NEW YORK -- Nowadays the savvy agent knows that less can be more
when selling a cruise to clients who eschew the 2,000-plus
passenger megaships in favor of the camaraderie, intimacy and
personal service that are keys to the appeal of the small-ship
Whether one prefers to sail on a sleek river ship carrying a
maximum of 150 to 200 passengers or a deluxe barge with just 20
guests, there are more quality vessels to choose from than ever
before due to the expansion of this market niche over the past
Cruises featuring European waterways and ports of call are
especially popular, and clients can choose from several new
itineraries and take advantage of reasonable rates now available
from Viking River Cruises, Uniworld, Peter Deilmann and Continental
The Europe season runs from late March to the end of October or
early November, and some of the best buys are typically available
at the beginning and end of the season.
Two leading small-ship lines specializing in Europe -- Viking
River Cruises and Uniworld -- aim to increase their share of the
North American market in 2004.
• Viking River Cruises has added nine new vessels within the
past four years and grown its fleet to a total of 23 ships. Plans
call for construction of more ships and an increase in its
Its 2004 Europe schedule features all-inclusive cruise tours of
six to 14 days along the Danube, Elbe, Main, Rhine, Rhone and Seine
rivers plus Ukraine's Dnieper River and the Waterways of the Czars
Prices include roundtrip air fare, all meals and daily shore
excursions plus shipboard lectures and entertainment.
Among the best buys currently available are an eight-day Danube
Explorer cruise from Vienna to Nuremberg, Germany, beginning at
$959 per person; an 11-day Treasures of the Rhine sailing from
Basel, Switzerland, to Antwerp, Belgium, with fares from $1,859;
and a 15-day Grand European Tour from Amsterdam to Budapest,
Hungary, priced at $2,459.
Francophiles may be in the market for an eight-day French
Vineyards and Vistas cruise through the heart of France's Burgundy
and Provence regions from $1,309 per person.
For a limited time, clients who book this cruise get a $250 per
person discount, and past passengers are entitled to an additional
Contact Viking River Cruises at (877) 66-VIKING or visit www.vikingrivercruises.com.
• Founded in 1976, Uniworld has a long history of river cruising
in Europe. Its season begins March 27 and continues through Oct.
The company's 2004 France, Italy, Portugal River Cruises program
is highlighted by two new programs, a 14-day Grand France
cruise/tour and a nine-day Splendors of Italy cruise.
Along with an eight-day cruise through the French countryside,
the Grand France program includes a tour of Paris and a visit to
the beaches of Normandy, which this year marks the 60th anniversary
Uniworld's new Splendors of Italy cruise, which is highlighted
by a visit to Venice and the islands of the Venice Lagoon, sails
for nine days on the Po River between the French Alps and the
Adriatic Sea aboard the deluxe River Cloud II.
Uniworld is also offering several themed cruises in 2004,
including Art and Wine cruises on select departures aboard the
Venezia, the only ship on the Po River catering exclusively to U.S.
Each of these cruises includes onboard lectures on art and wine,
visits to the Pilotta Palace and the Peggy Guggenheim museum and
stops at various art galleries during shore excursions.
Uniworld's Italy, France and Portugal cruises start at $1,998
per person and include meals, shore excursions, English-speaking
guides and roundtrip air fare from New York or Boston (fly from any
other major U.S. gateway for an additional $100 to $200; free
companion air fare is offered on select departures).
In addition, extensions are offered on the Venice Simplon Orient
Express as passengers board the train in London or Paris prior to
select Italy cruises departing from Venice.
For reservations and information, call (800) 360-9550 or visit
• Another major player in Europe is Peter Deilmann Cruises, and
its 2004 Great Rivers of Europe brochure lists more than 320
European river cruises sailing on itineraries on the Danube, Elbe,
Moselle, Po, Rhine, Rhone, Saone and Vistula rivers from late March
to early November.
Peter Deilmann's 10 deluxe vessels, which accommodate from 58 to
204 passengers, is known for its high-quality onboard service, with
passenger crew ratios of 2.5 to 1.
New for Peter Deilmann this year is the debut of the
108-passenger Heidelberg, which sets sail March 27 on a series of
spring cruises out of Amsterdam.
Those who opt for a precruise stay can catch the Keukenhof flower
exhibition, which opens March 25 just outside Amsterdam.
Also on March 27, the 79-passenger Frederic Chopin will
inaugurate cruises on the Vistula River between Gdansk, Poland, on
the Baltic coast to Poland's capital city of Warsaw.
One of the best deals available during Peter Deilmann's spring
and fall value seasons are eight-day cruises on the 140-passenger
Princesse de Pro-vence and the 100-passenger Cezanne, which sail on
the Rhone and Saone Rivers from Lyon, France, to the Burgundy and
Beaujolais wine regions and Provencal cities of Avignon and
Prices for these sailings have remained unchanged since 2001,
with cruise-only rates starting at $1,375 per person on the
Princesse and $1,450 on the Cezanne.
Meanwhile, the cities of Berlin, Dresden and Potsdam, Germany,
and Prague, Czech Republic, are featured on eight-day cruises
aboard the Katharina and Konigstein on the Elbe, Havel and Moldau
rivers starting at $1,395 per person for an outside twin cabin.
Peter Deilmann also offers 12- to 17-day cruise tours, which
include eight to 12 days of cruising plus first-class hotels,
deluxe rail travel on TGV and Orient Express trains and shore
In addition to its cruises and cruise tours, the line arranges
pre- and post-cruise city packages, shore excursion packages, air
transportation, meet-and-greet service and transfers between
airports and ships. Call (800) 348-8287 or visit www.deilmann-cruises.com.
• Continental Waterways, which pioneered barge cruises on the
rivers and canals of Europe, established fixed rates in U.S.
dollars prior to the start of the 2004 season, which translates
into savings of more than 25% over euro-based rates.
Cruise-only rates for a six-day cruise start at $995 per person.
The small-ship line is also offering special barge cruise fares on
four-, six- and seven-day cruise packages that include hotel and
air fare (available at www.bargespecials.com).
Since the company's inception in 1966, Continental has focused
on art, history, architecture, wine and gastronomy as major selling
points for its cruises in Belgium, France and the Netherlands, and
it owns and operates the largest fleet in Europe with 16 barges
accommodating 20 to 50 passengers.
All barges feature rich wood paneling, decorative fabrics,
spacious salons, dining areas, bars and sundecks. Call (800)
676-6613 or contact www.continentalwaterways.com.
To contact the reporter who wrote this story, send e-mail to
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