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Juno * Photo Credit: Ted Scull

Juno docked at Stockholm * Photo Credit: Ted Scull

Gota Canal

The ships are historic treasures, full of charm and purpose-built to transit the canal; a truly unique way to see Sweden.

Three historic canal boats sail across Sweden between Stockholm, the capital, and Gothenburg, the country’s main port along a 382-mile waterway constructed in the early 19th-century that links man-made canals with single locks and flights of locks, rivers and lakes, two of them quite large.

Ships, Years Delivered & Passengers: JUNO (built 1874 & 58 passengers); WILHELM THAM (b. 1912 & 50 p); DIANA (b. 1931 & 50 p). All three ships have been rebuilt and accommodations enlarged and improved over their long lives. The original steam engines have been long since replaced with twin diesels.

Passenger Profile: Passengers hail from Sweden, other Scandinavian countries, Germany, Britain and a few from North America. Most are 50+ and the official languages are Swedish, German and English.

Passenger Decks: 3; no elevator and very steep stairs.

Price: $$  Expensive

Included Features: Some shore trips and admissions.

Itineraries: Four different itineraries, operating only between late May and late August, cover either partial or full transit of the Gota Canal and connecting waterways between Stockholm and Gothenburg.

  • 2-day mini-cruise aboard WILHELM THAM is the shortest: between Soderkoping (southwest of Stockholm) and Motala (Gota Canal line’s headquarters).
  • 4 days aboard WILHELM THAM between Soderkoping (southwest of Stockholm) and Gothenburg, and ship ties up every night.
  • 4 days aboard JUNO, the Classic Canal journey cruises the full length of the water route between Stockholm and Gothenburg.
  • 6 days aboard DIANA, The Great Swedish Cruise, between Stockholm and Gothenburg, with the most stops (9), and ship ties up every night, so no stretches are missed in daylight.

When the boats tie up at night, walks are available in the evening.

Why Go? First off, the ships are historic treasures, full of charm and purpose-built to transit the canal. The historic origins come with tiny cabins, bunk beds and wash basins only. The route across Sweden is highly scenic with lots of castles, fortresses, churches, farms, small towns and large; flights of lock to navigate; large lakes to cross; camaraderie amongst the passengers; good meals catering to Europeans.

When to Go? The itineraries only operate in the warmer months.

Cabins: All outside (portholes on Main Deck) spread over all three decks, with doors opening on a side passage on Bridge and Shelter decks and to an inside corridor on the lowest Main Deck. Size, think railway sleeping compartments for most of the accommodations, a couple are a bit larger with one queen-size bed; showers and toilets in separate compartments along the same deck, hence wash basin only in the cabins. Forgot get about TVs and regular cruise ship amenities. JUNO, with 29 cabins and, WILHELM THAM and DIANA, with 25 cabins, have one queen-size bedded “honeymoon” cabin on Main Deck. All three cabin categories can be sold as singles for a premium varying with category and ship.

Charming and compact ! * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Charming and compact ! * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Public Rooms: Mahogany and brass period décor is similar on all three vessels, and the lounge is separate from the dining room (on JUNO, most passengers eat in the dining room, though if it’s a full house, about 10 dine on tables in the lounge). The covered lounge area aft on Bridge Deck is open to three sides.

Dining: The food is very good with breakfast buffets and set (no choice) two-course lunches and dinners. Special diets are catered for with advance notice.

Activities & Entertainment: While underway, watching the passing town and country scenery and locking operations; when on land, visits to historic sites and towns and independent walks. A bicycle or two are carried on board so passengers can pedal along the tow paths to the next stop. Briefings are given in three languages: English, German and Swedish.

Biking along the tow paths. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Biking along the tow paths. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Special Notes: Come prepared for the tight quarters then enjoy the travel atmosphere of a bygone era. Smoking is allowed outside, so expect to be affected by it.

Along the Same Lines: Other canal and inland waterway cruises, but there are no parallels in terms of sailing with these national treasures.

