Berlitz River Cruising in Europe 2016–17 reveals star performers

In a 50-year career Douglas Ward has earned a reputation as an honest and meticulous evaluator of cruise shipsNavigate the peaks and pitfalls of freshwater cruising with the new guide, Berlitz River Cruising in Europe 2016–17 (£14.99), which publishes this month (7 May 2016).

Written by Douglas Ward, the renowned cruising critic who pioneered extensive evaluation and rating systems on cruise ships, the book profiles 310 European vessels and gives independent advice on regions, routes and riverships. Awarded the highest rating for the overall experience in this latest edition are three 4-star Plus vessels from AmaWaterways (AmaPrima, AmaReina and AmaSerena), which do particularly well for cuisine and service.

For the first time and at no extra cost, readers will receive both the eBook and app versions too when buying a copy of the book – a real bonus for lightweight travellers. Also new to this second edition, for the delight of culture vultures, are the French rivers of the Dordogne, Garonne, Gironde and Loire.

It is possible to circumnavigate a forest of brochures with this 280-page independent guide, which has been updated and expanded to meet the huge popularity of river cruising. The 2016–2017 edition of this guide, which is seen as the bible of river cruising, contains descriptions of the river cruise companies, detailed rivership information, and colour photographs of all the vessels.

The watertight ratings and candid reviews of all the major river cruise companies that operate in the heart of Europe are invaluable for both river cruise novices and converts alike, as well as those in the travel industry.

Following painstaking research by Douglas Ward, each rivership has been allocated a Berlitz score and a star rating according to standards of service, cuisine, accommodation and hardware. Commenting on this year’s rankings, Ward says: “No rivership has yet reached the sought after 5-star rating, although as a cruise provider, AmaWaterways does stand out, particularly for service, cuisine and hardware (the ship’s condition). And Viking has come out on top as far as accommodation design is concerned, though Scenic and Emerald are not far behind.”

In the rivership version of the Oscars, the top scoring riverships (out of a maximum 500 points) in the Berlitz star categories are:

4-star Plus: jointly AmaPrima, AmaReina and AmaSerena (423 points)
4-star: jointly Emerald Dawn and Emerald Sun (398 points)
3-star Plus: jointly Antonio Bellucci, Ariana, A-Rosa Flora, A-Rosa Silva and A-Rosa Viva (348 points)
3-star: jointly DCS Amethyst, Dertour Amadeus, L’Europe, River Aria, River Concerto, Sans Souci, Switzerland II and Vivaldi (298 points)
2-star Plus: jointly Florentina and Olympia (248 points)
2-star: jointly Invicta, Rotterdam and Virginia (198 points)

In the various categories the following riverships rate best for:

Service: jointly AmaPrima, AmaReina and AmaSerena
Cuisine: jointly AmaPrima, AmaReina, AmaSerena, AmaSonata, AmaVida and AmaVerde
Accommodation: jointly Viking Skirmir, Viking Tor, Viking Var, Viking Ve, Viking Vidar and Viking Vili
Hardware: jointly AmaPrima, AmaReina, AmaSerena, AmaSonata, AmaVenita and AmaVida.

From family-friendly riverships to those more suited to floating gourmets, the guide provides expert recommendations and detailed maps to help choose between routes, whether it be for riverbank vineyards and port wine on the Douro or the peace and quiet of the Mosel. Ward concentrates on the cruises that can be purchased through specialist travel agents and tour operators, and on 11 key rivers in Europe: the Danube, Rhine, Elbe, Rhone, Seine, Loire, Po and Douro as well as those in the Bordeaux region, with a rundown of the best sights along those waterways.

Ward warns potential cruise goers, “With European rivers, cruise goers tend to choose their cruise by destination and river, and then consider the company and the rivership afterwards. Although there is less to differentiate between river-going vessels when compared with ocean-going cruise ships, choosing your ship can be a make or break decision when it comes to holiday enjoyment. Among the biggest bones of contention for passengers is comfort. Other complaints stem from the fact that docking places tend to be so busy that riverships tie up alongside one another, resulting in a poor view and little privacy in the cabins, unless the curtains are drawn.”

Among the topics and highlights covered in the book:

Lifting the lid on what the dining experience is really like
Booking and budgeting – any hidden extras?
What to do if…
10 good reasons to take a river cruise
What the brochures don’t say
Dream getaway or a claustrophobic holiday nightmare – the pros and cons of river cruising
A day in the life of a rivership
A guide to the main river cruise ports and routes of Europe, with maps and top sights
Barge cruising – the essentials of life in the really slow lane.

Considered the world’s foremost authority on cruising, having spent almost 50 years working in the cruise industry, Douglas Ward travels up to 200 days each year aboard the world’s ocean-going cruise ships and riverships and is the author of the best-selling, annual Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships.

The second edition of Berlitz: River Cruising in Europe 2016–17 (published 7th May 2016, 280 pages, £14.99) is available from all good bookshops or at .