There’s never been a better time to book your floating boutique hotel holiday
The ropes are off and the joy of river cruising can restart after the Foreign & Commonwealth Office changed its advice to give river cruising the green light this week.
It’s something the Mail has been pushing for and we’re pleased the Government has listened.
Hop off a river cruise ship to find yourself in some of the prettiest towns and villages in Europe; cross the road to enter Avignon’s Palace of Popes, wander along the river bank into the centre of Bordeaux, step straight into Cologne for a cool beer and it’s access all areas with moorings alongside the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
River cruising is one of the most relaxing and comfortable forms of travel — and you can see so much of a country as you pass towns and villages, vine-clad valleys and fields of sunflowers bowing their heads in welcome.
So wake up with the sun rising over the Rhone, or cycle along the towpaths of the Danube while the early morning mist is still rising on the river.
Cruise lines also put on special tours along waterways — from private visits to Monet’s garden in Giverny, and after-hours tours to galleries and museums, to themed sailings to celebrate wine, gastronomy, gardens, art and history.
And now, after the pause in cruising, there are many incredible deals with alluring itineraries along Europe’s waterways. Some have a 50 per cent discount, so there’s never been a better time to book your floating boutique hotel holiday.
Bike it in Vienna
Cycle through the historic streets of Vienna and along the towpaths of the Danube on Emerald Sky’s ‘Danube Delights’ sailing. There are opportunities to go kayaking and, on-board, swim in the infinity pool or join Pilates and yoga classes.
The Nuremberg to Budapest sailing also calls at the medieval city of Regensburg and Passau, where Danube, Inn and Ilz rivers meet — look closely to see their three different colours in the water.
When: October 26, 2020.
Book it: Prices reduced by £2,200 per couple — from £998pp, including 52 per cent discount (panachecruises.com, 0161 513 8200).
Bordeaux in a 2cv
Scenic’s ‘Beautiful Bordeaux, Bordeaux Affair and new Flavours of Bordeaux’ cruises includes a complimentary pre-cruise stay at the Intercontinental Bordeaux
Toddle around Bordeaux’s wine region in a classic 2CV and enjoy a complimentary pre-cruise stay at the Intercontinental Bordeaux during Scenic’s ‘Beautiful Bordeaux, Bordeaux Affair and new Flavours of Bordeaux’ cruises.
Art-lovers can also enjoy exclusive after-hours access to the immersive digital art exhibition, Les Bassins de Lumières, inside Bordeaux’s former submarine base.
When: April 30, 2021.
Book it: Prices start from £3,645pp, including savings of £1,200pp based on April 30 departure, door-to-door chauffeur transfers and a deposit protection plan for risk-free booking when booked before August 14 (scenic.co.uk, 0808 159 5547).
A-Rosa was one of the first river-cruise companies to re-start sailings and its ‘Rhône Route Intensive’ sailing features plenty of activities for families during the Lyon to Provence cruise.
Pass vineyards and fields of lavender and, while in Arles, walk to Place du Forum where Van Gogh painted Café Terrace at Night.
On a balmy evening, sit outside the yellow-walled café and raise a glass of cognac to new-found cruise friends — and, as the midnight-blue sky becomes studded with stars, realise that art is not just on gallery walls but it is all around — you just have to look.
When: August 25, 2020.
Book it: 14 nights’ all-inclusive from £2,354pp (arosa-cruises.com, +49 0 381 202 6001).
Flowing: The 126-passenger Douro Splendour’s seven-night ‘Douro, Porto & Salamanca’ river cruise, is for solo travellers. Pictured is Salamanca, Spain
Travelling with solo guests can be a great way to make new friends. The 126-passenger Douro Splendour’s seven-night ‘Douro, Porto & Salamanca’ river cruise, is for solo travellers who can share the pleasure of visiting Porto’s port wine cellars, take a tour of beautiful Salamanca and delight in the loveliness of Mateus Palace and gardens.
When: November 8, 2020.
Book it: Fly from Manchester, Gatwick or Birmingham airports and pay £1,799 for a river view cabin (passionforcruises.co.uk, 02920 619961).
Prefer to travel in a small group with friends and family? La Belle Epoque first carried logs from Burgundy to Paris and has now been transformed into a deluxe vessel, sailing on the same canal.
Six crew look after up to 12 guests with all meals catered for by an onboard chef. Guests also enjoy an open bar with regional wines, chauffeured and guided sight- seeing tours and use of bicycles.
When: Sailings throughout summer 2020.
Book it: Receive a 20 per cent discount if booked by August 31. Price for 12 guests is £34,400 (reduced from £43,000) — £2,866pp (europeanwaterways.com, 01753 598555).
Rhine and stay
Enjoy the delights of Moselle valley in Germany on the ‘Rhine Castles & Swiss Alps’ river cruise
Guests on AmaMora can enjoy a three-night hotel stay by Lake Como after the seven-night ‘Rhine Castles & Swiss Alps’ river cruise, including the delights of the Moselle valley. Save £375pp.
