Watching the world sail by in your luxurious floating hotel room easily becomes an addictive method of vacationing around the world. River cruising has been popular on European rivers for many years, however, cruise lines have expanded their offerings to exotic destinations like the Mekong, Magdalena, Amazon, and other fascinating rivers around the world. AmaWaterways vs Avalon Waterways river cruises have many similarities and more than a few key differences to take into consideration as you plan your first or next river cruise.
Historically, river cruises catered to an older demographic, you now find a wider age range of adults aboard. The wider appeal has changed the excursions cruise lines offer, affording guests interesting active and immersive experiences to supplement the classic tour bus-style options.
You will quickly become a river cruise junky — they are a fun and enjoyable way to travel.
1. The Rivers They Cruise
In Europe, the Danube River and the Rhine River are two of the most popular cruises for first-time river cruisers. Both AmaWaterways and Avalon Waterways sail these rivers and have a wide variety of stops which can vary by cruise theme. Both cruise lines sail around Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
Avalon Waterways river cruise list includes the Main River, Danube River, Douro River, Moselle River, Rhine River, Rhône River, Saone River, Seine River, Mekong River, Ganges River, Galapagos Islands, Peruvian Amazon River, and Nile River.
AmaWaterways’ river cruise offerings include the Main River, Danube River, Moselle River, Rhine River, Rhône River, Douro River, Dutch and Belgium Waterways, Saone River, Seine River, Dordogne River, Garonne River, Mekong River, Nile River, Magdalena River, and Chobe River.
2. The Shore Excursions
Shore excursions are a major component of the river cruise appeal. You can research and select your options ahead of time. Each individual can select excursions that suit their interests (try a separate excursion from your travel partner — the dinner conversation is much more interesting). There is almost always an included shore excursion in each port of call along with free time to wander about and explore the area on your own. Often, since the river cruise ships are small, they can dock right in the city; you walk off the boat into the action. Sometimes, you need to hop on a transport off the ship into the city center.
Many ships now offer a variety of excursions. Cruising, since it initially catered to an older crowd, typically offered just a classic style excursion. Passengers were corralled into a bus then whisked around town to explore the touristy areas. Active options are becoming more popular, appealing to a more fit crowd with an adventurous curiosity. These options are offered in the form of hiking treks, biking expeditions, or extended walking tours. With this feet-on-the-ground approach, you can experience a more personal awareness while exploring a city. Another popular option are the discovery excursions where guests are immersed in a cultural experience like cooking, wine tasting, and other specialty tours.
With AmaWaterways, excursions are included in the total price. There are no surprises at the end of the cruise.
Avalon Waterways includes at least one onshore excursion per day with your cruise package. You will find the excursions that are more off the beaten path (like a guided hike) or more specialized (like a wine tasting) have an additional fee associated with them.
If you choose to book shore excursions on your own through a local guide, be certain you will be back on the ship in time. The captain has a tight schedule to keep, and will most likely leave without you. You could find yourself with a hefty transport fee trying to catch up with the ship at the next port. And, if you don’t have your passport on your person, you might have to perform some travel gymnastics to get back to the ship.
Of course, if a ship-booked excursion is late, they will make sure you get back to the ship one way or another.
3. Dining On Board
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are offered aboard ship daily. Additionally, you will be offered a tea time nosh and snacks and soft drinks available any time. You will not go hungry. You will also not find the midnight buffet feeding frenzy customary on the larger ocean vessels. Guests generally dress for dinner in country club casual attire.
Dinner is the highlight of the day and the menu is created reflecting local specialties like schnitzel in Austria, plum dumplings in Hungary, and pate de Provence praline in France. Dining is freestyle meaning you can sit where you choose and there is typically only one seating time. Attentive waitstaff caters to your every wish and keeps your wine glasses full. Wine and beer are generally included with lunch and dinner. Both cruise lines shine in the cuisine department. It is an integral part of the cruise experience guests expect.
Both cruise lines offer unique fare and will expose you to more than just a classic steak au poivre. Dining on locally inspired options, like grapes in a champagne gelee or snails baked in a delicate souffle, offers tantalizing culinary experiences.
