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River Boat Cruises in Egypt

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Giza Plateau

“Egypt is the gift of the Nile.  Nowhere are there so many marvelous things, nor in the world besides are to be seen so many things of unspeakable greatness.”

Thus wrote Herodotus, the Greek historian, in 325BC.  Remarkably, this is no less true 2500 years later.  River boat cruises are an ideal way to witness these wonders yourself – for much of the country, the only practical way.  To sail the Nile is to sail back in time.  Life along its banks continues as it has for thousands of years.

The Nile is the life blood of Egypt.  The annual floods replenish the soil and make agriculture possible along its banks.  Only 6% of the total land mass of Egypt is arable, all situated within a narrow band that hugs the shores of the Nile.  99% of Egypt’s population lives within this area.  All of Egypt’s major cities – Cairo, Luxor, Aswan and Alexandria – sit on the Nile.  The river has long been Egypt’s principal thoroughfare and its trade route.  It’s the thread that has held the country together.

Abercrombie & Kent, Viking River Cruises, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises, and Avalon Waterways are among the larger providers of river boat cruises.  Added to these are a number of high-quality vessels operated by large hotel chains, such as Sonesta and Oberoi.  When the numerous smaller companies are included, the total number of river boats from which to choose numbers around 250.

Most river boat cruises sail between Luxor and Aswan in either direction, taking 3 or 4 days in which to navigate the distance.  Some few cruises go as far north as Dendera, and some do 7 night roundtrips between Luxor and Aswan.  Sightseeing is provided at either end, with further opportunities to explore at stops enroute.  Typically, the river boats stop at Edfu, site of the Temple of Horus, the best preserved major temple in Egypt, and at Kom Ombo.  Kom Ombo, situated beautifully on a hillside just above the Nile, has the distinction of being dedicated to two gods – Sobek, the crocodile-headed god, and Haroeris, the sun god.  Passengers, if they’re lucky, will depart this site as darkness falls, getting a marvelous view of the temple in full illumination.

Technorati Tags: Aswan, Edfu, Egypt, Kom Ombo, Luxor, river boat cruises, Royal Viking Cruises, the Nile river

River Boat Cruises in China

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Victoria Jenna

River boat cruises in China are essentially limited to the great Yangtze River.  Rising in the Tibetan Palteau and traversing the width of China before emptying into the East China Sea near Shanghai, the Yangtze -at 3915 miles- is the third longest river in the world, behind the Amazon and Nile rivers.  Historically, the Yangtze marks the division between North and South China.

While there are many sites of historical and cultural interest along the way, the highlight of any river boat cruise on the Yangtze is the mesmerizing Three Gorges Region.  Arrayed along approximately 150 miles of the river, the gorges enchant and awe the visitor.  The Qutang Gorge is the shortest and narrowest, with the tallest peaks and the most spectacular scenery. Wu (Witches) Gorge passes through lush, mist shrouded mountains. Finally, Xiling Gorge at 47 miles, is the longest of the three, with high, narrow, precipitous cliffs.

Many passengers opt to transfer to a smaller vessel for the popular excursion up the Daning River to visit the Three Lesser Gorges – Dragon Gate, Misty and Emerald Green.  Narrower than the Three Gorges, these gorges offer dramatic canyon scenery.  Man-made sites are also included in these river boat cruises.  Of particular note are the Shibaozhai Temple, a dramatic, red, 12 story wooden structure and the immense Three Gorges Dam.

The majority of the river boat cruises sail between Chongqing and Yichang, for either 3 or 4 nights, depending on direction, or 7 nights roundtrip.  For those with more time, there are longer cruises from Chongqing to Nanjing or Shanghai.  Depending on direction, these can take up to 11 days.

Viking River cruises operates 2 vessels on the Yangtze, Viking Century Sun and Viking Emerald, offered in conjunction with land tours.  Victoria Cruises, the other major river boat cruise operator in the region, has 8 ships deployed on this magnificent river.

Technorati Tags: China, river boat cruises, Three Gorges, Victoria Cruises, Viking River Cruises, Yangtze River

River Boat Cruises in Europe

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The Viking Pride

Europe has the most developed and extensive river boat sector in the world. River boat cruises are offered along the Danube, Main, Rhine, Moselle, Rhone, Saone, Seine and Douro rivers. Competition is brisk and the selection wide. Uniworld Boutique River Cruises, AMA Waterways, Viking River Cruises and Avalon Waterways, in addition to many smaller companies, all have numerous vessels plying European rivers.

Europe’s rivers were the highways and trade routes of early Europe. As a result, the river banks became the birthplace of many towns and cities. River boat cruises afford the traveler the opportunity to visit great cities, such as Paris, Vienna, Budapest – and smaller towns, like Koblenz, Trier, Wurtzburg.

BY exploring Europe via its beautiful rivers, one experiences European travel in a more traditional manner, approaching destinations the way they were originally meant to be reached. And since river boats are relatively small, carrying perhaps a couple hundred passengers, they are able to dock in the heart of town. Gone are the hassles of train and bus travel. Passengers spend less time getting there, and more time being there.

A river boat cruise along one of Europe’s great rivers allows the traveler to immerse himself in the cultures of several regions in one trip. Consider the Danube, the second longest river in Europe. The Danube rises in the Black Forest and empties into the Black Sea. Along the way, it passes through 10 countries. More than a dozen languages are spoken along its banks.

The Danube is witness to 2000 years of European history, with all the variety of culture, food, and architecture that that history implies. Four capitals grew up along its banks – Vienna, Budapest, Bratislava and Belgrade – more than any other river in the world.

