Frequently Asked Questions

Before contacting us, please browse our FAQ.

  1. 1
    Where do river cruises actually go?

    A better question might actually be “where don’t they go?”   All of Europe and England have extensive water ways which have been around for centuries to assist the transportation of goods and merchandise, long before rail and trucks were even thought of. These waterways are still used for transportation and now include 5 star ‘floating hotels’. The most popular river cruises travel from Amsterdam to Budapest and the reverse.

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    What is the best time of the year to take a river cruise?

    This really does depend on your personal taste! And what kind of experience you are looking for.

    As a guide:

    March / April – Tends to be cool to cold, the destinations aren’t crowded which is a big plus. Itcould possibly snow, and the highlight for me is that best of the European winter sales are on in the shops so it’s the perfect time to grab a bargain, especially if you love fashion.

    July & Aug – Are the peak months to River Cruise. It can be very hot at this time of the year, especially in the big city centres. There are lots of tourists & restaurants, cafes, shops and museumswill be packed to the rafters. But if you are a summer person, these months are undoubtedly the time to travel to stack the odds in your favour of receiving warm weather. For me personally the fact that it is so busy gives places a real buzz everywhere you go. When you look around and see all the different nationalities mixing together, paying homage to famous art or soaking up the ambience of one of Europe’s café scenes, I think this makes for a wonderful experience.

    Sept & Oct – Are the artist’s palette. The beautiful, rich & warm autumn colours are an experience not to be missed. And if you’re lucky and it is a late summer you’ll still get that mild, warm weather and the magic golden sunlight creating burning reds and shimmering golds as it touches the trees. Another great thing about this time of year is that the crowds have thinned out.

    Nov & Dec –  It’s winter in Europe so expect snow. This is a festive time for Europeans. It’s when the magic of the Christmas markets come to life and when the cities and villages of Europe start to resemble a Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale. A truly remarkable experience European River Cruising in winter is not be missed.

  3. 3
    How is a river cruise different from an ocean cruise?

    It really is a very different experience. The boats are much smaller, usually carrying around 150 passengers. There is a high ratio of crew to passenger usually in the vicinity of 3crew to 1 guest, so it is a far more personalized, intimate experience.

    Riverboats are in port most days and there is very little night travel. So with not so much distance to travel, the focus is more on the destinations, and the stunning scenery, than onboard entertainment facilities. And of course there isn’t any sea motion which means you don’t have to ‘find your sea legs’.

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    Which itinerary would you recommend?

    For first-time river cruise passengers without a special interest in a particular region, an excellent first cruise choice is Amsterdam to Budapest. This journey will introduce you to four countries and many must-see sites, including Rothenburg, Nuremberg, Budapest, and Vienna, as well as hidden gems like Wertheim and Miltenberg. Cruising highlights include the romantic Rhine, the scenic Wachau Valley, and the Main-Danube-Canal—a marvel of modern engineering.

    Second- or third-timers who have done Amsterdam to Budapest or Amsterdam to Vienna, and who are interested in the cultures and traditions of Eastern Europe, may enjoy a Black Sea Cruise. Those who prefer to stay in Western Germany and enjoy lots of daytime sailing and lovely scenery along the Rhine and Moseille

    If you have already cruised along the Rhine, Main, and Danube rivers, we would suggest taking in the fabulous scenery along Portugal and Spain’s Douro River—a real hidden gem. The entire Douro River Valley is a Unesco World Heritage Site. Russia also offers sensational sightseeing, with cruises taking you to the best sights along the Volga River.

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    Do I need to book well in advance?

    The earlier you book the more choice you have in regards to departure dates, the choice of ship and the different cabins types. The river cruises usually carry less than 150 passengers and therefore certain cabin types and peak season departures sell out quickly. The most popular river cruise departures can book out up to 12 months in advance.

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    Early bird deals: what are they and how do I take advantage of the best one for me?

    It’s important to understand why suppliers offer Early Bird deals – it’s to provide them with early cash flow. So at this point, I’m sorry to say but you are not their highest priority! Each supplier will come up with what they hope is a winner so that you choose them over their competition.
    Because you are on a boat they are based around a cabin type which usually is a ‘lead in’ cabin in the hope that you will upgrade to a more expensive cabin type. It’s crucial you understand your options before locking in the deal or you may regret the decision once you start the river cruise. It is best to look at your complete journey rather than just the river cruise so every factor can be carefully considered. That way you will have peace of mind. An Early Bird Deal might well be the perfect option for you. But, it is important that you manage your expectations and seek the advice of a Holiday Design Specialists so you can make sure you get what you want, and don’t miss any of the fine print details.