AmaWaterways offers a specialty Chef’s Table in addition to the main dining room where it offers an upscale, multi-course dining experience in a romantic, bistro style restaurant.
4. Happy Hour
Happy hour is an integral part of vacation life. Whether you choose your favorite libation or prefer to sip alcohol-free, the social aspect of happy hour is the best way to make new friends when river cruising. It brings passengers together where they can discuss the day with new cruising friends.
The key differences in the happy hour for these two cruise lines are basically financial. With Avalon, happy hour consists of half-price drinks that you charge to your credit line. Your bar tab can be quite a surprise at the end of the cruise if you are a heavy drinker or like to buy a round or two. Conversely, AmaWaterways includes one signature drink during their Sip and Sail happy hours. If you select the cocktail of the day, it is included in your cruise fee; typically wine and beer are included as a free happy-hour option. Of course, if the drink of the day is a martini and you prefer a Manhattan, you will see that on your bar tab.
5. The Accommodations
The accommodations range in size from tiny — around 150 square feet with a small window — to staterooms that clock in at 200 square feet and up with French or walk out balconies, or roomy suites with 300 square feet and more space with walkout or French balconies.
The ships offer luxurious beds when paired with a balcony view, and are a fabulously relaxing way to watch the world float past. If you select a more budget-friendly room with a fixed window, you miss the panoramic view and fresh air, so you will have to go on deck for the best views.
6. The Amenities
Both cruise lines offer exceptional amenities. You will find the following available on both fleets:
- Breakfast, lunch, and dinner on board daily
- Complimentary wine, beer, or soft drinks with lunch and dinner are included daily onboard
- Wellness/Adventure Host for fitness activities
- Complimentary WiFi
- Complimentary computer stations
- Deck shade system & premium lounge chairs
- Deck game area
- Guest lounges with cozy seating and panoramic river views
- Lounge with 24-hour self-serve beverage and snack station
- Complimentary bikes for touring
7. Types Of Cruises
There is a mix and match element with these cruise lines. You will find some of their river cruises lend themselves to certain types of specialty cruises.
Special interest cruises on Avalon Waterways include Active and Discovery; Wine Appreciation; Beer Enthusiasts; Oberammergau; Culinary Experience; Christmas and Festive Season; WWI, WWII History and the Habsburg Royalty; Garden and Nature Lovers, Photography Enthusiasts, Jewish Heritage, and other unique specialty cruises.
AmaWaterways offers Active and Discovery, Christmas Market, Golf, and Wine focused cruises. You can read our wine river cruise reviews to see if it is the right river cruise for you.
When you are searching for the ultimate in river cruise getaways, AmaWaterways has launched a new Seven River Journey — a 46-night European river sailing extravaganza. Imagine living with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking gorgeous river views for 6 luxurious weeks.
8. The Cost
The base cost is dependent on the date of travel, length of trip, type of accommodation, etc. in conjunction with the particular river cruise you choose. For comparison purposes, we selected the Rhine River cruise sailing from Amsterdam to Basel. If you stay in a stateroom with a French balcony, sail for 7 nights and visit the Netherlands, France, Germany, and Switzerland; you will find the cost is comparable between both cruise lines.
If you have additional costs, like add-on excursions or tips, consider paying them before you leave. This way you are paying in your home currency and will avoid international charges from your credit card company.
Both companies offer a solo traveler supplement so you end up paying more as a single traveler, but not double the cost.
Other River Cruise Companies
There are a host of other river cruise companies vying for your vacation dollars. Selecting the right cruise company to suit your destination and budget can be a daunting task. Seek out advice from a trusted travel agent who will guide you through the selection and booking process. Their expertise will save you time and money.
Below is a list of luxury river cruise ship companies to consider:
- Viking River Cruises
- Crystal River Cruises
- Emerald River Cruises
- Uniworld Boutique River Cruises
- Scenic Luxury Cruises
- Tauck Cruises
River Cruise Memories
Sailing on smaller river ships is completely different than sailing on a massive cruise ship. No matter which river cruise company you choose, AmaWaterways or Avalon Waterways, you will fall in love with the intimate, personalized service provided and memorable adventures both of these exceptional cruise lines provide.
Read more about what river cruises can offer passengers: