Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Side-By-Side - A River-Cruise Comparison

Guest Blog by US cruise expert Steven B Stern, author of Stern's Guide to the Cruise Vacation.

In conducting research for my new guide, which will be devoted exclusively to European river boats and barges, I have attempted to cruise on the entire gamut of the new and more upscale ships that the various cruise lines are racing to build.

Last summer (2011), we did back-to-back cruises on the SS Antoinette of Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection and on the Viking Legend of Viking River Cruises (you can also see fuller reviews in the Autumn issue of World of Cruising magazine). This summer, we cruised back-to-back on the Avalon Panorama and AMACERTO, the newest ships of these two specialist riverboat cruise lines.

Avalon Panorama (top) entered service in 2011, the first of what the company refers to as their “suite ships.” AMACERTO entered service in 2012, the latest of three identical sister ships.

Our 14-day cruise on Panorama (above, right) commenced in Budapest and traversed the Danube, Main/Danube Canal, River Main and Rhine all the way up to Amsterdam. We spent only seven days on AMACERTO covering a portion of the same itinerary.

In the final analysis, I could not say that one was superior to the other. Each had features that impressed, and others that didn’t. The non-suite accommodations were similar on both with limited storage, as is the situation on all riverboats. However, we preferred our cabin on the AMA ship because of the fact most of the cabins had both a real outdoor balcony as well as a French-style balcony whereas the Panorama only had the French balconies. The bedding on the Panorama also did not adequately adapt itself to a matrimonial bed arrangement. 

Service on both ships was outstanding with exceptional cruise directors and hotel managers. Dining was similar, but not outstanding. The speciality restaurant on AMACERTO represented a nice diversion. The excursion program on AMA was a better deal, since almost every tour was included. The amount of nightly entertainment on both ships was a pleasant surprise. 

Both were physically beautiful ships, well maintained, and more modern in d├ęcor than some of the older ships in both fleets. In the final analysis, I would have to say it is a toss-up - you can’t really go wrong with either one.

See more about Stern's Guide to the Cruise Vacation on this link.