You’ve found the perfect river cruise itinerary and now you’re ready to book. But how much do you need to pay up-front?
PLEASE SEE OUR UPDATED POST: Deposit Policies Across Major European River Cruise Lines
Every river cruise line has policies in place that govern what kind of deposit — or down payment — you’ll need in order to secure your reservation, and when the balance of your cruise fare is due. While the vast majority of lines require payment in full no less than 90 days prior to departure, a few extend this window to 60 days.
Where there is no consistency, however, is how much money you’ll have to dole out up-front in order to make your booking. While these numbers shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who has cruised before, the difference in required deposit amounts between cruise lines can add up to some major coin.
Here’s how some of the most popular river cruise lines handle deposits and final payments:
AmaWaterways: A deposit of $400 per person is required within seven days of making the initial reservation, or within three days for voyages departing in 90 days or less. Final payment is due no less than 90 days prior, or within one business day for voyages departing in less than 90 days.
A-ROSA: A total of 20 percent of the cost of the cruise is due within seven days of booking; three days for voyages under 90 days out. Along with Tauck, A-ROSA allows guests to make their final payments 60 days out. Reservations made less than 60 days until departure require full payment within 24 hours of booking.
Avalon Waterways: Avalon requires a non-refundable, non-transferable deposit of $250 per person when reserving a cruise. This may be required that day, or within a few days of making the initial booking, depending on the departure date. Final payment is due 90 days before sailing.
Scenic Tours: Non-refundable deposits vary depending on river cruise itinerary and length, and are due within seven days of making the booking. The balance is due no less than 90 days before sailing, and immediately for bookings made less than 90 days prior to departure.
Tauck: Tauck is one of the few lines to buck the 90-day-out final payment window, with the tour operator requiring final payments no less than 60 days prior to departure. A $600 per person deposit is due for the line’s river cruise itineraries at the time of booking.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruises: The line’s Terms and Conditions require a deposit of $200 per person is required at the time of booking. Final payment is due at least 90 days prior to departure.
Viking River Cruises: $500 per person due at time of booking; remainder of cruise price due 90 days before departure. If bookings are made less than 90 days prior to departure, full payment is required at the time of booking. The line also notes in Viking’s Terms and Conditions that special promotions may have different payment terms.
As with any major cruise and tour operator, the penalties for non-payment by the required date are as swift as they are severe: Unpaid bookings are typically cancelled immediately, with no refunds. This is particularly important if you make your booking through a travel agent; don’t wait until the 11th hour to make your final payment, because the cruise is only considered to be paid in full once that money reaches the cruise line, and not when you pay your travel agent!
Whenever I pay for a cruise (note that as journalists, we are often invited on cruises via press trips), I always schedule a reminder for myself two to three weeks beforehand that my final payment is coming up.
As for deposits, well, look at it this way: a $600 per person deposit means you just put $1,200 toward the total cost of your river cruise. A $200 deposit means you’re only $400 into paying for your voyage.
So don’t make the price of the deposit your deciding factor when choosing a river cruise; always pick the line that is right for you.