European River Cruise – Tips on Included and Optional Tours

imagesEuropean River Cruise – Tips on Included and Optional Tours

What I learnt about the included and optional tours!  With hindsight these tips on included and optional tours would have been great for me.

So are you like I did, feeling overwhelmed and having difficulty deciding whether to book the optional tours that your European River Cruise Ship offers?  Many will as my husband and I did, look at the brochures and google the many optional tours that a European River Cruise Ship offers.  How excited we were – when we chose to book a medieval UNESCO Heritage town – at an extra cost of around $100 each.  Well hold off – don’t book it yet. In fact don’t book it until you are on your ship and then decide on what your particular tour offers.

We were already to go, very excited – until we realised that many of the medieval towns that the ship docked at that we walked into or were bused into –  were also UNESCO Heritage Medieval towns – preserved for centuries with minimal to no damage during WW11 in particular.

Walking Tours and guides included in European River Cruise

We at first didn’t feel confident enough to just go and walk into one of the many medieval towns that we docked at and were easy to walk into. So we joined the blue, yellow, green, blue groups on many occasions and walked around at the pace of the slowest walker!  Although there was also a pink group was for those who wanted to walk slowly and if there was a specific  ‘active’ walkers group we joined that – but found that was a bit snail pace also.

The tour guides were dreadful to excellent.  Some tour guides walked very fast – around a number of attractions – as they provided a range of information 99% of which I did not retain. Others walked so slowly that it was frustrating. Some tour guides rattled off so much historical facts and dates, that they appeared not to pause for breath and many of us, turned down or off our voice boxes!

Hindsight……tip…..if your boat docks walking distance into your town – take a map from your boat reception and walk in and around the town yourself. Unless you are a history buff. Maybe stop at an information place for further info…or do some pre-preparation and google about the place you are docking at.  I wish our boat had an option of audio cassettes…. With a map that went with them, so we could do a self guided tour and choose to listen or not. Other than that, really, when we did just walk around ourselves – it was much better.  You might see an interesting laneway, and walk up that and discover an out of the way museum, church or shops.

Wasted time waiting for tour guides to arrive and be ready.

We found on most occasions, that we docked then had to wait for the tour guides to get on the boat and meet with our tour director.  This was such a waste of time. I don’t understand why they could not be briefed by head office or via email/phone the day or a couple of days prior.  I understand that there is leeway in arrival time of the boat due to the lock system….however a number of us wondered why when we arrived early, buses and tour guides were not on alert ready if we docked an hour earlier….rahter than just wait on the boat until the allocated time, and then at the allocated time for the guides to arrive.  So another reason, if you can walk in….walk…..if there is a taxi you can catch….catch the taxi with another couple.

Having said that….often there was a bus that would take you for a full tour of a city that you could not walk around…and we were with a group of friends….and the whole experience is great when you get to share it…the ups and the downs with friends!

Need a loo break?

Far too often, walking around and then being told that you had 45 minutes to an hour free time…..15 minutes was often taken up finding a loo and joining (for the women) the typical women’s toilet queue!  We were advised to go into a café, purchase something and then you could go to the toilet. Some toilets had a person on duty and you paid to go in.

I will never forget a public (rare) toilet in Vienna, we went down these stairs underground and a gruff, abrupt old man, shouted at me, virtually pushed me into a toilet cubicle and locked me in!  Gawd….well I thought at least some of the other women from the tour were behind me and we would make a racket it we were not allowed out.  I wondered if he would give me an allocated amount of time before he let me out…..thankfully I found I could open the toilet lock to let myself out….and he then barked instructions at me re washing and drying my hands!

Identifying toilets and actually holding on for a toilet break were thought consuming for a number of women and the first question we asked when on a bus tour!

Time to relax on European River Cruise Sundeck

Time to relax on European River Cruise Sundeck

Amsterdam – Board the boat at Amsterdam

First day of cruise, we boarded about 4.30pm after leaving Paris by coach around 9.00am. We found our cabin – which was fantastic…so much storage space, lovely and comfy. Unpacked and went to explore the boat. We attended the tour director intro and tea. Some walked into Amsterdam after tea – but by then it was a round 9pm or later and wewere so tired.  The next day was a bus into the city (which really we could walk into), then a canal cruise – that was great.

However although this was included in the price…hmmm if you are comfortable about going in by your self or walking in with a couple of others….we would have seen much more (remember each group only goes as fast as the slowest walker) in the time we had available. The bus did go out to Rembrandt’s Mill House….could have missed that although it was interesting to get out of the city and see some of the more wealthy houses!  The boat started to cruise around I think 12.30 or 1.00pm…as soon as we returned…so really very little time in Amsterdam!

Optional Tours

We did a few optional tours and they were great. However we had to give 48 hours notice and payment if we wanted to do one – and same if we wanted to cancel.  We decided not to do the full day with a 2 ½ hour drive to a mediaeval UNESCO heritage listed town, that was not going to get back to the boat until 6 or 7pm…..yes we would have seen some of countryside…..but we have no regrets….we had a great day exploring locally instead and then cruising by this time some beautiful areas of the Danube River.

Final Tip re Included and Optional Tours

Don’t be afraid to walk in and discover a town by yourself or with some friends!  They were mostly very easy to walk around without getting lost. Most people speak a degree of English!

Enjoy!  Have fun! Happy Travelling!

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