THE SEVEN SE­CRETS

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - KEN­DALL HILL

Many cruises are of a sim­i­lar length, usu­ally a week to 15 days, and the ships of­fer more or less equal com­forts, so the most im­por­tant thing to de­cide is the itin­er­ary. Am­s­ter­dam to Basel along the Rhine? Wine­soaked days down the Rhone, through Bur­gundy and Provence or along Por­tu­gal’s Douro River? Cruises also op­er­ate on the Nile, Yangtze, Ir­rawaddy and Mekong.

Check cabin classes care­fully. Cruise fares are ad­ver­tised from the low­est cat­e­gory, which in the case of Avalon’s Panorama fleet is the cosy 16sq m ‘ ‘ deluxe’’ cabin with port­hole win­dows.

Book well ahead. Berths on pop­u­lar river cruises rou­tinely sell out 12 months in ad­vance. Most com­pa­nies of­fer good early­bird dis­counts.

Con­firm what ex­tra costs there might be, such as port or fuel sur­charges. If wine or beer is cen­tral to your hol­i­day en­joy­ment, choose an allinclu­sive cruise line such as Scenic or Uni­world. Avalon serves com­pli­men­tary wine with din­ners and it is rea­son­ably priced at about $4 a glass at lunch.

Spring rains and hot sum­mers can cur­tail itin­er­ar­ies as sec­tions of ma­jor rivers be­come im­pass­able, in which case pas­sen­gers will be fer­ried to their next des­ti­na­tion by coach.

Book with a line that of­fers WiFi ac­cess at no cost (such as Avalon).

Com­pe­ti­tion be­tween river cruise op­er­a­tors is ro­bust and com­pa­nies are con­stantly launch­ing ves­sels with unique sell­ing points. Uni­world’s An­toinette de­buted in 2012 with the in­dus­try’s first (small) pool and cin­ema, so do your home­work to get the fa­cil­i­ties you think you’ll want on the wa­ter.

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