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Clients may initially look at a river cruise quote and believe it commands a high cost, but there’s more to the story than the bottom line. River cruising is one of the best values in travel — especially if all its inclusions are evaluated on a per diem basis — and, besides, some options are more affordable than others.
In traditional ocean cruising, lines are often categorized according to price and lifestyle, ascending in order of standard (e.g. Carnival Cruise Line), premium (e.g. Celebrity Cruises), upscale (e.g. Oceania Cruises) and luxury (e.g. Crystal Cruises). These are grouped, in part, based on what each line includes or doesn’t include for the money.
Nearly all river cruise lines tout more inclusions than their seagoing counterparts.
One could then argue that an equivalent river cruise scale begins no lower than at the premium level. That places brands such as CroisiEurope, Emerald Waterways, U River Cruises and Viking at an elevated tier, sometimes described as deluxe, while remaining relatively entry-level for the market.
But how should a client select among these four lines? Clients should consider factors such as onboard amenities and ambiance, food and drink inclusions and target clientele.
Looking strictly at inclusions, all lines provide a selection of complimentary shore excursions plus internet access. Drinks are extra on U outside of water, coffee, tea and juices; but house alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages are included at lunch and dinner onboard Emerald and Viking. On CroisiEurope, drinks are always available for free, save for top-shelf choices.
Additionally, Emerald and U include gratuities. Emerald even bundles airport transfers regardless of whether flights are booked through the line.
Of course, it’s also important to consider the onboard vibe. Viking, for one, actively markets to baby boomers, while U — although no longer exclusive to millennials — skews much younger. The former’s Scandinavian simplicity is a stark contrast to the latter’s boutique hotel ambiance, but each serves its target clientele well. CroisiEurope is similar to U but focuses more on French culture and an older demographic, and Emerald is on a parallel course to Viking but displays a more contemporary aesthetic.
Regarding accommodations, Emerald and U showcase solo staterooms as well as standard cabins and suites while the other lines predominantly cater to couples. Food quality is often gourmet across the board; all lines now feature three meals a day onboard (U used to only have brunch and dinner). Emerald highlights traditional entertainment from live singing to film screenings, and U is rather imaginative with silent discos, karaoke and guest DJs. CroisiEurope and Viking feature more in the way of local entertainers.
CroisiEurope has few extra venues outside of its essential observation lounge, main restaurant and sky deck. U, on the other hand, has a cool bonus Ice Bar. Emerald offers a unique indoor pool with a retractable roof that can collectively transform into a cinema at night. And Viking innovates with its added Aquavit Terrace aboard its Longships. The space reserves the forward-most length for convertible alfresco or enclosed dining, in addition to unblocked bow viewing thanks to cleverly hidden rigging equipment.
In the end, it’s just a matter of matching the right clients with the right shipboard personality — just remember that they are all cost-effective.
U River Cruiseswww.ubyuniworld.com