River cruise vacation: What to expect on a Vantage Travel river cruise

You only unpack once. You never have to plan, drive, or navigate in a foreign country. You wake up in a new city each day. All your meals are inclusive.

If this sounds like a dream, you haven’t tried a European river cruise! Whether you embark on a river cruise as a couples’ getaway (highly recommended!) or with older kids or teens, we have a full review of what you can expect on a VantageTravel.com river cruise vacation.

Vantage Travel river cruise vacation: what to expect onboard and off!

I recently experienced Vantage Travel’s Heart of Germany trip, which was eight days of luxury travel on the River Splendor. This ship sleeps 176 passengers, and felt cozy but not crowded during my sailing with approximately 110 passengers on board. We flew into Frankfurt, Germany and flew out of Munich, Germany, exploring seven ports through Bavaria along the journey.

The River Splendor navigated three rivers during our trip: the Rhine, Main, and Danube, and each day, we either docked directly in each town, able to walk off the ship and into a storybook village, or within a 1-1.5 hour bus ride from our day’s destination. Obviously, I preferred the former, but during approximately half the trip, the latter proved necessary.

We embarked in Mainz, Germany, and quickly settled into a comfortable routine: each evening before dinner, our capable cruise director, Renata Lovrovic, would brief us on the following day’s planned itinerary, which we could opt into or out of. (Should you wish to explore the port of call on your own, ship departure times were clearly announced.) Cocktail hour would follow in the lounge, with the evening capped by a four-course dinner. While the menu is upscale American with only a few local specialties, basic dishes and a healthy option are always available, such as grilled chicken or salmon. Breakfast is also a buffet, and an early riser’s breakfast allows even greater flexibility. By the time we retired to our stateroom each evening, a full written itinerary for the following day awaited us on our pillows.

Deluxe stateroom, photo courtesy of Erika Balbier

Throughout the cruise, we also had full access to a concierge, a massage therapist, and a 24-hour reception desk. Our bottom deck stateroom was decidedly cozy, but we had all the space we needed with impressive storage solutions for our luggage and clothes. (Staterooms sleep two, so families would need to upgrade to a suite or book two or more rooms.) The bathroom was downright roomy, and while I had worried that our two small windows wouldn’t let in enough light, we found the space to never feel gloomy. Nor did we ever feel seasick on the gentle Rhine, Main, and Danube rivers.

Our journey took us from Mainz to Regensburg. Each convergence of the rivers brought new ports and vistas, new foods to try, and new local city experts to guide us. Cultural activities on-board, such as German language lessons, cooking classes, and lectures were on offer almost daily, though we often ran out of time to enjoy them all. 

Cruising the Rhine.

Dining each evening is open seating, so we met new friends on-board who brightened our evening social life, often lingering over wine or aperitifs after our plates were cleared. Housekeeping is twice daily plus a turndown service, and each server in the dining room and lounge was courteous and well-trained.

What Vantage offers families who want to combine luxury with relaxation:

While the typical clientele of a Vantage river cruise skews older, families and grandparents with older kids and teens will find plenty to keep busy and engaged. Excursions off the ship occur every single day, and as stated above, parents and grandparents can opt-out with their kids at will, but trust me, you’ll want to stick around to learn with the group on most occasions.

Views from on board.

Teens tend to congregate in the Captain’s Club, the window-filled space at the stern where meals are served buffet style (and alfresco in nice weather). Vantage crew members put out games and electronics in this space when kids are on-board, and the complimentary espresso machine serves up hot chocolate and coffee drinks at any time of day. 

Free WiFi is offered the ship throughout the cruise, and while I brought a hot spot to ensure connectivity for work, I never needed it onboard the River Splendor. Connection was swift and reliable, so teens can stay connected via text, email and WhatsApp with family at home, friends, and new friends they meet on the cruise.

Ship library space.

The library adjacent to the lounge houses cards, board games and books, making for a nice retreat, and the sundeck at the top level is perfect for active teens who want to make use of the small track in nice weather (though there’s also a small exercise room onboard). Complimentary bike use is available in most ports (and the bikes sail along with you on the deck of the River Splendor).

Bikes on board.

While river cruising is known to be relaxing (think lazy afternoons spotting castles while enjoying high tea and navigating locks while enjoying a glass of wine), VantageTravel.com focuses on the cultural connection just as ardently. Every single day brought a different walking tour, cathedral or castle visit, and opportunity for local dining and shopping.

What’s included in the river cruise vacation cost:

Nearly everything! Here’s what’s included:

  • Almost all excursions, all city guides and regional experts.
  • All bus transfers, including to and from the airport.
  • Almost every meal (only a couple meals in towns are not included)
  • House wine and beer (free-flowing) at every dinner.
  • Cocktail demonstration nightly.
  • WiFi onboard.
  • Bike and e-bike lending program.
  • 24-hour access to coffee, espresso, and tea.
  • Museum entry and tour entry for all planned excursions.
Lounge bar.

What you’ll pay a la carte for:

  • Top-shelf wine and liquor at dinner, plus apres-dinner drinks.
  • Cocktails, wine and beer during cocktail hour in the lounge.
  • Add-on excursions (we never felt it necessary).
Author ready to embark.

Tip: Bottled water is available for purchase at the bar in the lounge, but pitchers of drinking water is also available in the Captain’s Club and in the exercise room daily.

We loved that Vantage can book your airfare for you, and we highly advise going with this perk. It comes included with a pick-up right in the terminal, which is very welcome after a long journey, and Vantage did a great job finding us the best flight itineraries possible.

Before and during your trip, you also have access to a personal portal that allows you to view your itinerary, upgrade your cabin or tours, and check on details of your flights. We found Vantage to be highly organized and very responsive in the customer service department.

Bavarian town.

Our only wishes to add to the list for our river cruise vacation: we’d love to have had easier access to complimentary water onboard, would have liked more local cuisine at dinner, and would have welcomed smaller walking tour group sizes. Otherwise, we were happy cruise passengers for a blissful eight days!

Check out the stops we made during our Heart of Germany tour, in order to plan your own Bavarian vacation.

Disclosure: We experienced a Vantage Travel river cruise vacation as guests of Vantage, for the purpose of review. All opinions remain our own.