Thursday 23 November 2017

Berlitz Guides: Does this man have the best job in the world?

Douglas Ward has travelled on 280 ships to create a star rating system for river cruising. We are officially jealous.

Douglas Ward, Author of Berlitz: River Cruising in Europe
Douglas Ward, Author of Berlitz: River Cruising in Europe
Pól Ó Conghaile

Pól Ó Conghaile

In any list of dream jobs, Douglas Ward's would be right up there. The veteran cruise writer has just created the first independent star rating system for river cruise ships - a task that involved travelling Europe's waterways on some of the fanciest ships afloat. Nice work if you can get it...

Ward's results are published in a brand new travel guide - Berlitz: River Cruising in Europe (£14.99/€18.50).

The book independently rates the experience of 280 river cruise ships, budget and deluxe, helping holidaymakers to make an informed decision and avoid expensive pitfalls on what is widely seen as one of the most luxurious holidays in Europe.

Ward based his scoring system on the tried and tested structure he uses when rating ocean-going ships for his annual bible Berlitz: Cruising & Cruise Ships. After evaluating five principal areas, such as accommodation and cuisine, he scores each out of 100 and then converts the points into star ratings.

And the winner? The crown of 'best ship' goes to AmaPrima.

AmaPrima: Is this the best river cruise ship afloat?

Operated by AmaWaterways, the ship (pictured above) clocked an overall score of 422 out of 500. The 4-star Plus AmaPrima also scored top for cuisine and service.

“Outstanding cuisine and high standards characterise this comfortable rivership," Ward says. AmaWaterways knows how to do it right, and it shows.” 

With three decks and 82 cabins including French balcony offerings, she sails a variety of Europe’s rivers. Not a bad place to call your office.

AmaWaterways chalked up outstanding scores across the board, owning the top 11 ranking 4-star Plus vessels. Closely following the company were 18 4-star Viking River Cruises (395 – 398 points), with Riviera Travel’s Lord Byron (4-star Plus) and Amadeus Elegant (4-star) also scoring highly (405 and 397 respectively).

And the worst-scoring ships?

Two are operated by the Netherlands-based Fietsvaarvakantie and used specifically for low cost bicycle tours. The third is 2-star Salvinia, with just 192 points, described as “an old lady with plenty of character”. Ahem, *cough*.

Douglas Ward checks the fluffiness of towels. Nice work if you can get it!

Ward has spent over 45 years working in the cruise industry, travelling up to 200 days a year aboard the world’s cruise ships and river ships. He is meticulous in his evaluations, even going so far as to check the fluffiness of a ships' towels...

"As yet, we haven’t found a 5-star rivership," he says. "That accolade is still to come.”

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