Q – We were pretty much set to book a Scenic Rhine cruise for next fall when we read your latest “CSI” Report. First, what is that, I’ve never heard of it, and should we think about sailing with Uniworld, our next choice, so that we don’t end up with a bus tour instead of a cruise. We’ve lived in Geneva, are extremely well-traveled, and we have sailed the top three lines on your luxurycruiseratings site except the German line. Will we enjoy a Rhine river cruise?
A – We would be concerned that you might not. Your decision requires some thoughtful counseling. You’ve raised several points, so let us address each one in turn:
01 – Any reader who has a travel portfolio that includes multiple sailings on our top-rated, five-star cruise lines, should think twice before signing up for a river cruise. The services, the food, the options, and the mix of sophisticated travelers you would encounter on a small, luxury, inclusive cruise ship are far beyond the capabilities of a 130-guest rivership with rigid design and size parameters. This would be the first thing we would want to discuss with you.
02 – The term CSI refers to a report by a “Certified Ship Inspector.” We select and train extremely well-traveled individuals to go undercover on most of the world’s major rivership and cruise lines. They then complete detailed reports describing what they observed and experienced. The problem with travel critic sites is that no one knows the critics and no one certifies that their background is sufficient to draw product comparisons and to evaluate products in a manner that is in keeping with current industry standards. Our CSI Team meets those standards. The report you refer to really happened. Scenic did not handle water issues well. Our inspector’s cruise was a “disaster” of a bus tour. But the real questions is “Would other lines have handled it better”. In two cases we feel that they would have. In others, we still have doubts. Consumers are entitled to know in advance what a line’s policies are regarding changes of an itinerary once they have arrived in Europe and water issues suddenly pop up.
03 – Should you decide to proceed with a river cruise in the early fall (we want you home by October 15th), we would urge you to look at the 14-day Rhine-Moselle sailing of the new Crystal Bach. The boat will launch in June of 2017.
04 – And finally – will you enjoy it? If you know what to expect going in and have reasonable expectations, along with the knowledge that river levels can dramatically change your ability to sail the rivers, we think you would find the kind of “upclose and personal” nature of river cruising to be an entirely satisfying travel experience.