The so-called budget lines are generally proud of their position, offering high-value holidays in a market which is often priced at the luxury end.
Increasingly savvy river cruisers are finding they are spoilt for choice, as more lines turn to value as their main selling proposition.
Not all river cruise lines who offer the best prices call themselves budget lines. CroisiEurope and Teeming River Cruises are the biggest players in the budget river cruise category, but we found that ‘five-star’ Riviera Travel also offer itineraries at similar prices.
So how do they compare? We looked at the experience on board each line, what they include for each sailing, where they sail. We then compared their prices for their week-long sailings on the Rhine.
Each line has its strengths. On CroisiEurope, a French line popular with that country’s cruisers, is the only budget line that offers complimentary beer and wine at meals and at the open bar. While the other two lines offer drink packages to guests as optional add ons.
For shore excursions, Riviera Travel has a guided tour at each port, while Teeming River Cruises has a CityWalking Tour App for a self-guided City Walking Tour in most ports. Meanwhile, CroisiEurope offer all shore excursions as optional add ons.
The three lines also offer rather different river cruise itineraries.
CroisiEurope’s large fleet extends to the more remote rivers of Europe. They also offer many short itineraries from just only four days. Riviera Travel also has a selection of short itineraries along with many week-long options. The line also has exclusive departures for solo travellers. While Teeming River Cruise has a smaller selection of itineraries and departures among the lines, they are often offered at unbeatable value.
See below to see what each line offers and find out which is the budget river line for you.
Who are they
CroisiEurope is a French, family-run company with one of the largest river cruise fleet in Europe. The line says that they are able to offer best value fares because they manage all parts of operation in-house. Passengers tend to be of European origin, with the majority of them being French.
Teeming River Cruises
Teeming River Cruises keep their prices affordable by stripping down the river cruise experience to its essence. The line was started by an American couple who believed river cruising could be no-frills and would then open up the experience to a much wider audience. Instead of expensive group tour buses and guides, they provide a customised walking tour app. They also make common inclusions like drinks optional add-ons and require guests to arrange their own transfers. Many guests on board are Americans.
The line calls itself ‘five-star luxury without an outrageous price tag’. Guests will find that everything they need is included but they also have the freedom to choose whether they want certain things included. Riviera Travel started as a British line and the majority of passengers on board remain British.
Meals: All meals on board, featuring plenty of French cuisine, Gala dinner and evening as well as a welcome cocktail
Drinks: Complimentary beer and wine at lunch and dinner and open bar throughout the voyage (not including champagne, special wines or fine brandies)
Wi-Fi: Free Wi-Fi is available on all our boats in the lounges and the reception
Excursions: Shore excursions are not included but guests are given the option to buy them in a package or a la carte at each port.
Gratuities: Tipping onboard CroisiEurope is entirely at your own discretion.
Extras: Onboard entertainment, port taxes
Teeming River Cruises
Meals: All meals, welcome and farewell reception and dinner
Drinks: There is complimentary coffee and tea. Guests have the option to purchase drinks by the glass or purchase the two drink packages they offer.
The Basic Drink Package is $15 per day for house wine, beer (draft beer only), and sodas for lunch and dinner in the restaurant. The package does not include drinks in the ship’s lounge.
The Premium Drink Package is $25 per day and includes house wine, beer (draft beer only), soft drinks, juices, bottles of mineral water (sparkling and still) and long drinks (house whiskey, gin and vodka). This package is available all day.
Wi-Fi: Complimentary Wi-Fi (Wi-Fi will not support large photos, videos, streaming movies, etc. It is only good enough for texting and emails of minimal size)
Excursions: Shore excursions are not included in cruise fare. They may be purchased for an additional cost. There is also a complimentary CityWalking Tour App for a self-guided City Walking Tour in most ports.
Gratuities: Tipping for the Cruise Director, and ship crew is already included in your checkout price. Guests are able to leave additional tips (euro only) for the Ship Crew or Cruise Director at the conclusion of their cruise if they choose to do so. It is customary to give cruise gratuities, subject to your satisfaction with the services rendered. Gratuities for your Local Hosts, Local Guides and Driver are not included in the cruise price and are discretionary.
Extras: Port taxes and fees
Meals: All meals on board from dinner on your day of arrival through to breakfast on your day of departure, including a welcome dinner and the Captain’s Dinner
Drinks: There are complimentary coffee and tea. Guests have the option to purchase drinks by the glass or purchase the drink package they offer.
The drink package includes draught beer; non-alcoholic beer; soft drinks; juices; red, white and rosé house wines; and wine recommendations from the menu by the glass. Prices depending on cruise length. The five-day cruise package starting at $129 per person (prices from $25 per person).
Wi-Fi: Complimentary on-board Wi-Fi (connection speeds may vary)
Excursions: One included guided tour at each port.
Gratuities: Tipping is at your own discretion
Extras: Live classical quartet recital on board, Port taxes and fees
The line sails a wide range of rivers, including the major rivers and less visited rivers like the Elbe, Oder and Havel in Northern Europe, the Sava and Tisza in Central Europe, Venice and the Guadalquivir and Guadiana in Southern Europe. In France, they also have itineraries that visit Garonne, Gironde and Dordogne.
Another highlight of their itineraries is that they offer short river cruise itineraries, starting from only four on the Rhine or five days on the Danube.
Teeming River Cruises
The line has a smaller selection of itineraries and departures compared to the other two lines but, it still features many of Europe’s most popular rivers: the Danube, Douro, Main, Moselle, Rhine, Rhone, Seine and the Po river. Their itineraries are also mostly of the standard length, from around eight-days to 15-days in length. On the Rhine however, the line has a six-day sailing which is just the second segment of their full Fall European Tour.
Riviera Travel has itineraries and multiple departures in many of Europe’s major rivers. The line offers plenty of eight-day itineraries but they also have itineraries starting just from five-days. There are also 11-day itineraries featuring a river cruise with a land extension to 15-day itineraries that sails the full Budapest to the Black Sea route. A highlight of the line’s itineraries is the exclusive departures for solo travellers. There are no single supplements for those exclusive sailings but they are prices around 25 per cent more than regular double occupancy sailings.
The itinerary sails on the Leonard de Vinci and departs Strasbourg on multiple departures from April to October. The sailing visits Mannheim, Heidelberg, Mainz, Frankfurt, Rudesheim, Koblenz, Cochem, Trier, Saarburg, Remich and Luxembourg. Sail from $2,339pp.
Four-day ‘Christmas markets in Alsace‘ Strasbourg roundtrip from $654pp only. Multiple sailings depart from November to December 2020.
Teeming River Cruises
Nine-day ‘Rhine & Moselle Delights’
The nine-day itinerary on the Royal Crown departs Cologne to visit Cochem, Bernkastel, Traben Trarbach, Zell, Boppard, Rudesheim, Speyer before arriving in Mainz. The July 20, 2020 sailing starts from $2,717pp.
Eight-day ‘Rhine, Strasbourg & Heidelberg‘
The Cologne roundtrip itinerary visits Koblenz, Boppard, Mainz, Heidelberg, Strasbourg, Colmar and Rudesheim. The itinerary has multiple departures from June to October 2020, prices from $3,589pp.
Five-day ‘Enchanting Rhine & Yultide Markets’ Cologne roundtrip river cruise from $1069pp only. Multiple departures in December 2020.