GREAT RIVER CRUISE ES­CAPES

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Destination Afloat -

LUX­URY river boats MS Swiss Sap­phire, MS Swiss Emer­ald and, new for next year, MS Swiss Jewel, will ex­plore Europe’s scenic towns and wa­ter­ways on itin­er­ar­ies just re­leased for 2009. The Tauck cruises, with a max­i­mum of 118 guests, in­clude shore ex­cur­sions to UNESCO World Her­itage sites. The 14-night Bu­dapest to Am­s­ter­dam Main and Rhine river cruise in­cor­po­rates Vi­enna, Koln, Nurem­berg, Bratislava and Bu­dapest, and high­lights in­clude an evening event at a Vi­en­nese palace and a lunch cruise along Am­s­ter­dam’s 17th-cen­tury canals. A re­verse sail­ing from Am­s­ter­dam to Bu­dapest is also avail­able. De­par­tures from May to Oc­to­ber. Cruiseonly prices from $US5390 ($8000) a per­son. Tauck’s Grand Euro­pean Cruise is a 24-day North Sea to the Black Sea jour­ney, trav­el­ling down the Danube, Main and Rhine rivers and tak­ing in The Nether­lands, Ger­many, Aus­tria, Slo­vakia, Hun­gary, Croa­tia, Ser­bia, Bul­garia and Ro­ma­nia. Avail­able from May to Au­gust, from $US8790 a per­son. The third new trip is a 19-day Prague to the Black Sea itin­er­ary fea­tur­ing two nights in Prague and Bucharest with a two-week cruise through east­ern Europe, in­clud­ing Ger­many, the Czech Repub­lic, Aus­tria, Croa­tia, Hun­gary, Ser­bia and Bul­garia. De­par­tures from May to Septem­ber. From $US7690 a per­son. More: 1300 766 566; www.trav­elthe­world.com.au. Free flights: Scenic Tours is of­fer­ing sav­ings of up to $3270 a cou­ple, in­clud­ing free flights for part­ners, on its 26-day Grand Alpine and River Cruise tour. From $12,695 plus taxes (land and cruise only), based on May to Septem­ber 2009 de­par­tures. On sale to the end of the month. More: 1300 723 642; www.scen­ic­space­ships.com. Early sav­ings: Vik­ing River Cruises has ex­tended its early­bird dis­counts for the 2009 sea­son to the end of this month. The sav­ings ap­ply to a range of cruises in Europe, Rus­sia and China and now also in­clude sail­ings on the newly ren­o­vated Vik­ing Surkov in Rus­sia; its 16-day Roof of the World itin­er­ary ex­plores Bei­jing, Xian and Shang­hai plus a six-day Yangtze cruise. There’s also a 15-day Grand Euro­pean Tour from Am­s­ter­dam to Bu­dapest, vis­it­ing The Nether­lands, Ger­many, Aus­tria, Slo­vakia and Hun­gary. From $4549 a per­son, cruise only, a sav­ing of $1250 with the early­bird dis­count. Or its 12-day Yangtze cruise, Im­pe­rial Jew­els of China, ex­plor­ing Shang­hai and Bei­jing, in­clud­ing a cruise be­tween Wuhan and Chongqing through the Three Gorges, is now from $2749 a per­son, a sav­ing of up to $750 a per­son. More: 1800 829 138; www.vikingriver­cruises.com. Rhine ro­mance: Spec­tac­u­lar scenery and vine­yard- laden vil­lages is the prom­ise with Uni­world’s 12-night Rhine and Moselle cruise trav­el­ling through France, Switzer­land, Ger­many, Lux­em­bourg and The Nether­lands. From $4035 a per­son, cruise only. High­lights in­clude a tour of Cologne and a visit to its World Her­itage-listed cathe­dral, which took 632 years to com­plete, and a tour of the old town of Koblenz. More: www.uni­world­cruises.com.au. Rus­sia afloat: Be­yond Travel is of­fer­ing 20 de­par­tures of its pop­u­lar Wa­ter­ways of the Czars cruise be­tween Moscow and St Peters­burg in 2009. The 12-night voy­age, aboard Vik­ing Kirov or Vik­ing Surkov, in­cludes tours in St Peters­burg and Moscow be­fore or af­ter the cruise and stops at Lake Lagoda, Kizki, Yaroslavl and Uglich. Prices vary ac­cord­ing to sea­son but start at about $3150, cruise only. More: 1300 363 554; www.be­yond­travel.com.au. Barry Oliver

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