Q – We have skimmed this site but we can’t find any mention of a river boat company that does not include the shore excursions in its pricing. We would like to avoid the bus tours and ask the river boat line to arrange private sightseeing int he ports so we don’t have to feel like a herd of cattle on a tour bus and the principle of paying for tours we will never use bothers us. Can you direct us toward a line that in in the Top Ten but does not include the shore excursions?

A – There is no such product we  can recommend. Every one of the recommended companies in Europe includes shore excursions, normally with two or three choices. That seems to be one of the attractive features of a riverboat vacation – not having to make too many decisions in the middle of your vacation.  We certainly do not recommend that you ask a river boat company to plan something custom for you ashore. Crystal has its Concierge Team who do this from headquarters and some of the lines will make private driver options available, but it is never a good idea to expect a river boat staff member to think outside the corporate box. They are not aware of options – they are just commissioned sales people who sell their own product exclusively. They likely have little experience custom designing unique experiences ashore. If they did, they could earn far more money working as an independent  travel consultant instead of working in a call center.

Given that you seem to feel strongly about this and don;t like to pay for things you don’t use, we would suggest one of the quality cruise lines that does not include shore excursions except as part of special promotions. You might like one of the three smaller Oceania ships.