It Was Only a Matter of Time

 

by Don McCann

With all of the growing popularity of European river cruises, it’s not too surprising that one of the major ‘ocean’ cruise lines has decided to launch their own river cruise division. Recently, Crystal Cruises announced that they will begin river cruises within Europe in 2017. At the time, they released virtually no details, but earlier this week they announced some date information and even showed us a couple of renderings!

Crystal Cruises European River CruiseCrystal Cruises will begin European river cruises in March, 2017 and reservations will open in December of this year, in 2015. That far in advance, you might ask? Yes! With the demand for river cruises and the limited number of cabins onboard, they sell much further in advance than many ocean cruises.

The river vessels from Crystal will each feature standard ‘suites’ at 250 square feet,Crystal Cruises river cruise suite as well as two 500 square feet penthouse suites. Accommodations will have walk-in closets, king-size beds and the bathrooms will have double vanities. As with their ocean ships, the river ships will include their signature Palm Court, which will have a glass roof & dance floor and there will be a fitness center and spa. The ships will carry only 140 guests.

The other lines in the luxury arena of European river cruises (Uniworld, Tauck, and Scenic) will surely be interested to see how Crystal will create their own style of luxury river cruises and we’ll all be interested to see at what price point, as well. Stay tuned for more info!

River Cruise Month

European River Cruise photo

Idyllic European River Photo – taken by Bill Edwards

by Don McCann

More river cruises are booked in July than in any other month of the year and most of those bookings are for sailings far into the future.  “So what is it about river cruises anyway?” you might be asking.  One of the best features of river cruising is the very issue which begs advance bookings.  You see most river vessels only hold from 130 to 190 guests, so it makes for a wonderful ambiance onboard, but makes inventory scarce unless you plan AHEAD!

So since now is the time many are thinking (or should be thinking) of river cruise reservations for next year, we thought we’d remind you that we have a separate site exclusively for river cruises.  Take a look and contact us with any questions and/or your preferred dates for a reservation……….RiverCruiseEscapes.com .

Tauck River Cruise in Southern France

Tauck River Cruise in Southern France, photo by John Lane

Something Different

Douro River Cruise

by Bill Edwards

Looking for something different next year?

Consider a rivercruise on Portugal’s Douro River.  While it’s not exactly a forgotten part of Europe it is certainly one less traveled by most Americans and is “off the beaten path” compared to cruising the Rhine, Danube and the rivers of France.

Who will enjoy this cruise?  Those wanting to discover a well-kept secret, a region with spellbinding natural beauty and cultural heritage.  And wine connoisseurs will certainly enjoy indulging in the region’s most celebrated beverage, Port.

Douro River Cruise

The beautiful valleys and vistas of the Douro River

Although a Douro cruise sets a pretty leisurely pace, there are some wonderful experiences along the way.  Most packages will begin or end in Lisbon with time to explore this city which launched a host of renowned navigators, including Vasco da Gama.  On the way from Lisbon to Porto (via motorcoach) a stop is made in Portugal’s 3rd largest city, Coimbra, to visit one of the oldest universities in Europe.  The rivercruise portion of the trip begins in Porto, birthplace of Henry the Navigator and longtime hub of the Port wine trade.   Along the way visits are made to some of the big port-growing dynasties, and folkloric music and dance performances add to the cultural immersion of this region.  Another highlight is to visit Salamanca, nicknamed the “Golden City” for it’s sandstone buildings that give it a golden glow.  This town across the border in Spain, boasts monumental churches, and a historic university attended by one very famous Christopher Columbus!

AMA Waterways, UniWorld and Viking River Cruises are all excellent choices for exploring this unique area.  Their ships generally carry just slightly more than 100 guests so hence the need to plan NOW for next year!

European Christmas Markets River Cruise: Two In One

by Don McCann

Local Baked Treats at Vienna Christmas Market

Local Baked Treats at Vienna Christmas Market

By now, most travelers know about the wonders of European river cruises.  However, many are unaware of the holiday charms of a Christmas Markets river cruise.  These holiday event favorites feature crafts, jewelry, gifts, etc., as well as great local foods and entertainment; they are really more of a ‘festival’.  Tourists and locals mingle as they stroll by the various booths and sip either excellent hot chocolate, or the delicious glühwein, a hot wine favorite!  Germany is perhaps the most noted for the ‘markets’, but you’ll find them throughout Europe beginning in mid, or late November until Christmas.

The attraction of a Christmas Markets cruise is that, not only will you have a great itinerary with tour options at each port, but you’ll also have the opportunity to experience these magical holiday events in various locations.  In other words, it’s almost like two cruises in one; sightseeing, markets, or some of both!  On our recent cruise along the Danube, we were able to visit three, different Christmas Markets in Vienna, Salzburg, and Munich.  Wherever the locations, each one has its own personality and some cities have multiple markets in various locations.  In Vienna and Munich, the market was in front of their town hall building, or “Rathausplatz” in Vienna and “Rathaus” in Munich.  The fantastic facades of these buildings provide the perfect authentic European setting for all visitors to their Christmas Markets.  However, in some locations, the market will simply be in a city square, or maybe a large park area.

Rhine, Danube, or whatever river itinerary you choose for a Christmas Markets River Cruise, you are in for a treat!

Vienna Christmas Market

Vienna Christmas Market at Rathaus

Munich Christmas Market

Munich Christmas Market at Rathaus in Marienplatz

 

Look for an announcement soon on our special Christmas Markets departure in December!

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