New Itineraries, Lower Prices for '98 Tours "One reason the region [eastern Europe] is successful is because many people still don't feel confident traveling independently there." -- Abercrombie & Kent By Dinah A. Spritzer / February 28, 1998 Share 1 -- Reed Travel FeaturesNEW YORK -- As thousands of 1998 tour brochures pour into agencies this month, it becomes hard to determine what's new and innovative among the endless count of glossy pages. The good news for clients is that due to the strong dollar, operators reported a decrease of as much as 10% in prices for most programs, with some prices remaining the same and a minority going up.A sampling of new escorted tour products follows:Trafalgar expanded its roster of tours to Italy, its best-selling destination, to include a 17-night grand tour. Peter McCormack, vice president, sales and marketing, said the unusually long itinerary will attract travelers seeking off-the-beaten-path villages and a more-relaxed touring pace.A 10-night Greek heritage tour also will appeal to the well- traveled client by visiting the mainland cities of Itea and Parga, not found on a typical first-time Greece plan. Also visited are the islands of Corfu and Zante, which are less congested than some of their more touristy counterparts. The tour is priced from $2,130, double, including air.Trafalgar will also be visiting the Baltics this year with a 13-night itinerary starting from $2,395, double, including air.Globus, Trafalgar's competitor, will team Wales with Ireland this year in a tour designed to appeal to U.K.-bound travelers who want a taste of life beyond London. Sightseeing in the English capital is included in the 10-night tour, but emphasis also is placed on key sites in Ireland such as Dublin and the Cliffs of Moher as well as Snowdonia National Park in Wales. The tour is priced from $1,109, double, land only.Trafalgar's sister company, Insight International, will operate several new multicountry tours this year, including Playgrounds of Europe, an eight-night program that visits Milan, Venice and Florence, Italy; Monaco, and the French Riviera. The tour is priced from $1,750, double, including air. An extensive Germany program also has been added.On the eastern European front, General Tours in Keene, N.H., added three single-country tours "in response to customer demand," said director of planning Helena Novak.Independent tours to northern and southern Poland, as well as Hungary start at $1,699, double, for six nights, including roundtrip air from New York. Another new independent program pairs Budapest and Prague for $1,199, including air, with three nights in each city.General is selling two new ships for its selection of river cruises. Clients seeking an affordable Russian cruise on the Volga River can opt for an 11-day journey on the Furmanov for $2,199, double, including air fare from New York. On the Elbe River, General claims to be selling the only cruise ship -- the Kongstein -- that sails directly into the heart of Prague from the Elbe into the Vltava River.Most of General's escorted programs feature Russia, but this year the firm introduced Finland & the Baltic Dawn for clients who want to focus on Scandinavia and the Baltics. The 10-night tour, priced from $2,599 including air, visits Helsinki, Tallinn, Estonia; Riga, Latvia; Vilnius, Lithuania, and Warsaw.The former Eastern Bloc was a big seller last year for the luxury escorted tour operator Abercrombie & Kent, a spokeswoman said. "One reason the region [eastern Europe] is successful is because many people still don't feel confident traveling independently there," she said. This year, the firm is offering seven eastern Europe itineraries, and prices begin at $5,995, land only.Maupintour in Lawrence, Kan., has seven new Europe programs this year, featuring English Gardens and Wales in the U.K.; barging in France; Switzerland and Bavaria; a Spain/Morocco/Portugal combination; a city trio with Istanbul, Athens and Cairo, and a land tour of Russia's medieval Golden Ring cities. The Golden Ring tour heads outside of Moscow with overnights in a Suzdal convent and in the medieval town of Yaroslavl. The seven-night itinerary is priced from $3,080, including roundtrip air.Maupintour's competitor for the upscale market, Tauck, has chartered the 46-passenger Halcyon for a Turkey program. The 13-night cruise-tour is priced from $4,190, land only.Budget travelers have 11 new Cosmos European itineraries to choose from, including Greece and Cycladic Islands, a 13-night alternative to traditional Aegean cruises. The price is from $798, double, land only. Like Trafalgar, Cosmos expanded its Italy program to offer a more in-depth view of this popular destination.