Cruising up (a European) river

By Tom Armstrong

A revolution has been quietly taking place in the world of premium quality travel, where steadily growing numbers of discerning travelers are rediscovering an elegant and indulgent way to explore a destination.  So what’s the latest, hottest trend in upscale travel?  Cruising aboard a riverboat.

Over the past several years, river cruising has been one the fastest (if not the fastest) growing segment of the global travel industry.  New cruises on the Mekong and elsewhere in Asia are being introduced and Amazon River cruises are growing in popularity, while closer to home the debut of a pair of beautiful paddle wheelers is marking a new era on the Mississippi.  But the real center of the river-cruising revolution is undoubtedly Europe, where a bumper crop of itineraries explore the quaint villages, historic towns and culturally-rich cities that dot the banks of the Continent’s inland waterways.

Fairfield County-based Tauck has more than 100 fully-inclusive land journeys and cruises in nearly 70 countries on all seven continents.  For the past eight years, Tauck’s portfolio has included European river cruises that have won rave reviews from the company’s customers and the media alike, including Travel + Leisure and Condé Nast Traveler magazines.

Tauck’s most popular river cruise is “The Blue Danube,” a 12-day journey that includes not only an eight-day cruise on the Danube but also a pair of two-night hotel stays (complete with guided sightseeing and other activities) in both Budapest and Prague.  The entire itinerary is packed with special experiences, including insider access to venues and private events that would otherwise be unavailable to an independent traveler.

Guests enjoy an exclusive “Imperial Evening” at a private palace in Vienna, featuring an elegant dinner highlighted by music and dance performances from artists in period costume. They’ll also have a private tour and dinner inside 16th-century Lobkowicz Palace in Prague.  Other special  experiences include a private tour of the beautiful Baroque libraries at the Strahov Monastery in Prague, the choice of a full-day excursion to either Salzburg, Austria, or Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic and guided visits to both the Buda and Pest areas of the now unified city of Budapest.

Tauck’s riverboats themselves are also in a class of their own, with each intentionally limited to a maximum capacity of just 118 guests.  By comparison, other companies typically crowd 150 passengers or more onto riverboats of the same size.  (European riverboats must all fit inside the same locks and beneath the same bridges, and are thus constrained to the same approximate size.)

So if you’re looking for a fun way to tour Europe, and see multiple cities and towns with the convenience of unpacking your bags just once, you should give serious consideration to a river cruise.

For more information on Tauck’s tours and their one-inclusive price, call (800) 468-2825 or visit tauck.com.

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