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First things first!!!! Before you pick a line or a room type, you need to decide on the itinerary. Not all lines do all itineraries. There are only two that I know that are in Portugal, also two on the Elbe. Many do the Nile, the Rhine, Rhone, Seine and Danube. Then comes what is offered for the cost, then the amount you want to spend, then the best cabin for your budget. Each line is unique in most offerings. Some include tours, wine and beer at dinner, some have bikes. No one can tell you the perfect line for you. Many of us fall in love with the first line we choose and never deviate. Some like us really study what is offered and go with that line. We have traveled with Uniworld, Vantage and Viking with an AMA trip this fall. Next summer we have an alumni trip with Amadeus. My only drawback with GCT and Vantage is that only US citizens are on board--not the cosmipolitan mix on the others. Good luck finding just the right trip. Pat
I agree with Pacmom ... when we were choosing our first river cruise last year, I looked at all of the cruise lines ... looking at their tour, the cities we would visit, the amount of time on the ship, etc.
We chose Avalon for that cruise because the dates and itinerary suited us best. But we would have been happy with either AMA or Uniworld, as their offerings were similar.
Choose what you want to see and where you want to go. Look carefully at the stops and the dates that the trip is offered. If free-flowing wine is important to you, then Avalon, AMA and Uniworld are your better choices. What kind of bed do you want? Check out the layout of each room and bed types ...
From what I have read here, I don't think that you will be disappointed with any of the lines.
Avalon Artistry: Magnificent Europe 4/26/08 - 5/11/08
Avalon Affinity: Windmills, Vineyards and Paris 5/10/09 - 5/24/09
Avalon Creativity: Paris to Normandy Battlefields 4/13/10 - 4/20/10
Avalon Scenery: Burgundy & Provence 4/20/10 - 4/27/10
Avalon Imagery: Blue Danube to the Black Sea 4/1/12 - 4/16/12
Avalon Expression: Magnificent Europe (Budapest to Amsterrdam) 7/3/13 - 7/17/13
I agree that the most important thing to consider are the destinations. After that look for comments about the plumbing and the food on board (ship/boat). The cabin, common spaces, and entertainment are not that important on a river cruise.
If all of the above looks the same, try and determine how happy people were with the service, professionalism and competence of the staff. The prices really aren't that much different. Your travel agent would know if the Cruise Line is in a financial bind and cutting corners.