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The first thing you should know about the Teeming River Cruises: It's not too good to be true. But that’s what many of the passengers suspected when they first spotted the cruise fares for the six-night Rhine River itinerary from Mainz, Germany t o Amsterdam in late October/early November. Luckily, it was just a great deal.

Teeming is a new company based in Florida that's taking a less-is-more approach to river cruising by keeping overhead low and passing the savings along to its passengers. It doesn’t aim to be Viking or Uniworld or AmaWaterways, but rather an upstart player geared to a nascent group of river cruisers: independent, value-conscious travelers aged 45-70 who don’t want to step foot on a tour bus. If this idea appeals to you, here’s how Teeming River Cruises can help save you money.

The cruise fares are 50-65 percent lower than most competitors

Teeming was founded in 2017 by Florida-based Jeff and Gina Paglialonga with a mission to create a cruise niche for budget-conscious, independent, and highly mobile travelers. Teeming doesn’t own its ships; rather it charters them (there are currently 4 slated for a total of 10 sailings in 2019) at opportunistic prices by negotiating with owners for weeks when the ships aren’t in use. This can mean cruises that are off-season, but with prices starting at just $999 per person for 6 nights on France’s Rhone River in late October 2019 or $1,299 for 10 nights in Belgium and The Netherlands in late March 2019, savings are a fair trade-off for weather that can sometimes be anyone’s guess. Teeming also offers itineraries in July, August, and September with starting fares ranging from $1,299 to $1,485.

You won’t pay upfront for things you don’t want

One of the major complaints about river cruising is that the all-inclusive pricing — like transfers, guided bus tour excursions, open bar, crew gratuities, and onboard extras and surprises — hikes the cruise fare and means you feel obligated to participate in everything (you paid for it, after all) just to feel like you got your money’s worth. Teeming’s strategy is to take the cruise fare down to its basics: a cabin, three meals a day (plus afternoon tea), and the knowledge of an onboard cruise director who gives port talks for guidance.

You’ll pay only for what you want

It’s your vacation, so if you do want to indulge in wine or fancy cocktails, join a tour to a place that’s tough to get to on your own, or hire a guide to visit to a palace or museum, you can do so at your own initiative and expense. If you like to enjoy a few drinks daily, you can pre-purchase an onboard beverage package in U.S. dollars for unlimited pours of wine (some more drinkable than others, though) or beer at lunch and dinner; a la carte cocktails in the lounge are priced from around 4.5 euro (about $5) for a glass of wine or beer to 8 euro (or $9) for a mixed cocktail. And you can book your own independent excursions at a price that suits your budget (not one inflated by cruise-ship mark-ups).

You won’t have someone trying to upsell you at every turn

Teeming wants you to have the river cruise that you want to have — not what they suggest you might enjoy. That means you sleep and dine onboard and then treat your day in port just as you would if you were staying in a hotel. No one will be pressuring you to join a specific “don’t miss” tour that's over your budget.  

You can be as independent as you want to be

There are no organized tours on a Teeming river cruise, so there’s no need to rise with the sun and be ready to disembark at 7:00 a.m. You set your own schedule — and sleep in if you'd like — at your own pace. Just want to wander a charming town on a beautiful day and snap photos? Go right ahead. As long as you are back onboard 15 minutes before the ship is scheduled to depart, you can do whatever you want: discover your own favorite sights, find a hidden gem mom-and-pop restaurant for lunch, visit every church in town, or sit next to a local on a bench and strike up a conversation.

You’ll have a handy free app to help guide you

Teeming has partnered with POPGuide to create an app that passengers can download to their smartphones or tablets. It’s a multi-step process (each port on the itinerary needs to be downloaded separately) that requires speedy wifi to be installed successfully, so do it before you leave home. POPGuide offers descriptions of a half-dozen to a dozen top sights in each port (which are basically Wikipedia entries) along with a map-based GPS navigation tool. It’s not perfect, but it's handy for navigating on foot (with time estimates) from Point A to Point B and back and forth to the ship without having to be connect to the web. A few guidelines:

  • Familiarize yourself with the POPGuide sights in each port (as well as others that might not be in the app, since it’s far from comprehensive in some ports) before leaving the ship, so you can set the most expeditious route.
  • Do not listen to the voice commands. They were confusing or wrong most of the time, seemingly because the GPS was slightly off the mark. Just click on the sight you want to see, hit "calculate route" and follow the blue dots to the destination (watch your screen to see if you set off in the right direction).
  • Pack a portable recharger or two and carry them with you; POPGuide’s GPS tool uses up phone battery power very fast.

Many itineraries are at times when airfares are at their lowest

Teeming offers half of its itineraries in March, October, November, and December when airfares to Europe can dip under $600 from some major U.S. cities, adding to your overall savings. It’s a formula Teeming’s owners hope will deliver a whole new group of value-focused, independent-minded cruisers to the rivers of Europe in the years ahead.

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