Brendan Vacations offers the 12-day Crossroads of Cultures and Contrasts: Bosnia, Croatia & Slovenia, which starts off with two nights in Sarajevo, then continues on to Dubrovnik on the Adriatic coast for a 2-night stay. Clients will then head north to Split, and on to Plitvice Lakes National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Next stop is the coastal resort of Opatija, Postojna Cave and Bled for another 2-night stay. A stop in Ljubljana and two nights in Zagreb top off the itinerary. It’s priced from $1,985 dbl, land only.
But there’s also plenty of opportunity in Western Europe, as well, with the ongoing interest in Italy that’s been drawing repeat visitors for years, especially in the areas of experiential travel, which many tour operators will be putting a big emphasis on for 2012—gastronomy and wine tours, as well as a focus on art and culture tours.
There’s also renewed interest in France with a big increase in 2011 that will undoubtedly translate well in 2012, particularly when pre- or post-land tours are combined with river cruises, which Globus (globusjourneys.com)—in concert with brand partner Avalon Waterways—has been having great success with. “France overall, we’ve just seen a really nice lift, for us particularly because of all the different product we have,” explains Jennifer Halboth, director of marketing for Globus. “Our France river cruises are doing well; our France tours are doing well; Monograms is doing well. So I think a combination of all of that has made France a really solid destination.”
The company’s 8-day French Sampler, for example—priced from $2,159—offers a great overview of the country in a week’s time. It starts off with a welcome dinner at a local restaurant in Paris, followed by guided sightseeing that includes a visit to Notre Dame Cathedral and a ride up to the second floor of the Eiffel Tower. In Burgundy’s Beaune, there’s a wine tasting and upon arrival in Dijon, there’s a special dinner at a local restaurant. Next, it’s off to Provence and a visit to Avignon and Pont du Gard, followed by a stay in Nimes and in Aix-en-Provence, one of France’s most elegant cities. In Grasse, travelers visit a perfume factory before wrapping up the tour in Nice on the French Riviera. An optional excursion to Monte Carlo is also available.
She also adds that for first-timers to Europe, there’s been a big increase in travelers to Ireland. “Another destination that we’re really seeing pop in terms of tour sales is Ireland. For instance, our Introduction to Ireland tour—Globus’ great entry level Ireland—great price point, great trip and it’s up over 100 percent.”
The 7-day program, priced from $1,079, begins in Dublin with an overnight and guided sightseeing that includes O’Connell Street, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Trinity College. Then it heads west, with stops in Kildare at the Irish National Stud, in St. Patrick’s Cashel, and in Tipperary, made famous in the wartime marching song. Next, it’s on to Limerick for an orientation drive, followed by a 2-night stop in Ennis where passengers enjoy stunning views from the Cliffs of Moher and some Irish hospitality at Rathbaun Farm, where they’ll see a farmer shear a sheep and use a sheep dog to move his flock. Next, they’ll ferry across the Shannon estuary and travel around the famed Ring of Kerry before spending the night in Killarney and stop in Blarney, famous for its magical Kissing Stone. In Waterford, there’s a visit to the House of Waterford Crystal; visiting Ireland’s oldest handweaving mill at Avoca; crossing through the Wicklow Mountains; and taking a guided tour of St. Kevin’s 6th century center of Irish Christianity in Glendalough and then it’s a return to Dublin.