Our resident researcher Tamera Trexler has compiled 2020 pricing comparisons for the Rhine River. Her comparisons are thorough and extremely detailed, and they derive true per diems that allow readers to determine how much they will actually spend on their Rhine river cruises once all items are factored in – port charges, gratuities and other expenses that are not always included in the initial cost of a river cruise.
This post sets out to answer the following questions: What is the average cost of a Rhine river cruise? How can I save on a Rhine river cruise? Should I make my decision about which company to cruise the Rhine based on the lowest per diem? What’s the best value for a Rhine river cruise?
Rhine River Cruise Prices Ranges & Averages
Prices on the Rhine for 2020 range from a low of $325 per person a day (Viking’s June 27, 2020 sailing) to a high of $784 per person per day on Tauck. The average per diem of a 2020 Rhine river cruise for the dates we researched is $519 per person. AmaWaterways and Tauck are above that average. Avalon, CroisiEurope, Emerald, Riviera, Scenic, Uniworld, and Viking fall below the average price.
For the 2020 Rhine river cruise shoulder season, rates range from $223 per person per day on Viking to $784 per person per day on Tauck. The average shoulder season rate across all nine river cruise companies is $494, with AmaWaterways, Avalon, Crystal, Tauck, and Uniworld coming in above the average, and CroisiEurope, Emerald, Riviera, Scenic, and Viking below the average per diem.
In most cases, you should expect to pay a little more than $1,000 per stateroom, double occupancy, for each day of your cruise (excluding disembarkation day) during peak season, and a little less than $1,000 per stateroom for each day of your cruise during shoulder season.
Those numbers, however, don’t tell the whole story. Upgrading to a balcony, for example, skews the per diems. Rates for balcony staterooms range from $365 (CroisiEurope) to $1,200 (Scenic) per person for the duration of your Rhine river cruise. Worth it? Yes, if you have the discretionary income. We’ve enjoyed waking up in the mornings and stepping out on our balcony (or sliding open the doors of a French balcony) to admire the river. We’re sure you’d enjoy the convenience of a balcony too.
If the upgrade to a balcony stateroom does not break your budget, then we emphatically recommend going for it. Remember, you are buying an experience, and you want that experience to be as good as it can possibly be. This is not the time to be a parsimonious river cruise passenger. Splurge. You’re paying for your experience, after all.
How To Save On A Rhine River Cruise
If a balcony would break your budget, then by all means, opt instead for a fixed-window stateroom. You can leave the stateroom and go to the top deck for your “balcony” experience. It’s not quite as convenient as having a balcony right beside your bed, but if your budget is tight, go for the entry-level stateroom.
An entry-level stateroom will save you money. Another way to save: Choose a cruise outside of peak season. Shoulder season cruises on the Rhine during 2020 are considerably less pricey than peak season cruises. Of course, this stands to reason, as pricing is based on supply and demand, and typically there is more demand during the peak season. The exceptions to lower shoulder season rates are Avalon, Crystal and Uniworld, where the shoulder season rate is a tad higher than the peak season rate.
With all other cruise companies the shoulder season savings are significant when compared to summer sailings. On its June 27, 2020 departure, for example, Viking River Cruises’ seven-night Rhine Getaway itinerary will cost you $325 per person per day in a 150-square-foot fixed window stateroom, but only $223 per person per day for the same stateroom on November 10, 2020. That’s a savings of more than $200 per day per couple if you are willing to cruise in the late fall.
Other ways to save: Take advantage of promotions. They happen frequently and they can convey a significant savings, especially if the offer is an air credit or a deep discount. River cruise promotions are a moving target, and while we do our best to let you know about special offers, keeping up with them is more than our small team can manage. We recommend that you work with a travel agent. Travel agents can tell you about all of the promotions instead of you having to go to each river cruise company website to look for them yourself.
