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Viking River Cruises Unveils Details Of Four New Ships

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Artist's Depiction of Viking Freya

As I first mentioned in a previous post, Viking River Cruises is in the midst of a $250 million fleet development program, solidifying even more strongly its place as the leading river cruise company in the world.

In a recent announcement, Viking has released details of four new vessels, designated longships, which will be introduced into European waters at the beginning of the 2012 river cruising season.  No other river cruise company has matched this milestone.  For Viking, however, this is the second time since 2001 that they have accomplished this feat.  I would imagine they are quite proud of this, and justifiably so.

Named after four gods in the Norse pantheon, the ships – Viking Freya, Viking Idun, Viking Njord and Viking Odin – will blend cutting edge technology with unrivaled amenities, including the largest real suites available on European rivers.

Each ship will have two Explorer Suites, measuring 445 square feet with wrap around veranda, and seven Veranda Suites of 270 square feet with a full veranda.  All of these suites will feature separate bedrooms and living rooms.  The ships will measure 443 feet in length and offer 95 staterooms.  In addition to the suites, 39 Veranda Staterooms will feature full verandas as well.

The four longships will sail some of Viking River Cruises’ most popular European river routes, including the 10-day Tulips & Windmills, 8-day Romantic Danube, 15-day Grand European Tour and 8-day Danube Waltz.

With the two new ships entering service this year, Viking Emerald and Viking Prestige, and the four ships just announced for next year, Viking is more than half way to their stated goal of ten new ships by 2013.  Add in several refurbishments of ships already in service, and the outlook for river cruising with Viking just keeps getting brighter.

Technorati Tags: 2012, Danube River, European river boat cruises, longships, newbuilds, river boat cruises, river boat cruises in Europe, river cruise, river cruises, riverboat cruises, Viking River Cruises

River Boat Cruises In Russia And The Ukraine

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There are two main options for river boat cruises in Russia and the Ukraine – sailing along the Volga and Svir rivers in Russia and the Dneiper River in the Ukraine.

The Fountains of Peterhof, St. Petersburg

The cruise between Moscow and the incomparable St. Petersburg, Peter the Great’s “Window on the West”, is the classic river boat cruise in Russia.  This cruise, bookended as it were by Russia’s two principal cities, typically visits two of the Golden Ring cities en route, Uglich and Yaroslavl (founded in 1010).  Other stops, at smaller and quainter villages, provide a first-hand glimpse of typical Russian village life.

The cruise traverses the two largest lakes in Europe, Lake Ladoga and Lake Onega.  Cruising on Lake Onega provides the opportunity for the ship to visit the island village of Kizhi, site of the Open Air Museum of Architecture, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The highlight of this visit is Preobrazhenskaya Church, the Church of the Transfiguration, a three-tiered wooden structure built in 1714 without a single nail.

The major river boat cruise companies on this route include three day visits to both Moscow and St. Petersburg, giving guests ample opportunity to explore the important sites in each city.  Shore excursions are included in the package and the ship serves as the guests’ hotel.

A cruise along the Dneiper River in the Ukraine is the second option in this region.  Sailing between Odessa and Kiev, the cruise includes some time on the Black Sea as well.  Surprising Sevastopol, home of the Russian Black Sea fleet, is also the jumping off point for a visit to two important historical sites.  One is the archaeological site of Chersonese, a Greek city founded in the 6th century BC.  The other is the Tatar city of Bakhchisarei, capital of the Crimean Khanate, site of the Khan’s residence, and cultural and political center for the Crimean Tatars.  It was in Sevastopol that the light brigade made its fateful charge, memorialized in verse by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

Additional stops on this river boat cruise include Yalta, where passengers visit the White Palace, a former imperial residence and site of the 1945 Yalta Conference of Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill; Zaporozhye, ancestral home of the Cossacks; and Kiev, with its UNESCO World Heritage Site, St. Sophia Cathedral.

River boat quality in Russia can be fairly questionable, and care needs to be taken in choosing the boat to book.  Focusing consideration on several major lines is well-advised.  AMA Waterways has one ship on the Volga, the totally gutted and rebuilt Amakaterina, sailing in 2011.  Uniworld Boutique River Cruises has a single ship as well on the Volga, the River Victoria.  Viking River Cruises, the major operator here, has four ships on the Volga and one on the Dneiper.

Technorati Tags: AMA Waterways, Dneiper river, Moscow, river boat cruises, Russia, St. Petersburg, Svir river, Ukraine, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises, Viking River Cruises, Volga 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

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