Q – Thank you for your informative site. Very much appreciated.
Background: My wife and I are interested in an Eastern European river boat cruise next year for our 35th anniversary, ideally in September or October 2016. We’ve been on one cruise (Princess Alaska cruise w/Denali) and I would not say we’re “cruise types.” But having traveled extensively this summer through multiple countries – in and out of Airbnb homes, on trains/off trains, bus rides, occasional hotels, etc. – the idea of one bed for ~10 – 14 days and the opportunity to visit several smaller towns and cities sounds great.
Dilemma: Viking has 2 for 1 sales through August (Passage to Eastern Europe), Tauck has something similar, AMA, too, but some have a land portion, and some cruise lines include items that others don’t. We aren’t that price conscious, but, aren’t snobs about food, service, or amenities, either; pretty relaxed travelers who could manage independently in ports and/or go with the flow, too. Any recommendations would be very much appreciated.
A – Forget about two-for-ones. It is best to figure the per person cost without air or insurance for a French balcony cabin. Take the total price and divide by the number of nights aboard the boat to get a per diem. Always use this technique and you will never be duped by clever marketing discounts that turn out to be misleading at best.
You are well traveled, a mainstream traveler, and you really are independent. You will have to pay for basic shore excursions as all of the better lines include them. For value and the level of quality you are seeking, we would recommend that you look first at Avalon. The company is operated by a low cost mega tour operator, Globus, and you will feel that you are receiving good value. It is not an inclusive line.