Contact Info:  www.gotacanal.se; +46 (0) 31 80 6315; US Agents include Scantours – 800-223-7226; Euro River Cruises – 800-543-4504, and Five Stars of Scandinavia – 800-722-4126.

— TWS & HMS

Crystal dips its toe into the small-ship market with Esprit.  *  Photo: Crystal Cruises

Crystal dips its toe into the small-ship market with Esprit. * Photo: Crystal Cruises

Soon after Crystal Cruises was bought by Genting Hong Kong in mid 2015, they announced a new chapter for the cruise line, an aggressive expansion program into the small-ship realm, starting with the launch of the 62-passenger upscale expedition ship ESPRIT. It was built in 1989 for Greek owners and then purchased by Asia-based Star Cruises in 1994 and known as the MEGASTAR TAURUS (a private vessel for Star’s parent company Genting’s high-roller casino clients) until its recent conversion in Singapore to ESPRIT. The ship’s first cruises will in the Seychelles in December 2015. Crystal has also announced it’s building a pair of brand new 140-passenger luxury Europe river yachts to launch in spring 2017.

By Brian Major.

AmaCerto in action. * Photo: Ama Waterways

AmaCerto in action. * Photo: Ama Waterways

Slipping silently along a fast-moving current while gazing at green hills, stately castles and quaint countryside villages, it’s not hard to understand the thrill felt by passengers sailing the legendary Danube River. The winsomely picturesque river has been an iconic waterway for generations, serving as an enduring inspiration for legendary European artists from Johann Strauss to Jules Verne.

It’s difficult to imagine a river more intimately woven into the life and history of its homelands. Known to antiquity as one of the original borders of the extended Roman Empire, the Danube passes through or borders 10 separate European countries. The river is mentioned in Bulgaria’s national anthem as well as in Lithuanian folk songs; it served as the inspiration for Germany’s Danube school of landscape painting, developed in the river valley during the 16th century. Today the river’s popularity continues with European and international travelers, who have made the Danube route between Hungary and Germany the single most popular river cruise in Europe.

The 164-passenger AMACERTO is the most advanced riverboat ever to join the AmaWaterways fleet, and features a variety of innovative facilities and amenities designed to enhance the experience for its well-traveled clientele.

AMACERTO is further distinguished by friendly and attentive service staff, whose members are always prepared to offer guests additional information on the ship, its services and ports of call. The ship’s concierge excels at fulfilling special requests for arranging personal off-ship excursions and activities.

AmaCerto's Swim-up Bar. * Photo: Ama Waterways

AmaCerto’s Swim-up Bar. * Photo: Ama Waterways

Onboard, AMACERTO features a heated swimming pool with a ‘swim-up’ bar on the uppermost Sun Deck. There is also a high-tech fitness center with a treadmill recessed into the floor, a private massage room, and a hair salon. Complimentary WiFi is available throughout, all staterooms are equipped with flat-screen LCD televisions and entertainment systems offering complimentary first-run movies, classic films, and various computing options.

The Erlebnis Chef’s Table Restaurant is an intimate eatery with sweeping floor-to-ceiling views over the stern and features a glass-enclosed demonstration kitchen. The elegant room doubles as a sunny daytime lounge serving coffees and light fare.

AMACERTO is a decidedly upscale ship with the flavor of a smartly tailored European boutique hotel. Furnishings and decorative accessories feature a cutting-edge contemporary flair, and the large, floor­-to-ceiling windows in the ship’s staterooms and public spaces flood the vessels with light, brilliantly highlighting the smooth marble floors, rich dark woods and exotic floral arrangements.

Every AMACERTO itinerary offers a selection of ground tours at ports of call, with excursions led by experienced, talented local guides who provide intensive immersion into the culture and heritage of each region the ship visits. Tours are available both for “gentle walkers,” who prefer to explore at a leisurely pace, and for “active walkers” who desire to cover more ground. There’s even a “late starter” group for guests who prefer to sleep in.

