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Undoubtedly, cruisers used to bargain-basement fares on mass-market mega-ship cruises to Mexico or the Caribbean might experience some initial sticker shock when first considering a European river cruise vacation. Granted, sailing the storied waterways of the European heartland – from Lorelei’s Rhine to Strauss’s Blue Danube – does indeed require a bit more of an upfront investment (7-night sailings average high-season rates of around $3,000), but when breaking down the rates in more detail, these intimate trips (rarely carrying more than 200 guests) actually deliver some terrifically comprehensive value.
Most European river cruise lines offer a nearly all-inclusive vacation, meaning that along with cruising’s standard inclusions of room and full board, transportation from place to place, and onboard entertainment and lectures (though expect considerably less bells and whistles in this department than you’d find on the big ships), you’ll typically also get guided shore excursions, ground transfers, select beverages (including wine and beer), onboard Wi-Fi, and sometimes, even gratuities bundled into the rates. And anyone who’s been on an ocean-going vessel knows that those shore excursions and frothy cocktails can really add up fast.
Read on for five great tips for saving money on a European river cruise vacation, followed up by some exceptional cruise deals that are just ripe for the pickin’. Read more
In this year’s Top 10 Cruises in 2012 we chose Viking River Cruises as the best river ship debut, what with its plans to introduce six new Longships to its fleet in 2012. Just last week four of those Norse-god-named Longships were christened, and another two are due for delivery later this summer. While this is already an unprecedented number of ships for a single year, Viking River Cruises has just announced that 2013 will be more of the same; another six Longships will be added to its fleet.
The sleek Longships, designed by the same firm behind the Disney Dream and the Yachts of Seabourn, are high-tech, modern, and full of sizable rooms – it’s no wonder the demand is high enough for another six. Each of the ships’ 95 staterooms include deluxe amenities like heated bathroom floors and mirrors and Sony HD TVs, and the ships all have an Aquavit Terrace – a lounge with retractable floor-to-ceiling glass walls so that you can fully enjoy favorable weather. The Longships are also more sustainable, with solar panels, onboard organic herb gardens, and hybrid engines that have the added bonus of a smoother ride.
American Cruise Lines’ new Mississippi River paddler wheeler (set to operate our pick for the Best New Domestic Itinerary in 2012), the 150-passenger Queen of the Mississippi will offer single-occupancy staterooms, slated to comprise about 15 percent of the guestrooms available onboard the new vessel. The dozen units, many of which will feature private balconies and sliding-glass doors, will be unusually spacious for the single-cabin industry standard, at 211 square feet (that’s about twice the size of Norwegian Epic’s 100 square-foot single cabins), and are an altogether rarity for the cruise industry, which works largely on a double-occupancy model. The single cabins will start at $4,685/passenger (or pay $400 more for a balcony upgrade) for a 7-night itinerary; normal double occupancy rates start from $3,995/person, so this represents a digestible rate bump for solo travelers.
We’ve just dug up a tempting cruise deal for select European river sailings in 2012 aboard luxe Avalon Waterways. Book via Premier River Cruises by November 25, and nab comped rates on second passenger fares when paying full fare for the first passenger. This limited-time offer is valid on select 7- to 14-night cruises, like the 7-night Paris & Normandy sailing, with rates starting as low as $2,098 for two people – working out to just $1,049 per person. Other available sale fares include $2,490 for two ($1,249 per person) for the 7-night Burgundy & Provence sailing, or $2,598 for two ($1,299 per person) for the 7-night Danube River cruise. (Note that taxes and fees are additional, and are applicable for the promotional fare, as well.) What’s more, guests participating in this promotion will also receive up to $250 inshipboard credit, valid for redemption for onboard purchases at the spa, gift shop, and more. Read more
Our first early excursion in the narrow gallery forest was thick with vegetation and fraught with countless monkeys, reptiles, adorable bats, and frisky frogs. The Amazon is the most bio-diverse place on the planet, with more than 400 species of mammals, nearly 1,400 birds, and over 3,000 fish.
The Peruvian part of the Amazon accounts for just 13 percent, so you won’t see big cruise ships or any ships in this part, save a local or two fishing or scooting from village to village. It’s the real deal.
By our afternoon excursion we were ready for the parade of pink dolphins, which seemed to be following us. That’s when the dream took a fairy tale turn. The fate of these beautiful, dancing creatures is secure as locals are superstitious and have a tale attached as to why they can’t even touch them. They are running their own show.
As we continued through the Pacaya Samiria Natural Reserve, one of the New Seven World Wonders, we met with a barefoot local, who brought a new level of insight. It’s an Aria custom, a way to engage locals and get them invested in the Amazon’s preservation.
I had never been on a cruise, river or otherwise, so I was thrilled to have booked a four-day trip on the M/V Aria – Aqua Expeditions‘ new, 147-foot-long river cruiser stationed in the Peruvian Amazon. After a few-hour delay on our LAN flight from LAX to Lima, I was wondering if the experience would continue to elude me. Several glasses of Cabernet in LAN’s lounge mellowed my concerns.
