Q  – I suppose you could say we are travel junkies. We’ve been on thirteen cruises and three river cruises, on Vantage and Avalon. Found lots to like about each but we sensed we were not experiencing the “top of the line”. The “junkie” part is that we subscribe to about seven travel magazines and it seems like they all have their ratings and it is hard to know which ones are accurate. You are probably aware that your ratings are different still. We noticed that Travel + Leisure picked Tauck as # 1. This sounds like a pretty good recommendation. What do you think about their ratings and how they all seem so different? Males me wonder if these river boats aren’t all the same.

A – We understand the confusion. It is, partly, intentional. For the most part, you are not reading actual reviews. You are seeing “Reader’s Polls”, which can be notoriously inaccurate because we do not know who is voting or anything about their travel backgrounds or motivations. The editors of the publications you are reading will usually not identify the best cruise product because they would likely lose the advertising support of the “losers”. So it is left to crowdsourcing, a terrible way to choose a hotel, a cruise, or a river boat company.

Tauck is definitely the current top-rated river cruise option on most itineraries. But not always and not necessarily for your particular desires or expectations. These fleets are not at all the same. They each have strengths and weaknesses like any other travel product. If you want the upside as well as the downside, you should choose to work with a river boat specialist with whom you feel comfortable. You are going to be charged for their services whether or not you use a specialist, so you might as well take advantage of all of the expertise available. That last sentence, by the way, was uncomfortably self-serving, But true.