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There’s a lot to appreciate in a river cruise: quick access into local culture; the relaxing, friendly atmosphere onboard; and all-inclusive pricing. But there are some destinations where river cruising provides such a special advantage that even self-proclaimed non-cruisers may be tempted.
For example, there are bucket-list places where pricing for hotels and dining is truly exorbitant, and when the river vessel becomes a floating hotel in these ports, travelers get great value along with their other perks. Then, some areas are seen as dicey in terms of security, or difficult because of language barriers and regulations, and being able to explore them in comfort and safety is a big plus. And when the local infrastructure is not ready for American travelers, but the cultural attractions are intact, river vessels bridge the gap, offering guests the facilities they want in an unspoiled destination. In addition, special interest cruises — from wine and art to golf and music — offer passengers a focused travel experience in the company of others who share their passion.
Here are five ways that river cruising demonstrates an extra-special appeal that may convert non-cruising clients into believers.
Experience Multiple Cultures Along the MekongWhen clients travel to faraway destinations, it’s crucial they make the most of the time they have, especially in exotic destinations such as Vietnam and Cambodia. A cruise like Avalon Waterways’ 22-day itinerary from Bangkok to Hanoi, Vietnam, offers multiple overnights in Bangkok; Luang Prabang, Laos; Siem Reap, Cambodia; Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; and Hanoi. The cruise along the Mekong River gives guests a chance to savor the ancient traditions of the riverside cultures in these places.
In Cambodia, for example, passengers on Avalon’s cruise will try local cuisine, visit prominent temples, markets and villages and see the spectacular Angkor temple complex in Siem Reap. They can explore Phnom Penh by private “cyclo” (a bicycle-powered rickshaw), walk in rural villages such as Prek Bang Kong and Angkor Ban and travel by oxcart through the countryside at Kampong Tralach.
See Myanmar Before It ChangesMyanmar is a prime example of a destination where the distinctive culture is rapidly changing. Those who want to see it intact should book cruises such as AmaWaterways’ Mandalay-to-Bagan trip on the Irrawaddy River. The 14-day itinerary starts in Yangon with the Shwedagon Pagoda, which Kristin Karst, executive vice president and co-owner of AmaWaterways, says she finds more moving than the Taj Mahal. During the cruise, passengers will visit craftsmen’s workshops, sacred sites, markets and Buddhist monasteries, as well as enjoy a full-day tour of the pagodas, temples and stupas of Bagan.
Avoid High Hotel Rates in Paris and Beyond In the City of Light, where hotel rates are sky high, river cruises often include overnight stays with time for guests to explore on their own — in addition to included trips to attractions such as Versailles, Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower — before sailing on to allow passengers to visit the beaches of Normandy, sample the exquisite cuisine of Lyon and discover the Impressionist trail.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection will have two ships on the Seine River next year: River Baroness and the new Joie de Vivre, which will overnight in Paris, with weeklong roundtrip Paris cruises. A nine-night roundtrip Paris itinerary includes two overnights. Both ships will dock at Quai Andre Citroen, with the Eiffel Tower in sight and within walking distance.
Crystal River Cruises’ ultra-luxury Crystal Debussy, which debuts June 4, 2017, will offer five-, seven- and 10-night Seine sailings that will include as many as three overnights docked right in Paris, plus sailings to destinations such as Honfleur; the beaches of Normandy and Deauville; and Rouen.
Take Advantage of Insider Access in RussiaRussia is perceived as difficult in terms of security and because of the soaring expense of food and accommodations in its major cities, but river cruising sails around the obstacles. In the case of Viking River Cruises, the owner’s long personal experience in Russia fuels insider access on cruises such as the 13-day Waterways of the Tsars, which includes four days each in St. Petersburg and Moscow, along with quaint Golden Ring towns such as Yaroslavl and Uglich. Guests will enjoy local music and dance performances, try Russian cooking techniques and learn a bit of the language.
Enjoy Fun Lessons in History and Culture In America, special interest cruises bring passengers close to periods in the country’s history that have inspired countless re-enactments. For instance, American Cruise Lines’ Civil War cruises explore both the Eastern and Western Theaters, with shore excursions explaining each destination’s role in the war. Among the lecturers are figures such as Bertram Hayes-Davis, the great-great grandson of Jefferson Davis, an American politician and president of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War.
Other themed trips, such as Christmas Market cruises, dip into riverside cultures and their celebrations. Guests can hear festival music and shop the colorful markets for handmade crafts and delicacies. Tauck is among the lines that take guests to the traditional markets in Germany and France, including some in cities that holiday cruises usually miss, such as Aachen, Germany, and Colmar, France.
On the Mississippi River, American Queen Steamboat Company’s nine-day sailings between New Orleans and Memphis, Tenn., bring travelers to New World Christmas Markets in Greenville, Miss., and at Nottoway Plantation in Louisiana. They will enjoy a private Cajun-style dinner, have time to shop for local crafts and unusual treats, hear the songs of strolling carolers along the levees and see the dramatic 30-foot-tall holiday bonfires on the Mississippi.
Once new cruisers come onboard to take advantage of these special features of river cruising, there’s a good chance they’ll become fans and return on more mainstream sailings.
American Cruise Lineswww.americancruiselines.com
American Queen Steamboat Companywww.americanqueensteamboatcompany.com
Crystal River Cruises www.crystalcruises.com
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection www.uniworld.com
Viking River Cruises www.vikingrivercruises.com