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Relaxing on the river

Jai Arjun Singh | June 05, 2004

Taking a holiday no longer has to mean nodding off during a lengthy coach ride, or trudging long miles on a walking tour. If you're making travel plans for the summer and your heart yearns, Melville-like, for large expanses of water, there are now plenty of options available.

River cruises are providing travellers with a new vantage point from where to appreciate the sights of distant lands.

"Unlike a coach tour, where you spend more time travelling than actually seeing the country, packing and unpacking at different hotels, river cruises offer you a more relaxed holiday option," says Jehangir Katagara, director, Travel Corporation India.

Vikas Khanduri, regional manager, north India outbound, Cox and Kings India, adds that river cruises are hot and happening: "Some of the major cruises have already been completely sold out till mid-July."

TCI is one of the travel companies that has recently announced exclusive river cruise packages keeping the summer holidays in mind. Understandably, a Nile cruise is high on the list of anyone looking for a waterbound trip, providing as it does the opportunity to see Egypt's ancient wonders.

TCI's package includes two nights in Cairo followed by a four-night cruise, which visits Luxor, Edfu, Kom Ombo and Aswan, among other destinations.

Optional excursions include a visit to Alexandria, famous for its archaeological ruins, and the chance to participate in water sports in the resort town of Sharm El Sheikh. The package starts at $420 per person.

A more unusual option for the aquatically inclined is a cruise along the Irrawadi river in Myanmar, on a deluxe cruiser called Road to Mandalay. This cruise starts from $200 per day for a two-day journey and provides views of many ancient temples and riverside settlements.

With China becoming an increasingly popular destination, a cruise on the Yangtze River is another offbeat way to take in the sights of this country. The cruises, which move through the Three Gorges scenery from Chongqing to Shanghai, start at $775 per person for four days.

If Europe is more your scene, there are plenty of options too, ranging from a four-day Rhine cruise from Basel to Dusseldorf (starting at 340 euros) to an eight-day trip on the Danube from Vienna to Budapest and back (890 euros).

And don't worry about missing out on land attractions; shore excursions during the cruise will enable you to see many villages and towns up close.

And if you're curious to see the land Churchill once described as a "riddle wrapped in a mystery in an enigma", a 12-day river cruise in Russia is also available now.

For 990 euros, you can travel from Moscow to St Petersburg on the Volga, with views of czarist palaces and ancient Byzantine monasteries. Stops include Uglich, Kostroma, Yaroslavl and Kizhi.

If you want a consolidated package, minus the inconvenience of making your own flight arrangements, you could try one of the cruises SOTC has to offer.

The seven-day-long Pyramid and Nile Cruise costs Rs 25,990 + $359 and includes the airfare, hotel accommodation with breakfast in Cairo, and a visit to the Pyramids, the Egyptian Museum and the Khan El Khalili bazaar.

SOTC also offers a number of short-duration river cruises, as part of a longer tour. For instance, there's the seven-day Glimpse of Austria tour, which comprises city tours of Vienna, Salzburg and Innsbruck, with a boat ride on the Danube thrown in for a total cost of Rs 29,990 + $759.

You could also consider a dinner cruise on the Seine, which is a part of the Best of France tour. For Rs 29,990 + $1,004 per person you get city tours of Paris and Nice, with the Bateaux Parsienne dinner cruise thrown in.

And then there's the Italian Splendor tour, which includes gondola rides in Venice as well as visits to Milan, Florence and Rome, all for Rs 29,990 + $1,139 per person. The price for all these tours is inclusive of airfare and hotel accommodation.

For those with a lot more money to spend on a high-seas trip, Cox and Kings has tied up with Silversea cruise liners to provide a number of attractive, if high-priced, options.

There is, for instance, a seven-day cruise from Barcelona to Rome that will take you through Ibiza, the Sardinia coast, and Sorrento (Italy), among other destinations.

The sightseeing here is the kind that should bring out the hidden art connoisseur in you, if you aren't one already -- highlights include Barcelona's Picasso Museum and Gothic Quarter as well as the sights of Rome, such as the Vatican, the Colosseum and the Galleria Borghese. The cost? A tidy $4,272. But then, it is for the niche market.

Or if you have more time on your hands, you might try Silversea's 10-day cruise from Monte Carlo to London, priced at $4,800. The cruise will take you through the Straits of Gibraltar, Lisbon and St Malo.

There's plenty of opportunity to explore the French Riviera, as well as Monte Carlo's casinos, beaches and yacht harbours. Optional sightseeing includes London tourism, with a visit to Buckingham Palace and the city's world-famous museums, a "Jack the Ripper Walk," a tour of the Tower of London and a ride on the Millennium Wheel.

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