AmaCerto's interesting "Twin" Balcony cabins. * Photo: AmaWaterways

AmaCerto’s interesting “Twin” Balcony cabins. * Photo: AmaWaterways

Accommodations

AMACERTO has nine separate stateroom categories. Suites located on the Violin Deck measure 350 sq. ft. and feature the company’s “twin” balcony concept, with French and outside balconies installed in the same room. Suites come with sitting areas and mini-bars. Bathrooms offer a bathtub and shower. Categories AA+, AA and AB rooms also include twin balconies, measure between 250 and 235 sq. ft. and do not have bathtubs.

Violin-deck category BA and BB staterooms total 210 sq. ft. while category C staterooms measure 170 and offer French balconies. Categories D and E are 160 sq. ft. and include picture windows. All accommodations also offer in-room safes, hair dryers, full-length mirrors, closets and direct-dial telephones.

Compact Category C cabins with a French Balcony. * Photo: AmaWaterways

Compact Category C cabins with a French Balcony. * Photo: AmaWaterways

Public Spaces

AMACERTO main restaurant is located on the lowest Cello Deck and combines small tables for two with larger four- and six-seat family tables plus several cozy banquettes, a touch appreciated by American passengers. The restaurant also has two Wine Bars, anterooms positioned adjacent to the main dining room well-suited for parties of up to eight and intimate private dinners.

The Violin deck contains the ship’s primary activity areas, including the marble-floored reception area and library. There’s also an elegant main lounge that doubles as an observation area and all-around daytime gathering spot, plus a small gift ship. The main lounge also features the Strauss Bar and an al fresco bistro serving coffee and tea drinks. Located at the Violin Deck’s aft section are the spa, hair salon and fitness room, and the Erlebnis Chef’s Table restaurant.

The top-level Sun Deck is the location for the pool and whirlpool, a jogging track and sunning area with lounge chairs and unimpeded panoramic views.

Dining

Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in the main restaurant. The ship features gourmet dining with cuisine produced under the auspices of Chaine des Rotisseurs, the international gastronomic society founded in Paris in 1950. The Chef’s Table restaurant has a dedicated chef, and on good-weather days passengers enjoy lunch outdoors on the Sun Deck.

Entertainment

Evening entertainment normally features small groups, ranging from string quartets to classical pianists, who perform in the main lounge. The musicians are often residents of cities and towns along the route and perform classical compositions for which this region of Europe is world-famous. A fleet of bicycles sees use on several excursions and are available for those who want to explore riverside paths.

The Bar in the Main Lounge. * Photo: Ama Waterways

The Bar in the Main Lounge. * Photo: Ama Waterways

AMACERTO sails the Danube and Rhine rivers on a variety of itineraries, some combined with hotel stays in Munich, Prague and Budapest. AmaWaterways offer an upscale vacation experience along the world’s signature waterways, while the onboard service is highly professional, and the food amongst the best on the river.

Click here for more info on AmaWaterways.

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LE BOREAL in the Elbe WJM IMG_0678

Snapshot: Tauck was founded in 1925 by Arthur Tauck, Sr. ,and the firm is still family-owned with Arthur Tauck Jr. as chairman and son-in- law Dan Mahar CEO. The vast enterprise operates in 70 countries, and for purposes of Quirky Cruise, we’re highlighting their extensive choice of river and small ship cruises.

What’s Included: Quite a lot. On small ship cruises, shore excursions planned for Tauck-only passengers; all gratuities to Tauck guides, ship staff, local guides and drivers, bar and restaurant beverages, port charges, luggage handling, transfers, hotel accommodations and airport transfers upon arrival and departure when noted.

River Cruises:

Tauck riverboat sails into Budapest. * Photo: Tauck

Tauck riverboat sails into Budapest. * Photo: Tauck

-Europe: River itineraries, offered from April through October, include waterways in Belgium and Holland; Rhine and Moselle; Main and Danube; Rhone and Soane, and the Seine. N.B. The Douro will be added in 2020 – see below. In fact, string together cruises and sail from Amsterdam to Budapest (15 days) and even continue on another week to the Danube to the Black Sea.