  7. 7
    Which direction of the cruise should I book? Is one better than the other?

    It does not matter which direction you choose, as each direction contains the same included features. Timings of activities may, of course, vary a little due to cruising times up- or downstream, but you will not see or do more in one direction than in the other.
    The progression of your journey may be a matter of preference. For example, for the Eastern European cruises, you might want to start in Eastern Europe and work your way up to Western Europe, or you may prefer to do the opposite.

  8. 8
    Do we always dock in the heart of the city?

    It depends; in many places you will dock within walking distance to the city center, but there are places where the river only touches the outskirts of a town (i.e. Bamberg or Nuremberg), and thus a motor coach transfer is necessary.

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    Are there ever any other ships docked next to us?

    Yes, this happens and is a normal part of river cruising. As river cruising has become more popular, traffic on the rivers has increased, and it is perfectly normal to moor next to another ship or sometimes even between two ships.
    The assignment of the exact berthing is up to the harbor authorities of the port of call, and neither your Holiday Design Specialist nor the Captain of the ship has any control or influence over this.

  10. 10
    On what side of the ship should I book the stateroom?

    It does not matter, as there is no “better” side of the ship. On some days, port-side staterooms will be docked facing the shore; on other days it will be the starboard-side staterooms.

    River cruise ships always dock facing upstream. Views from cabins may occasionally be restricted when the ship is docked, particularly when other ships dock next to our ship. River ships often dock next to each other, as docking spots are limited. The Harbor Master is always in control of this, not the ship’s Captain.

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    What are the main points of differences between the River Cruise operators?

    Again I am going to have to defer to the FREE Cruise Comparison Chart, there is so much information to present on this one question alone which is why we compiled the most important data for you and offer it as a FREE download.

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    Are all meals included?

    Yes. Selected beer, wine and soft drink are also included at lunch and dinner by most Cruise operators. Some packages also can include ‘extra’ alcoholic drinks or wine tasting packages. Our Holiday Design Specialists will advise you about these options when you are ‘Designing’ your trip together.

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    What’s the food like?

    The food on all of the itineraries is generally exquisite, with the ability to suit your dietary requirements. However, there are certain Cruise Operators and specialized ‘culinary itineraries’ that do go take that extra step, providing culinary experiences of the highest level.

    Serving the finest quality food that you would expect in a first class Michelin star rated restaurant.

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    Is there a lot of walking on the tours?

    As most of the itineraries visit historic cities, many of the tours are partly or entirely walking tours. Cobblestones are also very common in Europe. To be able to fully enjoy certain excursions, passengers should be in good health and able to walk well (including up and down stairs); otherwise they may not be able to participate in all the tours.

    Many of the River ships are not wheelchair accessible so if this is a requirement for you then you should advise your Holiday Design Specialist and they will make the best possible recommendations based on your personal needs.

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    If during our cruise a Christmas Market is closed, what do we do?

    There is usually an arrangement made for a city tour and/or free time to spend in the city center.

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    Are we able to take our children and is there an age restriction?

    Passengers who are under 18 years of age must be accompanied by an adult who is 21 years of age or older. Best European River Cruises experience is that most young children (especially those under 8 years of age) do not enjoy or appreciate the river cruise experience.

    There are no special arrangements, activities, or accommodations for children on almost all the itineraries offered by the cruise operators. Certain cruise operators such as Uniworld do offer a small selection of ‘family-friendly’ itineraries on select departure dates. This is something that is best discussed with your Holiday Design Specialist.

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    What facilities are onboard the Ships?

    This varies between companies and is impacted by other factors such as the age of the boats. Most of the new boats will have similar facilities, as far as including internet, & flatscreen TV’s. But each company has it’s own unique style and unique selling points which give it an edge over the competition in certain areas. You will need to carefully consider the type of experience you are seeking and the way you wish to enjoy it before choosing the best river cruise for yourself.

    To get a better understanding what’s offered by each company download a copy of our FREE Cruise Comparison Chart AND WATCH OUR COMPANY SPECIFIC PRESENTATIONS as this really will help you make a decision which company matches what you are looking for.

  18. 18
    Can I combine my cruise with other travel, and can you organise that for me?

    Absolutely.   And we encourage you to build on your river cruise experience as you have already travelled half the world, invested time & money just to get to Europe. Many of the Cruise Operators also offer coach tours, as well as point-to-point arrangements and we can leverage on this to provide you great deals on land based tours. We can also easily link your River Cruise with any custom travel you are considering whether it is by rail, car, coach or air.

