Teeming River Cruises
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Teeming's MS Royal Crown Deck Teeming River Cruises

Teeming River Cruises

Teeming River Cruises Review

Teeming River Cruises Review

If you’ve ever gasped while checking the prices of European river cruises, you’ll exhale with glee when you see the itineraries offered by Teeming River Cruises. Launched in July 2017 by Florida-based husband-and-wife entrepreneurs Jeff and Gina Paglialonga, Teeming turns the traditional river cruise formula on its head — and offers fares that are 50-65 percent below average — by breaking from all-inclusive pricing and going back to basics: a comfortable cabin and three well-prepared (albeit not gourmet) meals daily, plus afternoon tea. That’s it. No included shore excursions (there’s an app for that), no open bar, and very little in the way of pampering. But in doing so, Teeming is creating a new strata of river cruising geared to low-maintenance, highly independent travelers.

 

What We Love

Guests Have Total Freedom: Unlike most river cruises where you’ve already paid for shore excursions as part of your cruise fare and feel obligated to wake up at the crack of dawn and take them — some, admittedly worth it and others a big waste of time — on a Teeming itinerary, your hours in port are totally yours to do with as you please. Guests can feel free to sleep in, book a tour with a local operator, or simply wander. It’s more like being in a hotel room that just happens to float than on a group tour.

 

It’s Not Cookie Cutter: While most river cruise lines have established fleets and lock in itineraries two years in advance, the Paglialongas plan to continue to opportunistically charter ships and add itineraries, including their first cruise on the Rhone River in France in October 2019. The result is an evolving selection of cruise deals on the Rhine, Moselle, Danube, and Rhone rivers and the canals of The Netherlands for travelers seeking good value.

 

The Wine & Beer Package: If you plan to enjoy a few glasses of wine or beer (or even soda or sparkling water) with lunch and dinner, pre-booking the Beverage Package makes sense. Prices vary from around $73 to $179 per person, depending on the ship and the cruise length, but pours are generous and unlimited. You will, however, have to pay for beverages in the lounge at non-meal times (priced in euros, wine and beer convert to about $5-$6 a glass and cocktails $8-$10).

Best Known For

Being an Unknown: Promotional prices on a few 2018 itineraries were so low, some passengers first thought Teeming wasn’t legit. The strategy the Paglialongas use is to negotiate rock-bottom charter rates for weeks when ships owned by other lines are not in use — sometimes early or late in the cruise season, so March, October, and November — and keep included amenities to a minimum to pass along savings to passengers. Teeming also offers several cruises during summer, with prices that are just a bit higher than fall and early winter.

Offering an App Rather Than Excursions: Teeming’s approach to touring has been to partner with POPGuide, an app passengers download to their phone or tablet; it requires a bit of space and certain operating systems, so be sure to do so before leaving home (Wifi aboard the ships can’t handle the download). POPGuide, which works with your device’s data roaming turned off, highlights key sights in each port and uses GPS to calculate walking distances and navigate back to the ship. It’s not perfect, but it’s a useful tool for passengers who aren’t tech-phobic.

Who It's Best For

Independent Travelers: There’s no hand-holding on a Teeming cruise — and most passengers (the majority Americans, but also Canadians, British, Australians, and others comfortable with English) seem perfectly fine with that. If you’re the type who dislikes tour buses and sign-carrying guides and would rather plan your own itinerary and discover a place independently, this cruise line is probably a good fit.

Value-Conscious First-Time River Cruisers: As river cruising attracts a broader, and even slightly younger, audience (couples in their 40s and 50s), some wannabe passengers are finding the cost of a week-long all-inclusive European itinerary — which can range from $2,000 to more than $5,000 per person — to be beyond their budget. Teeming has stripped away all the extras (no included transfers, welcome-back snacks, or open bar) to deliver an 8 to 10-night cruise generally priced under $1,500 per person, with last-minute and off-season deals under $1,000.

Don't Say We Didn't Warn You

The Ships Aren’t Consistent: Unlike most river cruise lines, which own their ships or lease similarly configured vessels, Teaming’s fleet is a bit of a patchwork. For 2019, it has 10 itineraries on four chartered ships: MS Johann Strauss, a 144-passenger ship (formerly the Sound of the Music) that’s clean and comfortable with updated classic-meets-contemporary ambience; MS Royal Crown, an intimate 90-passenger ship with Old World charm and décor; MS Rhone Princess, a 138-passenger ship leased from CroisiEurope (Princesse d’Aquitaine when in that fleet) and last refurbished in 2011; and MS Royal Emerald, a luxurious 168-passenger vessel with spacious suites and modern amenities (formerly Scenic Emerald).

Travelers with Mobility Issues Might Not Have an Easy Time: To get the most from a Teeming cruise, guests need to be independent and have a certain level of mobility. Travelers who enjoy the ease of airport transfers, panoramic bus tours, and other modes of transport beyond walking could be frustrated. Teeming’s staff, however, will gladly call taxis for you.

It’s Still a Mom-and-Pop Operation: While growing by leaps and bounds — from one cruise in 2017 to seven cruises in 2018 to 10 so far planned for 2019 — Teeming doesn’t have the established infrastructure (it’s basically the Florida-based sales and marketing arm while ship staffing and operation is the responsibility of Basel-based River Advice) of other larger lines. With low water levels on the Rhine and Danube an ongoing issue, and Teeming’s charter fleet expanding in 2019 to include ships with deeper drafts, it remains to be seen how it will respond if itineraries need to be changed.

Donna Heiderstadt

Donna Heiderstadt is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Coastal Living and Islands.

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