When: September 3, 2020.
Book it: Sail from Amsterdam to Basel plus Lake Como hotel stay from £4,125 (amawaterways.co.uk, 0800 320 2335).
The new black
River cruise fans who love to sail in to new ports will be thrilled by Avalon Artistry II’s 11-night Black Sea sailing, which features four new moorings — Ilok, Croatia; Golubac, Serbia; Hainburg, Austria and Constanta, Romania.
When: October 22, 2020.
Book it: Discounted price from £3,431pp to £2,931pp. Includes wine with lunch and dinner, tours and tips, plus an overnight stay in Bucharest (avaloncruises.co.uk, 0800 668 1801).
Visit Monet’s garden at Giverny (above) and make a pilgrimage to the Normandy beaches on this Paris round-trip
Sailing along the Seine, a serene ribbon of green river to Normandy, is one of the most popular routes for British travellers who can easily hop to Paris on Eurostar, take a ferry and coach, or fly in to the city.
New Viking Longship Rinda’s eight-day ‘Paris & the Heart of Normandy’ cruise is flanked by overnight stays in the capital. Visit Monet’s garden at Giverny and make a pilgrimage to the Normandy beaches on this Paris round-trip.
When: December 8, 2020.
Book it: Prices from £2,895 pp. Bookings made by July 31 are covered by Viking’s risk-free guarantee policy (vikingcruises.co.uk, 0800 319 66 60).
Days in the delta
Spend 15 days river cruising from Germany on MS Arena to explore Belgrade, Budapest, Bratislava and Vienna, as well as travelling to Bucharest, Novi Sad and the Danube Delta.
When: July and September 2021.
Book it: From £1,895pp, including flights from London Heathrow to Munich and return from Cologne (arenarivercruises.co.uk, 01858 435 655).
WHEN WILL OCEAN VOYAGES RESUME?
With the Foreign & Commonwealth Office cruise travel advice changing week by week, we steer you through the choppiest of waters.
Q. I’m longing for a cruise but how long before the Government gives ocean cruising the go-ahead?
A. The FCO says its cruise advice is ‘under continual review’ and it will not be changed until it is considered safe to do so. Most cruise lines have paused services until at least September and are working to put procedures in place to protect passengers.
Q. Can British travellers now go on a river cruise?
A. Yes. The FCO changed its advice on Wednesday and a spokesman has told Escape: ‘The point about river cruise ships being smaller and carrying fewer passengers reached the FCO. Our advice against cruise travel now only applies to ocean cruises.’
Q. Can passengers go on an around-Britain cruise?
A. No. FCO advice still stands against this, but there is progress being made with the cruise lines’ body, the Cruise Lines International Association, continuing talks with the Department of Transport because the matter falls under its responsibility.
Q. Would I be breaking the law if I decided to go on an overseas cruise this month?
A. No. The FCO guidance is advisory. A British traveller is free to travel pretty much anywhere. Getting insurance would be the problem.
Q. If a passenger wants to book an ocean cruise, when should they do so?
A. Now! 2021 is already busy, so if there is an itinerary you fancy, book sooner rather than later. There are some strong offers combined with low deposits and flexible booking conditions which allow you to cancel within 14 days of departure.
Q. If I have booked a cruise this autumn and the FCO advice is still in place, what options do I have?
A. This is something you should talk through with your travel agent, who should liaise with the cruise line for the outcome you prefer.
‘This will vary from cruise line to cruise line,’ says Edwina Lonsdale, managing director of Mundy Cruising. ‘There are a range of options from transferring the booking to a future date, accepting a Future Cruise Credit, often with a bonus value, or taking a refund.’
Q. Which cruise lines offer a risk-free guarantee?
A. Many lines are offering cruise guarantees. In the case of Viking, its guarantee allows guests to change their cruise date up to 24 hours before their planned departure, with no fees. This covers reservations made by July 31.
Q. How does the FCO’s advice affect passengers’ insurance for an ocean cruise this autumn?
A. Check with your insurance company. Insurers are all focusing on adapting their policies to accommodate the new challenges to travellers.
Q. Will itineraries change in the year ahead?
A. Yes, it is likely that there could be changes to itineraries while cruise lines work to the safest practices.
Several countries have cruise bans in place. This week the U.S. extended its no-sail ban to September 30. In Canada, ships carrying more than 100 passengers are banned until October 31, Australia’s ban is until September 17, while the Seychelles is closed to cruise ships until 2022.
Q. Is there any other point worth making?
A. Yes, a big one. The current FCO advice not to take an ocean cruise is obviously for travel now. This is ‘irrelevant because the major cruise lines have paused sailings,’ says James Cole of Panache Cruises. ‘By the time the cruise lines re-start later this year, it’s highly likely that the FCO advice will have changed again.’ So watch this space.