Select Viking Cruises itineraries on the Duoro River include time in Lisbon, Portugal. // © 2015 Thinkstock
Feature image (above): Spring is a great time to visit the Columbia River Gorge, one of many sights on Un-Cruise Adventures’ Legacy of Discovery cruise. // © 2015 Thinkstock
Travel agents say that the longer booking window is one of the most difficult adjustments for seagoing cruisers who are looking for a river cruise — often, there is nothing that matches their expectations in the booking year, let alone the month. And most river cruise line websites are set up to search by country and theme rather than date, so the traveler may not be aware that the cruise, which has been so glowingly described, is not available.
But with the expansion of springtime river cruising, more choices are available. The beautiful Tulip Time cruises in the Netherlands and Belgium have been augmented by sailings on the rivers of South America, Asia, the U.S. and in many parts of Europe. A few possibilities to tempt your clients follow.
In Myanmar (Burma), AmaWaterways’ 14-day cruises include two days in Yangon. Passengers cruise to Mandalay and fly back, taking in sights from the 80 gilded pagodas of Pyay to the 50 teak monasteries of Salay.
Travelers visit a monastic school, take a tuk-tuk ride through Mingun and see the bronze Mahamuni Buddha, covered in gold leaf by male devotees. They visit the Kuthodaw Pagoda, with its weighty book of Buddhist scriptures (729 inscribed marble slabs). The cruise departs on March 14 and returns on April 13.
American Cruise Lines
With some availability at press time, American Cruise Lines’ seven-night Great Rivers of Florida cruise explores the St. Johns River, designated as an American Heritage River and is one of the few north-flowing rivers above the equator. This is a paradise for wildlife lovers, home to more than 200 species of birds.
Migratory people, too, have been attracted to Green Cove Springs’ warm mineral springs. The Golden Era of St. Augustine lives on in the hotels and churches built by oil millionaire Henry Flagler, while Amelia Island Centre Street’s Historic District has 50 blocks of restored 19th-century Victorian homes and shops.
American Queen Steamboat Company
American Queen Steamboat Company’s New Orleans to Memphis cruise is designated a Delta Blues theme cruise, with performances by Joyce Cobb and Preston Shannon, the King and Queen of Memphis’ famous Beale Street.
Cobb is a cult figure in the blues and jazz scene, from television to her own radio show. She is also the only woman to have had a jazz club named for her on Beale Street. Shannon earned his title with multiple Grammy nominations. The sailing departs on March 27 and returns on April 4.
Scenic Cruises offers its eight-day Dutch Delights and Belgian Sights itinerary onboard Scenic Crystal and Scenic Jewel. It sails roundtrip from Amsterdam (with an overnight to sample the nightlife) on April 27 and returns on May 4. Passengers visit with locals in Hoorn and enjoy a dinner and local entertainment. They also visit a Delft pottery factory and cheese warehouses in Edam.
Next, they travel to Bruges or Antwerp and enjoy the charm and engineering of Veere, the windmills of Kinderdijk and the amazing Keukenhof Gardens and its 80 acres displaying millions of colorful tulips.
Viking River Cruises
Although several categories have been sold out, at press time, there were great deals on suites and some standard staterooms on Viking River Cruises’ 10-day River of Gold sailings on the Douro River in March. With two new ships — Viking Torgil and Viking Hemming — in operation, Viking offers several departures throughout the month, starting with two days to explore Lisbon.
Guests stroll the cobbled old cities of the region, with dinner and a traditional fado (folk music) performance in an 11th-century monastery and lunch in a centuries-old winery, tasting port wines all the way. Besides Portugal, there’s a day in the ancient university town Salamanca, Spain, a highlight for guests, as it is not only crammed with history but a delightful town in itself with a huge market crammed with local delicacies.
Close to home, Un-Cruise Adventures’ Legacy of Discovery cruises in April and May have space available for travelers who want to trace the route of the Lewis and Clark Expedition and see the dramatic beauty of the Columbia River Gorge. Clients can save $350 per couple on April 18 to Aug. 1 departures when booked by March 27.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection
If your clients are repeat cruisers in Europe and want to see something fresh, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection has the answer: the 10-day Eastern Europe Explorer. Four April departures are offered onboard River Princess between Budapest and Bucharest, with some availability in differing categories in each departure. Hungary, Croatia, Romania, Serbia and Bulgaria departures are available, and highlights include visiting a third-generation, family-owned farm for a sampling of local Croatian dishes and listening to live folk music in a Bulgarian village restaurant.