    Putting together large, complex itineraries is where you see our Holiday Design Specialists at their best, and where you will feel the difference that 30yrs travel industry experience can make. However, rest assured that an equal amount of care will be given to booking a one night stopover at a hotel, as a fully customized 21 day land tour. We will ensure that every component of your trip matches your needs.

  19. 19
    How much extra should I allow for each day spending money?

    This will largely depend on what you enjoy spending money on. As a general guideline, because drinks and meals are included, you may find an extra €50 per day will help cover basics.

  20. 20
    Is it best to have a stopover on the way to Europe?

    Some people just like to break up the journey, stretch their legs and relax a little. A stopover can also be a great opportunity to see another destination. A few days shopping in Asia for example could be the perfect end to your perfect holiday.

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    Is there a way to combine airfare deals with river cruises other than the deal advertised by the river cruise company?

    Yes, and that’s where having an expert Holiday Design Specialist is invaluable. You will be pleasantly surprised at how we can assist when it comes to airfares, other expenses and overall deals.

  22. 22
    Do I have to take a longer river cruise when I am not even sure if I will enjoy river cruising?

    No. You can sample a short river cruise of say 3 days to test the water (so to speak!). This way you save money and time if you have any doubts at all.

    A river cruise can be a nice way to get some time away from relatives if you are visiting family for an extended period of time.   Or you could include a short cruise to complete a trip. There is a multitude of options and you will be surprised just how diverse the options and how well they can fit in with other plans.

  23. 23
    What is the dress code?

    Most cruise operators don’t impose a dress code. Casual clothing would be the ‘norm’.  However you are welcome to dress up, and certainly for Captain’s Gala dinners and special events this can add to your experience. But, it is completely up to you!

  24. 24
    Balconies, French balconies or windows: what is best?

    There is a growing popularity with Australian river cruise companies to highlight balconies as a must have feature, and for good reason to certain people. Is it a ‘must have’? Well that’s debatable.

    My advice is if it’s within your budget then you will never regret a balcony cabin or Stateroom. Anytime you can just walk out the door and be experiencing the view or local settings is a huge plus.

  25. 25
    How big are the cabins and will I have enough room to store baggage?

    Cabins are available in a variety of sizes. The exact size and location of your cabin will depend on your booking. We will of course help you to arrange this. All cabins are large enough to store baggage. For a more comprehensive look at cabin sizes download the FREE Cruise Comparison Chart at the end of this presentation.

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    Is there onboard entertainment and shows each night?

    There is entertainment and a range of activities on board the ships. Depending on the itinerary, there could be local performers or musicians offering entertainment. The specific entertainment onboard will very much depend on the cruise operator you book with and which itinerary you select.

    For some companies onboard entertainment is an integral part of their unique offering. For others, entertainment is more of a casual, unobtrusive backdrop. Our Holiday Design Specialists can provide you with thorough details on what is offered by each company, and the itineraries they offer. And inform you of the selection of ‘celebrity hosted itineraries’.

  27. 27
    Which airline is best to use?

    Most airfare deals that are combined with the river cruise are usually an incentive  put together between the supplier of the river  cruise and the airlines to get people to commit to bookings early.

    Can you do a river cruise without an airfare deal? The answer is “YES”. There are often better combinations offered outside of these package deals which will suit you more particularly if you are looking at stopovers or extended stays somewhere within the travel plans that you have made.

    Our suggestion for that, this situation is if you contact a travel planner or a travel agent that you can trust to get them to help you select the right airfare. You’ll be surprised at the extra flexibility that these airfares can offer as against the restrictions they usually put on package deals.

  28. 28
    Can I change my plans once I get there?

    This would NOT be recommended as it will incur hefty cancellation charges, possibly up to 100%. Of course if your travel plans are affected by circumstances outside of your control such as illness then this is something which should be covered by your travel insurance (essential if you’re travelling Europe and compulsory if you are taking a River Cruise).

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    Can I change cabins?

    Not usually as most cruises are fully booked. However if there is availability it may be possible at an extra charge. It is better to select the cabin you want before departure.

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    Will I get left behind if I miss the boat when it sails during the trip?

    It is possible, but not likely because you are always given schedules for the next day so you are always aware of the sailing times. However, if you do miss the scheduled sailing times you are able to take a taxi or rail to the next town to join the cruise. And, you will have emergency contact numbers if you find yourself in a bind.

  31. 31
    What happens if I get sick or need medical help?