When we finally boarded, I was tucked lovingly away in LAN’s plush Business Class cabin with a crisp bubbly and the best blanket in the business and let visions of rivers race through my head. Once airborne, our flight was so seamless, we were landing in Lima before I could say, “Café!”
After a several hour layover in Lima, we boarded a flight to Iquitos, the launching point for most Peruvian Amazon cruises and expeditions. This is where the journey really began.
When I stepped aboard the bite-sized Avalon Panorama, I had no idea what to expect from a ship built to navigate a quarter-mile-wide waterway. The 166-passenger and 47-crewmember cruiser (the ninth Avalon Waterways vessel to be inaugurated into the European river cruise fleet since 2006; two more are in the pipeline for 2012) sailed a five-night christening voyage from Frankfurt to Amsterdam on May 13 and docked at historic countryside and city ports on the Main, Rhine, and Mosel rivers.
Designed more like a floating hotel than a cruise ship – a characteristic of river vessels – the 443-foot-long Panorama is short enough for passengers to walk from the self-serve beverage station at the back to the outside viewing deck at the bow in less than five minutes. This ship trades commercial ocean liner facilities like casinos, theaters, and climbing walls for truly exclusive touches, such as floor-to-ceiling windows in public spaces and suites, insightful local tour guides, and the Silent Drive System for soundless cruising, so you can enjoy the rolling riverside without the background hum of a motor – at unexpectedly affordable prices.
A fitting complement to this year’s 150th Civil War anniversary, American Cruise Lines will feature Civil War era-themed cruises come 2012, aboard the Queen of the Mississippi sternwheeler (which is currently under construction). Visits to Vicksburg’s National Military Park in Mississippi and New Orleans’ Civil War Museum, along with stops at Civil War battlefields mark some of the highlights on this 7-night itinerary between a variety of southern cities, while onboard offerings like authentic regional cuisine (think jumbo shrimp cocktails and lobster thermidor with fingerling potatoes) and lectures given by Civil War historians let passengers experience the South’s unique past. Emulating the architecture of traditional riverboats, the Queen’s oversized staterooms, private balconies, and elegant dining salon is due to provide a luxurious journey along the entire Mississippi River System. “Cruising aboard Queen of the Mississippi is a historic experience on its own – only to be heightened by our Civil War theme cruises. Passengers are in for quite a treat,” said Timothy Beebe, Vice President of American Cruise Lines. Dates and details about the Civil War and other theme cruises on the Queen will be available later this summer – be sure to check back in on Savvy Flyer for the latest developments.
The Luxury Guests aboard Delfin Amazon Cruises’ two vessels explore isolated regions that are home to rare plants and wildlife, ranging from bright birds to big cats. Cruises begin in Nauta, Peru; possible activities include canoeing in remote lagoons, swimming with pink river dolphins, fishing, hiking, and nocturnal safaris. Onboard the newly refurbished Delfin I, four suites with private balconies and tall windows create an intimate ambience for up to eight guests.
The Value Readers who book new sailings directly with the company save 10 percent on four-night cruises from July through September, and receive a free cabin upgrade. The discounted rates start at $2,342 a person for a suite on the 28-passenger Delfin II, and $3,060 on the eight-passenger Delfin I; transfers from Iquitos, plus excursions, are included.
The Catch The routes and offered activities vary depending on the sailing date and the weather.
The Details 011-51-17-19-0998; delfinamazoncruises.com (email firstname.lastname@example.org and mention Smart Luxury Travel)
From the Spring/Summer 2011 issue of Smart Luxury Travel magazine by ShermansTravel.com.
For general trip-planning information, see our Peru Travel Guide.
Several eastern Mediterranean cruises use the exotic wonders of Egypt and Libya as major selling points on voyages. Unfortunately, recent violence and political turmoil in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya have caused many cruise lines to change ports of call or to cancel voyages entirely.
Cruise lines had recently jumped on the opportunity to add Libya as an exotic port of call on Mediterranean itineraries after the country began issuing visas to American tourists in 2010. Now, with the political uprising and subsequent US State Department travel warning, the same cruise lines are scrambling to reroute these trips. Small cruise company Voyages to Antiquity announced this month that it has canceled its first cruise of 2011, which was to sail via Libya from Athens to Rome. It was a stroke of bad luck for the company, as this voyage had originally been scheduled to stop in Egypt and Tunisia, but was rerouted to Libya due to Egypt’s political instability.
With travel warnings to Egypt remaining in effect, many cruise lines are scrambling to change routes rather than wait and see how the situation plays out. The majority of cruise lines have canceled stops in the region through the end of March, for fear of ending up like Viking River Cruises, who had to charter a plane to airlift 91 passengers out of Egypt when the unrest began. Costa, however, is staying the course by restoring cruising to Egypt after some tourist site warnings were lifted.
Considering the cost of last-minute changes and cancellations to itineraries, it will be interesting to see if the impact that these events have on the cruise industry are reflected in “safer” picks for the next season.
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