Sorry for the delay in responding to your questions...so much happening in December that I haven't gotten to the message boards for over a week!
What a wonderful gift to your mother! She will love Budapest! It is a fabulous city! Just this year, we took my mom on Viking's Amsterdam to Budapest sailing in late April to celebrate her birthday, and she still mentions it nearly every time I speak to her.
To answer each of your questions:
The average age of the passengers is probably about 58-68, depending on the sailing. There are no children under the age of 12; but there are often couples in their 30's and 40's, mothers and daughters travelling together, etc. And there are ususally several in their 70's and 80's as well.
Although I've sailed on dozens of ocean cruises (including sailings on Oceania, Renaissance, Holland America, Royal Caribbean, Princess, Costa, Norwegian, Orient, Carnival, Regent, Empress, etc.), Viking is the only river cruiseline I've been on--and I've sailed on 7 or 8 Viking cruises--including Amsterdam to Budapest twice!
River cruising is very different from ocean cruising. River boats usually accommodate only between 100 and 200 passengers, while cruise ships rarely accommodate less than 300 passengers, and the new megaships accommodate as many as 3100. That difference alone accounts for the following:
In addition to the larger cities that oceanliners can visit, riverboats visit quaint towns and villages that are not accessible by larger vessels. Riverboat piers are often walking distance to the middle of the town--and no tenders are ever necessary.
On a riverboat, you get to know everyone aboard, including the captain and the cruise director and the other passengers.
Most oceanliners offer great entertainment, casinos, multiple dining choices, gyms, pools, spas, jacuzzis, lots of onboard activities--even rock climbing walls and miniature golf on some. Riverboats offer charming old-world folkloric entertainment, no casinos that I know of, usually one dining room, sometimes a small gym and/or spa and/or pool or jacuzzi. While many ocean cruises are geared to shipboard activity, river cruises are destination oriented.
Breakfasts and lunches on riverboats are often mainly buffets, though often cooked-to-order items are available as well; dinners are usually 5-course meals served by waiters. Waiter service and buffets are usually offered on ships for all three meals. There are usually more choices available on the menus of oceanliners, while on riverboats there are usually no more than 3-5 choices of main courses, two appetizers, two soups, two desserts on any given evening. While large ships often have early and late dining choices, everyone dines at the same time on river cruises.
Many cruiselines have dresscodes that include formal and semi-formal evenings; riverboats usually have "country-club casual" dress codes--no tuxes, no gowns; in fact men are not even required to wear jackets and ties at dinner on riverboats, but they may if they'd like to do so.
Ocean liners usually do not include shore excursions--although they are offered at anywhere from $39 per person per excursion to $800.00 per person; most river cruises include daily shore excursions--often two or more in one day--at no extra cost.
You may have lots of other questions, and I'd be happy to answer them. Please write to me directly: firstname.lastname@example.org
. If you wish, send me your telephone number, and I'll call you.
Happy holidays...have a happy, peaceful, healthy, cruise-filled 2005!