    When on a river cruise in Europe, your cruise ship will be calling through many local towns and ports and have the ability to stop anywhere specially if it is an emergency. Therefore, you will have local medical treatment readily available throughout your journey.

    It is also worth you making sure that you notify the cruise company prior to your departure of any pre-existing medical ailment that you may have that you feel could possibly affect your experience as well on the journey and at least that way everybody will be prepared

  32. 32
    What happens if I am not happy when I get there?

    Unfortunately if you change your mind when you arrive for your cruise you will forfeit the monies paid and you will not be able to claim this on your travel insurance. But, if we’ve done our job then you will be matched to the right cruise and hopefully thoroughly enjoy yourself.

  33. 33
    Will you be available to help me if something needs attention while I am on my trip?

    Absolutely. All of our clients will get our personal mobile number which is accessible to you to call 24/7. Which means no matter where you are on your cruise, you can call us free or post as well. The other thing to know is that while on your cruise the cruise director of this company that you arecruising with would be your best first place to call  because they are the ones that are on the deck at the place where they can help the most.

    It is relatively common for people to seek their help for all kinds of things such as lost passports through to family needed to be notified and even for medical reasons. However, rest assured that from our perspective you will be given the personal mobile phone number of the consultant who help make your booking so that you can call them anytime.

  34. 34
    What support do you offer once I book?

    Your Holiday Design Specialist will be contactable throughout the entire journey 24/7 via phone or email.

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    I am younger than the ‘over 60’s’ that usually do these cruises. Can a river cruise still work for me?

    We have travellers of all ages take river cruises, who absolutely love them. This includes singles, couples, young families and older people. There is such a range of activities and day tours that you can be as energetic or relaxed as you like, and have a wonderful time.

    Again it comes down to matching the right Cruise Operator and the right itinerary to you. And, that is what we do best.

  36. 36
    Will I smell diesel fumes?

    It is rare that fumes from diesel will cause you from any discomfort. If it was ever noticeable it would usually be in dock and you have two choices – go inside or back to your cabin. You may be able to smell fuels when docked at a port, or when another boat moors alongside you and the wind direction is temporarily against you.

    All ships burn diesel and so it inescapable that some slight fumes will be somewhere, but they arevery easy to avoid and get away from and very rarely ever an issue. We’ve never found them bothersome, nor have any of our clients ever reported fumes as an issue.

  37. 37
    Do I have to tip?

    Nowadays, most cruises include all gratuities, so the need to have to work out what your tip will be is no longer necessary. However, it is still quite common for cruise people who enjoy theexperience provided by the staff or cabin cleaners to tip as an expression of appreciation. That’s encouraged because it will always count in your favour.

    When you’re on land, it’s pretty much up to you whether you choose to tip or not. It’s easy to check with the cruise director in each port of call to ask: “Is there a local custom here that includes tips,or are tips expected?” But from your personal point of view, you don’t need to consider tipping and gratuities if you don’t wish to.

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    Are there easy paced day excursions?

    There are generally different shore excursions offered dependent on your level of interest and fitness. Many of the tour operators will also provide you with a lightweight headset with personal volume control for tours, so you can always hear what your guide is saying, no matter where you are.

    Again though each company is different when it comes to shore excursions and this is something best asked of your Holiday Design Specialist or by consulting our FREE Cruise Comparison Chart.

  39. 39
    Do I have to pay for a bicycle?

    Since 2013 almost all cruises include bicycles. If you are uncertain, before you choose a cruise, ask or check it out on the website. It’s worth noting that bicycles are limited and therefore you willpossibly miss out if you don’t register your interest when you are onboard for the days that you may want to use one. To date, we have never heard of anyone who has missed out, since not a lot ofpeople choose to use them. But if you are interested, please do check availability as soon as you can.

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    What currencies are accepted?

    Almost all European countries will accept Euros & this is the currency you should carry with you. Most ATMs will allow you to select either Euros or the local currency of the country in which you are travelling (if not Euro).

    Your Aussie dollars will then be converted by the various banks at their agreed rates. At the time of writing this the 1.00AUD =0.73 EUR.

    Handy tip – some countries give change in their local currency so it’s best to carry some small denominations or Euro coins with you to keep change minimal.

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    What should I bring clothes wise?

    Most cruises now expect clients to be “smart casual”. You’ll feel most comfortable in this clothing. A sports jacket in the evening for gentlemen and a nice dress for ladies is always a comfortable choice, but not entirely necessary. Most people do like the idea of dressing up on some of your nights.  It’s a chic thing to do and will help you to mix in very well with your fellow travellers. By and large, however, for most Australians smart casual is the normal dress standard.