River Cruising for 2011

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This year Avalon Waterways invited travel agents to get on board the river-cruise boom with its Avalon Specialist Program, and more than 1,500 agents have participated in at least one facet of the program. To date, the company reports that more than 150 agents have become Avalon Waterways Specialists. The program remains in play for 2011.

tauck world discovery European river cruising is the fastest growing segment in the Tauck World Discovery galaxy of travel programs. And for 2011, Tauck will be marketing 12 itineraries aboard a fleet of four leased ships, including the Swiss Jewel, Swiss Sapphire, Swiss Emerald and a new-build ship set for a summer 2011 launch.

“While I can’t give more details on our newest entry,” says Tom Armstrong, corporate communications manager, “she will really be a true ‘sister ship’ to the other vessels in our fleet: same number of suites (14), same number of jr. suites (7) and cabins (38), all positioned for outside-facing accommodations. We want to keep the ships consistent, so our guests can focus on the destinations they have come to see and not be diverted by which ships offer which features.”

And for the new season, Armstrong adds, Tauck’s whole fleet—each ship carrying no more than 118 passengers, versus 150 or more on other similarly sized vessels—will have a fresh new look, with the lightening, brightening and enhancing of all interiors.

Additionally, next year the river cruise line will introduce two new cruises on the Rhone River in France. Its 10-day French Waterways & Vineyards, priced from $4,490, starts with a 2-night stay in Paris and a 7-day cruise from Lyon, with stops in Avignon, Arles, Viviers and Valence. The 14-day French Escapade: Monte Carlo to Paris is priced cruise-only from $5,990 pp. Two days are spent in Monte Carlo and Nice, before traveling to Arles and cruising the Rhone and Saone rivers to Avignon, Viviers, Tournon, Chalon-sur-Saone, Macon, Lyon and Beaune; the trip ends with a 2-night stay in Paris.

Themed cruises are new on the Tauck river cruise docket this year, and one example is the two 8-day Christmas Market Cruises along the Rhine, visiting Germany and France, and along the Danube for markets in Germany and Austria; both cruises are priced from $1,990 pp dbl. (There may still be time to book one of the December departures.) These will be offered again in 2011, as will repeats of themed music cruises, scheduled for four departures—May 2, June 9, July 21, Oct. 16—next year on the 12-day Blue Danube cruise. Between Budapest and Prague, the Making Musical Magic itinerary will include special features such as an Imperial Evening at a Vienna palace and a gala dinner and concert at Lobkowicz Palace in Prague.

A third theme-cruise style this year was directed to family travel. Tauck’s river cruise operation took advantage of the company’s other brands, in this case Tauck Bridges, to introduce two cruises on the Danube, including three departures for 2011 of an 8-day Blue Danube: Family Riverboat Adventure aboard the Swiss Jewel. Families unpack only once as they travel from Budapest to Slovakia, Austria and Germany, offering kid-friendly activities en-route. The cruises on June 25 and Aug. 6 are priced from $2,999 pp dbl, while the cruise cost starts at $3,390 for the July 9 departure, accompanied by Elisabeth von Trapp who will perform many “sounds of music” on board and host a special event in Salzburg.

uniworld boutique river cruise collection In its largest product expansion ever, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection will be launching two new boutique ships in Europe and one in Russia in 2011. In addition, three existing ships will have been completely rebuilt, completing the remodeling of its entire fleet. Complementing its updated and upgrades ships, Uniworld will be introducing many new itineraries and optional land extensions to meet travelers’ growing interest in river cruising. For next year, we are looking at a company offering over 500 departures on 40 itineraries sailing on 11 rivers in 18 countries throughout Europe, Russia, China and Egypt.

“Our goal has never been to be the largest river cruise line, but to be the absolute best river cruise line,” says Guy Young, president of Uniworld. “We are confident that the river cruise sector will continue to grow in appeal and activity. We are extremely excited about the 2011 season.” And indeed there is lots going on.

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