Like the idea of the convenience and relaxation offered by a cruise -- but not so much the images of pasty passengers, crowded ports and stuff-your-face midnight buffets?
Then consider a river cruise: a segment of the industry that’s growing in popularity among travelers, especially those looking for a more authentic local experience. Some cruise lines have seen bookings grow by 60 percent over the past five years, as travelers discover the delights of less-crowded boats and ports, local cuisine and a much more intimate experience than their seafaring counterparts can provide.
While European destinations are growing in popularity for river cruisers, adventure-minded passengers might opt for a more exotic experience. Our picks? The Nile and the Amazon. Here are some deals to consider.
Pharaohs & Pyramids, Viking: This 12-day tour offers the best of Egypt – think the Great Sphinx and the colorful souks (marketplaces) of Cairo – and includes a four nights along the Nile and three on Lake Nasser. Until May 28, the company is offering its best-ever early booking discount for 2011 voyages: 2-for-1 prices on the cruise and international airfare, plus complimentary wine. Ask for offer EBD 2011; www.vikingrivercruises.com.
Peruvian Amazon, Aqua Expeditions: Venture deep into remote estuaries of the Peruvian Amazon – perhaps you’ll catch glimpses of the endangered pink Amazon dolphins or three-toed sloths – aboard the most exclusive river cruiser in the region, Aqua’s 130-foot flagship M/V Aqua. After a day of exploring the region, which spans the 5-million-acre Pacaya Samiria Reserve on the headwaters of the Amazon basin, you’ll retreat to the floating luxuries of the ship. It features 12 spacious luxury suites, all with air-conditioning and measuring a generous 230 to 240 square feet, and cuisine from Miguel Schiaffino, one of Peru’s top chefs. Because the ship is so small, discounts are not generally available, but there are reductions for a third guest or a child in each cabin. www.aquaexpeditions.com.
Peruvian Amazon, International Expeditions: In honor of their three decades of Amazon conservation, IE is offering passengers on its May 7, May 14 and July 16 seven-night cruises two free nights at a rainforest lodge. The voyages will also give travelers a firsthand look at the company’s conservation efforts, including a tour of a 10-story canopy walkway and a visit to one of three water treatment facilities in local villages. Aboard the La Amatista, passengers enjoy spacious, air-conditioned cabins (28 total), décor from local artisans, an open-air observation deck and a peaceful, relaxed atmosphere. When this post was published, there were a handful of open spots for the May voyages; the July one had more availability. www.ietravel.com.