With more suites and enhanced personalized service, the River Voyager, which launched in March 2016, is the line's most luxurious ship to date.
New solo-friendly features for single travelers are being introduced in 2020 and these include eight supplement-free solo cabins on every departure. Additionally, there will be a roommate matching service where passengers travelling alone can request to be paired with a same-sex roommate at the time of booking in order to pay a lower fare based on double occupancy. If no match is found the passenger pays half of the normal single supplement and has solo occupancy of the cabin.
Other initiatives being introduced on every sailing include Solo Connections -- exclusive onboard events for single travelers -- and a concierge service.
With the introduction of River Voyager, Vantage launched its first themed ship, bursting with tributes to jazz music. The vessel is home to lounges and dining areas named after famed New Orleans haunts like the Cotton Club and Bourbon Street, and paintings, wall art and sculptures bear the likenesses of jazz legends like Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Dizzy Gillespie.
Sailing Rhine, Main and Danube itineraries, River Voyager has two other distinctions that set it apart: It's a silent ship, meaning there are few announcements to interrupt the serene onboard ambiance, and it's green, operating on engines that burn fuel more cleanly and efficiently.
Like all river ships, River Voyager was bound to size constraints during construction, due to the depth of the rivers it sails, the width of the locks through which it must pass and the height of the lowest bridges it must clear. As is standard for many boats of its type, it has four decks, three of which house passenger cabins. Spread throughout those decks are a reception area, a main dining room, two lounges, a small fitness center and a room for massages (but no salon). The fourth deck -- the top deck -- serves as a sun deck for outdoor lounging in nice weather or as the place for optimal views during scenic cruising. The wheelhouse (the river cruising equivalent of the bridge) is located there. When the ship sails under low bridges, the top deck is roped off to passengers, and the wheelhouse retracts to allow for necessary clearance.
Although the layout of River Voyager is similar to that of other rivergoing ships, one thing that's different is the price point. At the more affordable end of the river cruise spectrum, Vantage offers decent value for money, especially considering the newness of the ships. The fare includes select wine and beer at dinner, as well as gratuities for local guides and drivers (although not onboard crew).
Overall, the atmosphere is one of come-as-you-are casual elegance. While that might seem oxymoronic, passengers tend to dress up only for the captain's welcome dinner on the first night and opt instead for comfort (although we saw few jeans throughout our sailing) over pretense. Even decor supports this vibe, featuring laid-back yet classy light woods accented with pops of red, orange, blue, brown and green.
Despite the 1:4 crew-to-passenger ratio, we found service to be hit-or-miss. But, because this welcoming ship carries just 176 passengers, it's nearly impossible not to make friends aboard River Voyager.
River Voyager carries mature passengers, generally American and aged 55 and older. More than half are women, and of that half, about 40 percent are solo travelers. Many are well-traveled and have sailed with Vantage before. Despite their age, they're curious and active, often joining in on Vantage's shore excursions. Sailings on this ship are ideal for social butterflies, given the intimate nature of the vessel and the small number of passengers onboard each voyage.
River Voyager has a suggested dress code of smart casual, which, as with most cruise ship dress codes, is a bit ambiguous. We saw clothing range from khakis and Polo shirts with sneakers to suits. (Jeans are allowed, but not many people wear them onboard.) The only events for which most passengers dress up a bit -- suits or nice pants with button-down and blazers for men and dresses or pantsuits for women -- are the captain's welcome dinner and farewell dinner on the first and last nights of each sailing, respectively. Above all, passengers opt for comfort and functionality over dressing to the nines, especially when it comes to shore excursions or scenic cruising in inclement weather. Note: If you're cruising during a particularly warm or cold time of the year, be sure to pack layers, which are helpful if you plan to spend lots of time on the outer decks. Also be sure to pack comfortable walking shoes for excursions.
Gratuities for the ship's crew are not included in the cost of the cruise. Although a letter we received in our cabin told us that tips are subject to personal discretion, a total of 17 euros per day (20 euros for those in suites) is automatically added to every passenger's onboard bill. The amount can be adjusted at the front desk. Gratuities for local guides and bus drivers are included.
Select wine and beer are offered to passengers free of charge during dinner. Alcohol is charged a la carte during all other times of the day, as are cocktails at dinner. The ship hosts a happy hour each night during its sailings; on one or two evenings during each sailing, the happy hour includes an open bar.
At least one free excursion is featured in each port of call. Additional tour options are available for a per-person fee and might include choices like extended walking tours. On our voyage, a walking tour of Mainz was provided, as was transportation to the Red Light District for a walking tour in Amsterdam.
The currency used onboard is the euro, and U.S. dollars can be exchanged at the reception desk. Onboard accounts are used to purchase everything from shore excursions and massages to alcohol and items from the ship's small onboard shop (which is more like a glass case in the reception area). Onboard bills can be settled at the end of each sailing using credit cards or cash.
Vantage's jazz-themed River Voyager boasts lounges and restaurants named after New Orleans icons like the Cotton Club and Bourbon Street, and artwork that pays homage to legends like Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Dizzy Gillespie.