River cruising in Europe, Southeast Asia, Russian, China, and on the Nile River is fast becoming one of the most popular and affordable experiential vacation choices for Baby Boomers and Pre-Boomers alike. Selecting the right river cruise line is the most critical part of your decision making process.
Finding the cruise line which best aligns with your personal needs, wants, desires and lifestyle will ensure that “perfect fit” and a river cruise experience that provides you with a lifetime of wonderful memories. Pick the wrong cruise line and it’s like a bad pair of shoes, you paid for them, but they never feel quite right.
For many, the thought of an exciting and affordable river cruise is something to embrace and look forward to. While fun and excitement are on their horizon, it’s the question of how to select the correct cruise line that may be your most daunting challenge.
The challenge for a first time buyer is created because of a number of reasons including:
• Each and every river cruise line feels that their product is the best and has universal appeal.
• Each line naturally paints a somewhat biased picture of their product offerings.
• While most river cruise lines appear similar, there are important and subtle differences between them.
• One does not know if the cruise line owns their ships or merely charter them and the crew?
• The pricing, special offers and logistics can be very confusing to the first time cruiser.
• The nature and quality of the “included” shore excursions can vary dramatically between cruise lines.
The good news is that for the most part, nearly all of the lines selling their products here in the States are excellent, but there are subtle and significant differences between each, and if you are not very knowledgeable, it is the subtle differences that may make the difference between a nice vacation and a truly memorable experience.
It’s really all about the choice that works best for you and your traveling companions. For example, why do you think your parents probably bought a Ford, Chevy, or Oldsmobile and why is it very likely you did not? Why do some vacationers choose to stay in a Holiday Inn or a Marriott, while others prefer upscale hotels such as a Ritz Carlton or Four Seasons which focus more on one’s creature comforts?
More than likely you would answer – “it’s just what they liked,” or “it fits their lifestyle and/or budget” – right? You are spot on! That’s exactly why new or less experienced river cruiser travelers should utilize the services of a professional travel agency to help them navigate through their selection process.
Here are a few ideas to jump start your discovery of the perfect cruise line for your vacation.
• Your first decision may be the most fun, where do you want to go?
• Then, when do you want to travel? Remember, many these cruises operate from March – December.
• Spend some time on cruise line websites as many are a good starting place to gather information about ships and itineraries.
• Don’t be fooled into the belief that you get a better deal in buying direct from the cruise line, you will not!
• Buy your river cruise from an experienced river cruise specialist who has the knowledge to ensure you are correctly matched to the right product to fit your personal needs, wants, desires… and budget.
Before you buy, think about why you have selected a particular destination and/or cruise line. Don’t cut corners and buy solely on price as your long awaited vacation is NOT the place to go for “cheap.” Vacations are special times; they should create special memories and moments – not nightmares created by the wrong choice of product for you and your traveling companions.