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After 20 ocean cruises, this was my first river cruise. The two experiences cannot be compared. On an ocean cruise, your main destination is often the ship itself, which is a floating entertainment district. On a river cruise, the boat is a floating restaurant/hotel which takes you to destinations. You spend little time on the actual vessel. With only 160 passengers, boarding and disembarking are extremely simple and fast. We only needed to pick up our boarding passes for our rooms, which are kept in slots at the front desk like old-fashioned keys at a hotel, and walk off the ship to our tour guides and busses. Returning to the ship required just handing back the boarding passes. Ship personnel could easily see who was on or off the ship by looking at the contents of the slots. There was nothing electronic about this process. While we did have some free time in port (usually about an hour after our scheduled tour with a guide), we were kept quite busy. Most days consisted of rising early, attending the morning stretching class if you were so-inclined, eating breakfast, and leaving on your morning excursion. We would be back for lunch, then left again for our afternoon excursion. At 6 pm, there would be a happy hour in the lounge with specially-priced drinks. At 6:45, the cruise director would give a port talk about what to expect the next day. At 7, we went down to the dining room and all ate a four course dinner together. Seats were not assigned, so you could decide to sit with different people every time. After dinner, there would be some kind of entertainment in the lounge, usually consisting of a game. We only went once, on the first night, to see some local people perform traditional dances. Food was good. I would say it was better and fresher than on ocean cruises because we were not being served week-old bread that had been out to sea as long as we had been. Breakfast and lunch were buffets. Dinner gave us three choices of entrees, consisting of meat, fish, or vegetarian dishes. They did a pretty good job of accommodating my travel companion’s gluten-free needs. This cruise would not be suitable for most younger people. The music played by the keyboard player in the lounge would not be exciting in an elevator. Half the bus could be found snoring in the seats returning from our outings. No one stayed up past 10 pm. That said, I would definitely go on this cruise again, and plan to go on future river cruises.

Tulip River Cruise

Monarch Empress Cruise Review by theodoru

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Trip Details
After 20 ocean cruises, this was my first river cruise. The two experiences cannot be compared. On an ocean cruise, your main destination is often the ship itself, which is a floating entertainment district. On a river cruise, the boat is a floating restaurant/hotel which takes you to destinations. You spend little time on the actual vessel.

With only 160 passengers, boarding and disembarking are extremely simple and fast. We only needed to pick up our boarding passes for our rooms, which are kept in slots at the front desk like old-fashioned keys at a hotel, and walk off the ship to our tour guides and busses. Returning to the ship required just handing back the boarding passes. Ship personnel could easily see who was on or off the ship by looking at the contents of the slots. There was nothing electronic about this process.

While we did have some free time in port (usually about an hour after our scheduled tour with a guide), we were kept quite busy. Most days consisted of rising early, attending the morning stretching class if you were so-inclined, eating breakfast, and leaving on your morning excursion. We would be back for lunch, then left again for our afternoon excursion. At 6 pm, there would be a happy hour in the lounge with specially-priced drinks. At 6:45, the cruise director would give a port talk about what to expect the next day. At 7, we went down to the dining room and all ate a four course dinner together. Seats were not assigned, so you could decide to sit with different people every time. After dinner, there would be some kind of entertainment in the lounge, usually consisting of a game. We only went once, on the first night, to see some local people perform traditional dances.

Food was good. I would say it was better and fresher than on ocean cruises because we were not being served week-old bread that had been out to sea as long as we had been. Breakfast and lunch were buffets. Dinner gave us three choices of entrees, consisting of meat, fish, or vegetarian dishes. They did a pretty good job of accommodating my travel companion’s gluten-free needs.

This cruise would not be suitable for most younger people. The music played by the keyboard player in the lounge would not be exciting in an elevator. Half the bus could be found snoring in the seats returning from our outings. No one stayed up past 10 pm. That said, I would definitely go on this cruise again, and plan to go on future river cruises.
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Cabin Review

Cabin 110
The room was just big enough to hold two twin beds, but it was very functional and had plenty of storage space for our clothes. Everyone remarked about the wonderfully-designed bathrooms. You could open and close the shower door without having to read an instructional manual first. The ventilation system did such a good job of clearing out the moisture that you never had steamed-up mirrors after a shower. There was a lighted, magnifying mirror attached to the wall. You could turn on a night light under the cabinet in the evening so the you did not need to turn on the full light in the middle of the night. We had one of the lower level cabins with a window at the top through which you could see if you stood up. The river was just under the window, making our room technically below the water. I have to admit that I have never been so close to the water on a cruise that you could actually hear it through the wall.

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews