Tauck has been named the “World’s Best River Cruise Line” by Travel + Leisure magazine! Tauck river cruises are crafted and choreographed to be complete destination experiences, and capturing this award is particularly gratifying because the river cruise category was judged on six different criteria, including service, value, itineraries/destinations, activities, cabins and dining
Cruise Passenger Bill of Rights
With the onslaught of negative news about mishaps with cruise ships, significant attention has been directed at how passengers have been treated when these events occur. Certainly, some of the cruise lines stumbled badly in response to these incidents and gave the industry a black eye (and bloody nose) in my opinion. The Cruise Line Industry Association, the representative organization for all the major cruise lines recently adopted a CRUISE PASSENGER BILL OF RIGHTS to ensure future incidents are handled much better and passengers are assured they will be taken care of properly. I want to assure you the cruise industry is working hard to ensure peoples vacations are not disrupted or ruined. If an incident does happen, the future response will be much better than it has been in the past.
A U.S.-flagged riverboat, the American Empress measures 360 ft. with five towering decks and accommodates 223 guests in seven stateroom categories and will have 97 crewmembers. The American Empress will sail the Columbia River and Snake River, offering seven-day voyages between Portland, Ore. and Clarkston, Wash. Ports of call include Astoria, Wash.; Stevenson, Wash.; The Dalles, Ore.; Umatilla, Ore.; and Richland, Wash.
American Empress is set to enter service in April 2014 and will offer cruises through November. It will sail seven-day voyages between Portland, Ore., and Clarkston, Wash., on the Columbia and Snake rivers. Ports of call include Astoria, Richland and Stevenson, Wash.; and The Dalles and Umatilla, Ore. The eight-day program will include a pre-cruise hotel night. Sailings have already been entered into the American Queen Steamboat system and are available for booking effective May 22. A new brochure is being published for all American Queen Steamboat itineraries and will be sent to travel agents and past customers in early June. Over the next several months, American Queen Steamboat will completely refurbish the ship and bring it up to the standards of its existing American Queen boat and work to staff the ship with existing crew members from American Queen and other staff hired from the Pacific Northwest. Cabin configurations will be changed and the total number of cabins will be reduced to 112 outside accommodations.
Passengers will have the opportunity to visit three National Treasures sites on their cruise: the Mississippi Delta Heritage area, Willamette Falls in Oregon and the Manhattan Project in Hanford, Wash.
River cruise checklist: Weather and water levels
Absent such skills, however, one thing river cruise sellers can (and probably should) do is check how recent weather has affected water levels on rivers their clients are soon to be traveling on.
As worldwide weather patterns become increasingly erratic, sudden dry spells or, conversely, unforeseen heavy rains can have a significant impact on river cruise itineraries. As with the Mississippi River last year, a drought can limit vessels’ ability to pass through certain stretches if water levels are too low.
And if a river is subject to severe rains, the higher water levels can make it impossible for ships to pass under bridges or make the rivers unsafe to travel on, as was recently the case on the Douro River in Portugal.
Having been on the Douro in early April during a period of higher-than-average water levels that prevented river cruise vessels from sailing for a short period, one thing passengers repeatedly expressed was that prior to that experience, checking the river’s water levels was not something they would have necessarily thought to do before leaving for a river cruise. A lot of passengers just assumed that rivers are pretty reliable.
Enter the travel seller, who can help monitor those water levels. And the easiest way to do so is to simply research local news articles (as well as Travel Weekly, though we admittedly don’t catch every single rise and fall of the world’s inland waterways) about the rivers or regions the river cruise will be on/in.
If regional weather patterns look like they might affect water levels, then the next step is to simply ask the river cruise line point blank whether the itinerary will proceed as planned. The challenge, of course, is that oftentimes even the river cruise companies themselves don't know whether there will be changes up until the last minute. It’s in everyone’s interests for the sailings to go as planned, and so they will often try to hold off on any premature cancellations or itinerary alterations. But it doesn’t hurt to ask, several times if necessary.