In terms of itinerary popularity, Clark says, “The long itinerary, the 14-night Amsterdam-Budapest, we’ve got the two new ships, these new Panorama-suite ships. Each of those ships that are doing virtually exclusively that itinerary, have got a 97 percent load factor for the year.”
Needless to say, with those kinds of booking numbers, Avalon is getting an early jump on 2013 by offering a value-laden 2013 Avalon Waterways preview that includes the line’s most popular European river cruises, ranging from five to 24 days.
Avalon Waterways’ European itineraries available for early booking are Taste of the Danube, priced from $999; Paris to Normandy’s Landing Beaches, priced from $2,399; Romantic Rhine, priced from $2,229; Windmills, Vineyards & Paris, priced from $3,179; The Legendary Danube, priced from $2,099; and the Tulip Time Cruise, priced from $2,329. All of these rates exclude air. It’s also possible to save from $500 to $1,000 per couple on these programs; bookings must be made by June 26, 2012 for travel in 2013.
tauck river cruising
Tauck River Cruising (agent.tauck.com) is also introducing a new river cruise on the Rhone that explores the rich culinary traditions of France. The 10-day A Taste of France itinerary begins with a 2-night hotel stay and exploration of local food culture in Paris, followed by a 7-night river cruise through the Rhone Valley aboard Tauck River Cruising’s recently renovated MS Swiss Emerald riverboat. Tauck River Cruising has crafted the new itinerary in collaboration with Churchill & Turen, Ltd., the luxury travel agency named the “World’s Best Culinary Tour Specialist” by Conde Nast Traveler magazine.
“The foods and wines of France are world-renowned, and our new river cruise is a fantastic introduction to what makes France such a culinary treasure,” says Tauck CEO Dan Mahar. “We’ve combined our 87 years of experience showcasing the world’s premier destinations with the insights and access of Churchill & Turen, all with the ease and elegance of river cruising.”
Tauck River Cruising’s A Taste of France (from $5,390 pp dbl, plus air) begins with guided culinary-themed sightseeing in Paris, a 2-night stay at the Hilton Arc de Triomphe and a Tauck-exclusive, hands-on introduction to French sauces with a tasting at the new Alain Ducasse culinary school, Ecole de Cuisine, plus a workshop and blind tastings highlighting “The Joy of Chocolate” led by Chloe Doutre-Roussel, author of “The Chocolate Connoisseur,” and a visit to the former haunts of chef Julia Child.
Other culinary-themed experiences include a market visit in Provence with local chefs who will buy ingredients and prepare regional specialties for tasting, such as tapenade, anchoiade and stuffed tomatoes Provencale. Guests will visit Lyon’s famous market, Les Halles, with tastings of local meats and cheeses and there will be a Provencal evening featuring dinner, local wines and entertainment in the shadow of Pont du Gard, the incredible Roman aqueduct. There’s also wine tasting in Beaujolais and a demonstration of French culinary techniques at a cooking school operated by a three-star Michelin chef.
uniworld boutique river cruise collection
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection (uniworld.com), too, is busting sales records for the 2012 sailing season, which Guy Young, president of Uniworld, calls, “Phenomenal. Overall, our bookings for Uniworld globally, we’re up about 25 percent. But in the U.S. market we’re up just over 40 percent so it’s just been a phenomenal year. I think 2012 is definitely going to be our best year on record.”
With 10 Uniworld ships in Europe, and one on charter on the Douro in Portugal, he says, “Our best selling is The Castles Along the Rhine, the Rhine itinerary and Basel, that’s been the best selling itinerary this year.”
That program includes a 7-night cruise in a riverview stateroom on the S.S. Antoinette; the Captain’s welcome gala and farewell dinners; complimentary fi ne wines, choice of beer and soft drinks during lunch and dinner on board; replenished bottled water in stateroom and 24- hour specialty coffee and tea bar.
In addition, there are nine excursions, including two “Choice Is Yours” options, fully hosted by English-speaking local guides, state-of-the-art Quietvox portable audio headset system on all shore excursions, use of bicycles and Nordic walking sticks throughout the cruise and local entertainment. There’s also a signature lecture, “The European City from the Middle Ages to the Present”; an exclusive Epicurean Adventurer Program; the Go Active Program, which includes biking, hiking and city tours, as well as all transfers on arrival and departure days. Priced from $2,249 to $3,449.