River Boat Avalon Suite View BQ –   I have been reading all the questions and answers on your website but cannot find an answer to my specific question.  We are looking at a Rhine River cruise in June 2017 from Amsterdam to Basel.  I like Avalon because of it’s room arrangement, size and panoramic windows.  I see though that you don’t rate Avalon very high and keep saying that it is not all inclusive as the other lines like Tauck, Ama, Uniwiorld & Scenic.  My question is what is not included that these other lines do include?  All these lines are also more expensive.  If Tauck & Uniworld are $1000 more per person for a smaller room and their offering included gratuities or a nicer glass of wine, I’m not sure that is worth an extra $2K for the trip.

Could you please tell me what exactly you mean by not all inclusive.  I’m not against spending the money on a different line if there is more benefit and value. Thank you for providing all o f this information.

A – You get slightly more than a nicer glass of wine for your “$2,000” but you’ve asked a legitimate question. While you say that we don;t rate Avalon “very high” the fact that we rate them at all would indicate that they are worthy of serious consideration. In our opinion, it really isn’t as simple as adding up the cost of the inclusions and making a mathematical decision. There are a number of more subjective values in making the best personal decisions.

The toughest thing for us to tackle is the “who will your fellow passengers be” question. The brochures only touch on this and some of them seemingly use the same white-haired country-club type models and the same “millennials toasting one another” photos. But Tauck is a truly First Class Worldwide Tour Operator while Avalon is owned by a company that specializes in more mass market touring. Those differences would be reflected in their river boat products. Crystal will attract the kind of well-traveled and well-educated passengers in the mold of the guests who are attracted to their high level of services in the cruise ship sector.

The issues not clear to the consumer might include staff background and training, how much money per guest is spent on food, and to what degree is the river boat line sub-contracting out sightseeing versus producing experiences in-house. Then there is the issue if how the line is going to react when something does go wrong? As we’ve tried to point out , this does vary from line to line and price is an important measure of a line’s commitment to making its guests happy in all situations.

What no one every tells the potential river cruiser is that different lines attract different crowds. Different lines provide different levels of service. They certainly provide different levels of sophistication. Drinks and gratuities are really a relatively small part of the calculation.



01 – What type of fellow-cruiser is attracted by the lowest prices?

02 – Can my travel consultant speak to management on my behalf should there be an issue?

03 – What kind of transfers are included?

04 – Are extra-price, better tours, sold to guests?

05 – How memorable is the on-board dining experience likely to be?

06 – What quality of pre/post hotels are used?

07 – How sophisticated are the evening activities?

08 – Are sightseeing tours custom-designed or farmed out to locals?

09 – Is the crew totally rented or are there actual employees of the line on-board in supervisory capacities?

10  – Are special events or evenings included in the quoted fare?