Ask Harriet: River Ship pillows

Being refreshed and well-rested is important to enjoying your vacation, which is why this month I’m happy to answer this inquiry posted on our Traveler Forum about bedding in our River Ship cabins.

Q: I know this is an off-the-wall kind of question, but are the pillows down or foam on the M/S River Concerto (or similar)? I know the River Ships have duvets, which I love, but am curious since I prefer down pillows and sleep better with them. Thank you.

—Jane Childerhose, 2-time traveler, Rancho Palos Verdes, California

Hi Jane,

Thanks for asking, and no, this isn’t a silly question at all—your comfort is always one of the top priorities of our ship staff! I reached out to the crew who work on our Rhine, Main & Danube vessels, and although they told me that the pillows onboard are not down, they are hypoallergenic (some of our other travelers are allergic to feathers).

If you really need a down pillow, my suggestion is to bring one, because you can crush it down inside your suitcase or carry-on. Or, you could make it a point to buy one once you arrive in Europe, and just use it on the ship. You don’t have to bring it back to the States—but it’s a great way to pad objects that may break in transit. I discovered this when packing a down coat for a winter trip a few years back. Down coats and pillows (which also weigh very little) compress quite nicely and are a great way to keep souvenirs safe.

The M/S River Concerto, featured on The Great Rivers of Europe, is a very comfortable vessel, and was ranked #6 in Conde Nast Traveler’s “Top 40 River Cruise Ships in the World” 2013 Readers’ Poll by travelers like you. So I anticipate your needs will be met both by our regional staff, and by our ship, which was built with American expectations in mind. I hope you enjoy your trip—sleep tight!

Letters to Harriet

This month, I received a letter from first-time traveler Roberta Sasek of New Port Richey, Florida, that made me smile because it reminds me of the trips I make with my own girlfriends about once a year.

I just returned from The Great Rivers of Europe. This was my first river cruise after many ocean voyages. My adventure was a “girls” trip with a longtime friend. Sorry, the husbands stayed at home. Our ship was the Harmony. I can't say enough about our tour guide, Anke Gerris, and all of the staff onboard. And you may ask about the cuisine...would an extra 8 pounds upon returning home tell you something? The chef was amazing; the meals and presentation were fantastic. The history of the towns visited was amazing and the scenery was unbelievable. This trip is one that you should not miss.

Hi Roberta,

I’m glad to hear that you had a wonderful time! Thanks for sharing your feedback—I’m so delighted to hear that you enjoyed your river cruise after ocean cruising. It’s such a unique experience to be on a smaller craft with more individualized attention after having been on one of the larger vessels. Hearing all about your experiences with your friends reminds me that I need to plan my next vacation with my girlfriends; each one makes me feel young again, plus it’s a great excuse to indulge in sweets I usually wouldn’t when we visit our favorite European destinations.

Do you have a special group of friends who you travel with, or have you met some on one of our vacations? I’d love to hear your story. Please email me at