The Rhine rises in the Swiss Alps, passing through Switzerland, Austria, Lichtenstein, Germany, France and the Netherlands, before emptying into the North Sea. Only about half the length of the Danube, the Rhine still engages the traveler, boasting more than 40 castles and fortresses along a single stretch in Germany.

The rivers, the sites, the options and the opportunities go on and on. A river boat cruise offers just about the best way for a traveler to visit the heart of Europe. Perhaps even more accurately stated, it is the best way for the traveler to be touched by Europe’s heart.

Technorati Tags: Danube River, Europe, Rhine River, river boat cruises, river cruises

Viking Enters the Southeast Asia Market

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RV Tonle

Viking River Cruises, the world’s leading river boat cruise company, has announced a new itinerary along the Mekong River for 2011.  While this does not entail the introduction of a new vessel on the river, it does mark the entry of the major supplier into the region.

Viking will partner with Pandaw River Cruises, chartering their ship RV Tonle for the season.  This partnership will bring Viking’s expertise and experience into the area, enabling them to craft an inclusive land/river itinerary that presents the best of Vietnam and Cambodia to the traveler.

Magnificent Mekong, as the new itinerary is billed, will have as its centerpiece an 8 day cruise on the Mekong River between Siem Reap in Cambodia and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in Vietnam.

“Our guests have requested that we expand to other destinations so they can experience even more of the world,” said Chairman Torstein Hagen. “With the addition of this new Mekong River program, Viking now offers itineraries in six regions, which is more than any other river cruise line worldwide.  We are proud to launch this new Mekong River program and know that it will soon become a favorite of both past and new Viking guests,” adds Hagen. “This itinerary was created by the same expert Viking team who developed our award-winning and highly rated China cruisetours. We have partnered with the world’s best hosts to provide a once-in-a-lifetime journey highlighted by the history, culture and charm of the region at a value-packed price.”

Guests on the Magnificent Mekong tour will see lively floating markets and sleepy riverside villages; Hanoi, Phnom Penh, and Saigon with all their hustle and bustle amidst often charming French colonial architecture; and Siem Reap, site of the Angkor Archeological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and masterpiece of Khmer architecture.

Siem Reap alone is worth the trip and should be on everyone’s bucket list.  In addition to the great Angkor Wat, there are several smaller sites which simply must be visited.  Two in particular, the mystical Angkor Thom and the haunting Ta Prohm, are not to be missed.

Add to all this two optional “Explore More” land extensions to either Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, achingly beautiful, or Bangkok, Thailand, and you have an extraordinary vacation experience, currently on sale at 2 for 1 prices.

Technorati Tags: Mekong River cruises, Pandaw Cruise Company, river boat cruises, Southeast Asia cruises, Viking River Cruises

Top 10 Reasons to Take a River Boat Cruise

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River boat cruises are becoming more and more popular.  Over the past 5 years, bookings have increased as much as 60% for some cruise lines.  Many of the lines are introducing new ships in 2011, and quite a few of the existing ships will be undergoing complete refurbishments.

Viking River Cruises plans to build 8 new ships and totally refurbish two other ships over the next 3 years; Avalon Waterways will introduce the gound-breaking Avalon Panorama in 2011; AMA Waterways will deploy the Amalotus in the Mekong River and the completely refurbished Amakaterina in Russia; and Uniworld Boutique River Cruises will introduce 2 new ships in Europe and 1 in Russia, along with the refurbishment of 3 other ships in 2011.

Why all the interest?  Consider the top ten reasons to take a river boat cruise:

1. Modern river boats are luxurious, offering fine dining, and small but excellent accommodations.  Travel on a river boat cruise is leisurely, elegant and easy.

2. River boats offer the easiest way to see and explore multiple destinations, sometimes more than one in a day.  Unpack once and relax.  There’s no need to haul luggage on and off trains or buses as you make your way from one destination to the next.

3. River boats are small enough to pull right into the heart of small towns along the rivers of Europe, Egypt, Russia, China, Southeast Asia, and North & South America.  This convenience extends to the larger cities as well.  In Paris the ships dock at Port de Grenelle, within walking distance of the Eiffel Tower.

4. Sit on the deck or at your cabin window – most open wide for a clear, unimpeded view – and take pictures of picturesque villages, ancient castles, and beautiful countryside, sometimes mere feet from your chair.

5. Like their far larger brethren, the ocean going vessels, modern river boats have all the amenities you’ve come to expect – fitness centers, libraries, spas, internet centers and, in many cases, pools.

6. Gourmet meals are served in beautiful surroundings, often with complimentary wine.  There is one seating with a casual, relaxed dress code.  Seating is open, so you can sit wherever and with whomever you wish.  Meals are prepared with fresh, local ingredients, often reflecting the cuisine of the country through which you are passing.

7. Entertainment is low key.  Gone are the glitzy Las vegas revues and Broadway samplers.  Local entertainment and folkloric troupes come on board, while local experts give talks on the area, further immersing the passengers in the detination.

8. Local guides lead the shore excursions, typically included in the price of the cruise.  Time is built in to the day for the all-important souvenir and gift shopping.  For the adventurous who’d rather take their own path, bicycles are provided, usually free of charge.

9. River boat cruises are on far smaller ships than most ocean going vessels, allowing for easy navigation about the boat.  Instead of traveling with thousands of strangers, you sail instead with 200 like-minded travelers as eager as you to delve into the destinations.  Fellow passengers become friends.

10.Rivers flow smoothly, without swells and waves.  The leisurely pace will make you forget you’re on water at all.  Motion sickness is not a concern.

Technorati Tags: AMA Waterways, Avalon Waterways, river boat cruise, river boat cruises, top 10 reasons, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises, Viking River Cruises