Rivers offer a different kind of cruise
Take a river trip and enjoy the slow pace
January 1, 2019
If you live in an Alaska town that has a solid cruise ship economy, then you probably long for the quiet tourist shoulder season. Pity the people who see no down time. Rejoice that you have a break.
So maybe it's time you took a cruise just to see what all the fuss is about.
The Caribbean? Panama Canal? How about a river cruise through some of the most celebrated towns of Europe?
Unlike the big cruise ships that come to Alaska, river cruises offer levels of tour participation. For instance, Avalon Waterways has a Classic shore excursion that includes a local expert to guide you through the history and heritage of local destinations and explain the legends, lore and architecture of historic sites. The Discovery tour spins on your interests like cooking classes or painting workshops that help you immerse in the local culture.
For those who like physicality in their trips, the Active tour offers energetic excursions to keep you in motion, from a guided jogging tour of Amsterdam to biking, paddling or hiking through spectacular scenery.
If you're a bicyclist, remember that Europe is bike friendly. Bikes have a lane along the sidewalk in Amsterdam so be careful when you step off, because bikes have right of way and they will take it.
Avalon's itineraries are less expensive than Viking Cruises and their ships smaller. The Avalon Envision, which sails for the first time in 2019, has 16 state rooms and 67 suites.
An eight-day Danube River cruise starts at $1,899.
If you like to plan ahead, you can book a cruise with Avalon between February and December 2019 for some deals and save anywhere from $300 to $1,000 per couple on select river cruises or fly free from certain cities (Note: No, not Anchorage. Los Angeles is the closest city.)
This Avalon tour begins in Budapest and ends in Prague, both cities that equal other European cities in their architectural beauty, and sails up several rivers.
This cruise is especially appealing because it goes through some of the most unique cities in Europe like Česky Krumlov, on the Vltava River, in the Czech Republic, where you spend a morning on the town.
It is also the site of Skagwegian Bruce Schindler's nuptials to Hana Oberpfalzerova at the nearby, aptly named Česky Krumlov Castle, complete with Medieval knights in reenactment costumes. Hana grew up in Česky Krumlov and her mother has a shoe store in town – bring her greetings from Alaska when you visit.
It ends in Prague, capital city of the Czech Republic called "The City of a Hundred Spires." The Old Town Square, its historic heart, is lined with colorful Baroque buildings, Gothic churches and a Medieval Astronomical Clock that gives an animated hourly show. Built in 1402, the pedestrian Charles Bridge is lined with statues of Catholic saints.
Here's the itinerary for this 12-day cruise: Day one, Budapest, and day two, Budapest and boarding the boat for Danube Bend with a choice of walking tour with funny language lesson, or guided bike tour, or city sightseeing tour in Budapest. Later on there's an onboard welcome reception with scenic cruising around the Danube Bend. Day three, Visegrád, with a choice of a Medieval knights tournament, or a guided hike in the Danube-Ipoly National Park, or a canoe tour. Day four, Vienna, a bike tour, jogging tour, meet with local people, or a guided tour with a visit to Belvedere Palace. Day five, still in Vienna, a walking tour for early risers with breakfast at a Viennese café, or a guided tour to see the Habsburg private art collection and the Italian or Dutch Masters works, and also a guided tour to the Habsburg private art collection as well as the World Museum. Day six, Krems–Grein, with either a canoe tour or a bike tour from Krems to Spitz, a Wine World Experience with tasting, a local encounter showcasing regional products, or a visit to Greinburg Castle and meet the Count. Day seven, Grein–Mauthausen–Linz offers a guided walk in Grein and a visit to the historical theater. In Mauthausen, a visit to St. Florian Monastery, a guided tour of Mauthausen Concentration Camp, or guided bike tour. Day eight, in Engelhartszell–Schlögener Schlinge–Linz there is a choice of a visit to Engelszell Abbey or Jochenstein Power-Station, scenic cruising around the Schlögener Schlinge, or a guided hike along the Danube trails. Day nine, disembark in Linz and explore through a guided tour of Česky Krumlov and then transfer to Prague. Day 10, Prague with either an urban hike or a guided city tour -- see the Astronomical Clock and visit Hradčany Castle grounds. Day 11, Prague, a day at your leisure; Day 12 Prague – vacation's end.
Exploring the world in comfort
So says the ad for Viking Cruises on TV, and so it is – with luxury linens and pillows!
Viking offers a complimentary shore excursion in every port of call; all onboard meals, featuring regional specialties made with locally sourced ingredients as well as American favorites; free Wi-Fi, but connection speed may vary from port to port; visits to UNESCO sites; enrichment lectures and performances; beer, wine and soft drinks with onboard lunch and dinner; 24-hour specialty coffees, teas and bottled water; port taxes and fees; and, ground transfers with a Viking Air purchase.
If you have some extra money and time to spend, then the Grand European Tour from Budapest to Amsterdam would be your choice. Covering four countries in 15 days, you cruise down the Danube, Rhine and Main rivers through Hungary, Austria, Germany and The Netherlands – starting at $3,499 per person.
Too rich perhaps? Viking has cruises that last fewer days and cost less. Visit http://www.vikingrivercruises.com for more information.