Moreover, you will often get equal or better rates from a travel agent, plus possible perks that you may not receive by going direct to the cruise line. That equation could change, however, if your travel agent charges a fee. There are plenty of travel agents who do not charge a fee. They are compensated with commission payments from the cruise companies. What this means is that the cruise company pays the travel agent, not you. What’s the catch? There isn’t one. The cruise will not cost you more from a travel agent than it does from a cruise company. If it does, let us know. Something’s wrong.
Shouldn’t I Just Go With The Lowest Per Diem?
The old adage is at least partially true: You get what you pay for. With river cruising, that isn’t always the case, because all of the cruise companies, with few exceptions, offer good accommodations, complimentary excursions, included wine and beer with lunch and dinner, and much more. Some cruise companies go above and beyond, however, and this is reflected in their higher per diems, so, in effect, you are getting what you pay for.
What do those cruise companies do that is above and beyond? One example is AmaWaterways, which spends millions of dollars a year to provide its guests with fast free internet, not an easy task on a moving ship. In our experience, AmaWaterways has the most reliable internet – and the fastest – on the rivers. AmaWaterways also proclaims to offer the most active experiences of any river cruise line. The company provides bikes, gyms, yoga classes, hikes and more. Scenic, on the other hand, strives to be the most inclusive of all river cruise companies. Not only are gratuities and 24/7 bar included, but also laundry service and nearly everything else you can think of. Scenic also distinguishes itself with multiple dining venues, and it too carries a fleet of bikes on its ships.
Even companies with lower per diems excel in certain areas. Viking’s value proposition is what the company refers to as “affordable luxury.” To give you just one example of what Viking means by “affordable luxury,” the bathroom floors in your stateroom are heated. You won’t find bikes on Viking, but there are bicycling excursions (the bikes are simply stored ashore). CroisiEurope’s all-inclusive cruises impress us with their French flair, inventive itineraries and innovative ships, including paddle-wheelers that can operate on the Elbe and Loire. Plus, CroisiEurope is French, which has some cachet when cruising the Rhine.
Which Company Is The Best Value For A Rhine River Cruise?
Let’s break it down by the cost of a Rhine river cruise cruise on a daily basis per square foot of stateroom. Why? Well, why not? It gives us a place to start the discussion. At first glance, Viking’s 150-square-foot entry level staterooms on peak season Rhine river cruises arguably offer the best value, at $2.17 per square foot. During shoulder season, however, that same stateroom is only $1.49 per square foot.
It’s a bit of an absurd suggestion. After all, I’m doubtful that you’re going to be standing in your room thinking that this square foot cost me a bit more than $2 today ($4, including the spouse). It goes to illustrate, however, that choosing a river cruise can be challenging because of such factors, as well as the number of rivers in Europe and the number of river cruise companies operating on those rivers.
Even on a single river, such as the Rhine, river cruising is full of complexities. Each river cruise company has its own style, and each has its own set of inclusives, which can make comparing companies difficult. It’s not like choosing a hotel, where all you get is a room, and possibly breakfast. With river cruising, you’re evaluating a number of variables, including room sizes, itineraries, excursions, costs and what’s included – and equally as important, what’s not.
The complexities are amplified for single travelers and for those at the other end of the spectrum, family travelers. Think you can cruise with your kids? Think again. Viking doesn’t allow them under age 18. Others have age-restricted policies as well. And traveling single? It’s not like a hotel room where you pay the same rate no matter if there are one or two in the room. River cruise companies impose single supplements, which are typically 200 percent of the cost of the cruise. That is to say that if you are occupying a stateroom by yourself you may as well find a friend to travel along with you, because you’re going to pay what two would pay anyway. River cruise companies sometimes waive single supplements or reduce them, but single supplements are just one more of the variables that make river cruising a complex buy.
That’s a long way of saying that there is no best value in river cruising. There is only a best value for you. Do your research and if you get lost, feel free to complete by Get My Recommendations form.