THE SEVEN SECRETS
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.