occupy a stateroom designed for two people.  Some cruise lines still charge a fee for a solo traveler to occuply a cabin for two.

Can I bring my electric scooter on my cruise?
Unfortunately not and that is because of size constraints on river cruise ship corridors. You may bring a collapsible [less than 42 inch] wheel chair that may be used ashore.  Almost all modern river ships do have elevators.

Should I upgrade my stateroom?
Excellent question! And perhaps the one issue that most concerns passengers when choosing where to stay on the ship. Unlike ocean cruise ships, no matter which stateroom you select, you will never be that far from the common areas and you will always enjoy an outside or as we say, a river view stateroom.   


Is one side of the ship better than the other? Another very frequently asked question! The true answer is that both sides of the ship present an equally fascinating view of the river and its sights.   


What is the difference between a window [riverview] stateroom and a balcony?  Generally speaking, everthing is the same except, riverview staterooms are on the lower deck and provide one or two nice size windows that do NOT open.  Depending on the ship, a balcony stateroom may provide a French [no actual seating] style balcony or a "sit down" style balcony.  On most ships, the riverview staterooms are the same size as French balcony staterooms. The biggest difference is in the price because you will generally pay atleast $600pp more for a balcony, so if on a budget, go for the window stateroom, especially in early spring and late fall.

Do river cruise ships always dock in the center of a town?
This really depends a lot on where you are. In Europe, 90% of the time you will dock within a short stroll to the town or city center.   


How much walking is involved on shore excursions? Many of the shore excursions will involve walking — up and down flights of steps, through shrines and ancient temples, and, especially in Europe, on cobblestone streets. Comfortable clothing and sturdy walking shoes are a must. In the spring and fall/winter months you want to ensure you have layerable clothing to allow for temperature and weather variations. Please be aware that unfortunately, most river cruise ships are not wheelchair accessible.


Is there nighttime entertainment on board? All most all river cruise ships will have entertainment each night — usually a singer, musician or an exciting local performing group, depending on the port and itinerary.   


Can we extend our river cruise? Yes, most definitely. Every cruise company offers a number of pre and post land packages. They usually range from 2-3 nights at a centrally-located first class or deluxe hotel with daily buffet breakfast included.   


Is there internet access on board? Most river cruise ships now provide internet access and have Wi-FI capability available either in the public areas or in each stateroom.   


Is there a dress code? The dress code on most river cruise programs is informal and casual during the day and while on shore excursions, with country club casual dress recommended for dinner.   

Are staterooms air conditioned? Yes, staterooms and suites have individual climate controls to regulate both air conditioning and heat. All enclosed public areas also have climate controls.

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Is laundry service available? Laundry service is available on all ships for a fee. Some cruise companies have ships equipped with self-service washers and dryers. Clothes that need to be dry cleaned are usually sent out; service depends on where the ship is docked at any particular time.


Is there a doctor on board? River cruise ships generally sail close to shore. In the event of a medical emergency a doctor can be summoned and be on board very quickly. River cruise ships in Russia and in China usually have a doctor on board for each cruise.


Are the ships smoking or non-smoking? All river cruise ships are non-smoking in all interior public areas and in all staterooms. Smoking is allowed in certain, specific outdoor areas only.


What does the term "ramping" mean? This term is often used when one river cruise ship docks next to another river cruise ship.  It is done because of the scarcity of dock space in some ports and the term flows from the metal ramp that connects the two ships and allows passengers to get on and off the connected ships.  It has no impact on your cruise and is rarely done.

Can my family and friends contact me on board?
All river cruise ships can be contacted by phone or by e-mail. A list of contact numbers will be provided to all passengers prior to departure based on the cruise company and ship booked.


I am on a special diet. Can my dietary needs be accommodated? While not all special diets can be accommodated (kosher for example), in most cases your dietary needs can be met. Every reasonable effort will be made to accommodate requests made in advance.


What type of electrical current is found on board? Will I need to bring a converter? Electricity on board most river cruise ships is 220v.   


Gratuities. The service levels on most river cruises is extraordinary. Gratuities are always at the discretion of each passenger, based on your evaluation of the service rendered.   


How do I pay for things such as drinks, gift shop purchases, and optional shore excursions? Cruise lines usually open a personal shipboard account for each passenger upon check-in. All onboard purchases are billed to this account and upon check-out each passenger receives a total which can then be paid with cash (dollars, euros or local currency usually accepted) or can be charged to a credit card.   


What is a Shipboard Credit/Onboard Cash and how can I use it? A shipboard credit – also known as Onboard Cash – is just like cash, but has no cash value.   


Can I buy liquor ashore and bring it on board? Generally speaking, yes, although if you wish to have your own wine with lunch or dinner most cruise companies will charge a corkage fee. Remember, on most river cruise ships, complimentary wines and local beers are included with the evening meal. And, just because they are complimentary, don't expect them to be inferior, they are not!


Should I purchase Travel Insurance? Travel Insurance Protection. In most cases, once it is purchased you are protected if you have to cancel for a "covered" reason. If you do not purchase insurance and need to cancel, the cruise line WILL NOT refund your money irrespective of what caused the cancellation, even the death of your traveling partner. For complete details on insurance offered by Premier, please click here learn more about travel insurance.

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What if any documentation will I need for my trip? All passengers should check with the respective countries included in the itinerary, as to the necessary documents required for the countries they will be visiting. For Premier customers, your Premier river cruise expert will make sure you have all the current visa and passport information and assist you where needed to expidite the process.


We hope that you’ve found our FAQ section beneficial in learning more about river cruising. Remember, please don’t hesitate to call 1.855.255.1200, or email Bookings, if you’re ready to book your cruise, or if you still have unanswered questions.

Thanks for taking the time to read this section and we look forward to helping you book a value-packed and enjoyable river cruise vacation very soon!


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