RIVER RE­VAMP

Euro­pean river cruises ply new waters with im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ences, ex­er­cise

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - REAL ESTATE - By Ellen Uzelac

River cruis­ing in Europe is redefin­ing it­self with itin­er­ar­ies that are “cu­rated” to in­di­vid­ual tastes, a new em­pha­sis on ac­tive tour­ing op­tions (snow­shoe­ing in the Black For­est, any­one?) and staff po­si­tions like “ad­ven­ture host.” That’s right, ad­ven­ture host. It’s a pretty rad­i­cal makeover. As Rick Ka­plan, pres­i­dent of Premier River Cruises travel agency in Los An­ge­les, frames it: “What you’re see­ing in the in­dus­try right now is cruise lines try­ing to broaden their base. They’re try­ing to get ev­ery­one en­gaged, no mat­ter what as­pect of travel they most en­joy.”

Cruise lines can only do so much to amp up the on­board ex­pe­ri­ence, due to the small size of the ships made for river tour­ing.

As a re­sult, the fo­cus is on the desti­na­tion — and the many ways in which to ex­pe­ri­ence, say, a Bu­dapest or an Am­s­ter­dam beyond the ob­vi­ous must-see at­trac­tions.

“Peo­ple are look­ing for more dy­namic river cruises,” says Pam Hof­fee, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Avalon Wa­ter­ways. “They’re look­ing for more va­ri­ety and choice ver­sus the more tra­di­tional ex­pe­ri­ence where things are ei­ther dic­tated or prepack­aged. Choice is the op­er­a­tive word.”

Some of the lines — Avalon, Scenic and Crys­tal, for ex­am­ple — have el­e­vated the tra­di­tional lis­ten­ing de­vice used on guided shore ex­cur­sions with GPS tech­nol­ogy that helps trav­el­ers ex­plore des­ti­na­tions on their own.

In a nut­shell, here’s what’s new in the Euro­pean river-cruis­ing world: a fresh fo­cus on im­mer­sive tours that dig deep into lo­cal life, a rise in spe­cial-in­ter­est voy­ages and pro­gram­ming for ev­ery fit­ness level. That’s be­come im­por­tant to trav­el­ers. Not ev­ery­one wants a man­u­fac­tured ex­pe­ri­ence.” there ev­ery 10 years since 1634.

Euro­pean river cruises typ­i­cally are not kid-friendly. Tauck and Ad­ven­tures by Dis­ney are two ex­cep­tions, with de­par­tures planned espe­cially for grand­par­ents, par­ents and chil­dren.

On Tauck, kids ages 5 and older will see the Lou­vre in Paris by way of scav­enger hunt. At Nor­mandy, they get to sam­ple ra­tions that troops ate in World War II. In Vi­enna? Waltz lessons.

Dis­ney has less for­mal pro­gram­ming than Tauck but it does wel­come kids at least 4 years old and of­fers in­ter­con­nect­ing cab­ins for fam­i­lies. Don’t ex­pect to see Mickey Mouse on board, but there will be op­por­tu­ni­ties to watch clas­sic Dis­ney films. Canada. CroisiEurope also of­fers Span­ish-lan­guage cruises.

CROISIEUROPE

CroisiEurope, a Euro­pean line, is mar­ket­ing its itin­er­ar­ies to North Amer­i­cans. Sig­nage, an­nounce­ments and menus are in French and English, and tour guides speak both lan­guages.

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