N.B. Selected cruises aboard the score of riverboats cater to families with activities ashore such as hiking and cycling, riding a cog railway and how about this, a scavenger hunt in the Louvre! On board, kids hear about the legends of the Lorelei and participate in cooking demonstrations and chocolate tasting. Riverboats EMERALD and SAPPHIRE will each have 14 cabins converted to handle a family of four. See the firm’s website for the Tauck Bridges ebrochure for kids that describes the destinations and activities for a family vacation.

Two riverboats carrying just 130 passengers each entered service in 2016 – the GRACE in April and JOY in June, then in 2018 ESPRIT and TREASURES with 118 passengers.

Riverboat Inspire moored at Koblenz on the Rhine. * Photo: Tauck

Riverboat Inspire moored at Koblenz on the Rhine. * Photo: Tauck

Cruise tours include hotel stays and land extensions, such as adding London and Paris to a Seine River cruise, Switzerland to the Rhine, Prague and Nurnberg to a Danube itinerary and the French Riviera to the Rhone and Soane. The Jewel class ships take up to just 118 passengers with alternate dining in the Bistro and on the Sun Deck, weather permitting. The Inspiration class carries up to 130 with alternate dining at Arthur’s and on the Sun Deck, again, weather permitting. Inclusive features include unlimited beverages include beer, wine, spirits; Internet (reception varies); use of bicycles; shore excursions and all gratuities to staff aboard and guides ashore.

-*Myanmar (Burma): 11-day cruise tours, scattered throughout the year, include a three-night cruise on the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) River between Bagan and Mandalay aboard the 4-deck, 82-passenger BELMOND ROAD to Mandalay. *N.B. This cruise is currently not operating.

-China: 16- & 17-day cruise tours spend 3 days (downstream) or 4-days (upstream) aboard the 124-passenger YANGZI EXPLORER between Chongqing and Yichang, including passage through the Three Gorges. Tauck reserves 23 cabins, all with balconies, on sailings operating between April and October.

Small Ship Cruises: As Tauck uses a variety of ships, inclusive features vary.

-Europe: A wide variety, and most cruises last 7 days, a few 8 and 9, plus land extensions with hotels, sightseeing and transfers. Spain & Portugal, Aegean Sea, Venice, Croatia & Greece with Windstar ships sail and motor vessels; British Isles & Ireland; Norwegian Fjords, Iceland, Baltic & St. Petersburg; Italy, Sicily, Malta, Corsica & Monte Carlo with Ponant ships LE SOLEAL and LE PONANT. The new purpose-built 84-passenger riverboat ANDORINHA will arrive on Portugal Douro River in spring 2020. May to October itineraries will be 7-night cruise only, 7 nights for families, and 12 nights with 7-night cruise and 2-night hotel stays each in Madrid and Lisbon. Andorinha is a migratory sparrow that returns to Portugal every spring and occupies the same nest with the same mate year after year.

-Cuba: THESE CRUISES HAVE BEEN CANCELLED DUE TO A US GOVERNMENT ORDER FORBIDDING CRUISES TO CUBA. HOWEVER, LAND TOUR ARE AVAILABLE THOUGH TAUCK. 11-day Cuba cruise tours begin and end with flight from and back to Miami using the motor-sail ship LE PONANT (60 passengers) for a six-day cruise between Havana and Santiago de Cuba and calling as three intermediate south coast ports. Dates are December and January.

-Central America: An 11-day cruise-tour, January, February, and March, to Panama and Costa Rica spends 7 nights aboard the 148-passenger WIND STAR passing through the canal and calling at island and coastal ports between Colon, Panama and Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica.

A Cuna boy from the San Blas Islands, Panama comes among side. * Photo: Ted Scull

A Panamanian boy comes among side. * Photo: Ted Scull

-Galapagos: A 8-day cruise tour, March, April, June to August and December, combine a Peruvian tour including Lima, Cusco and Machu Picchu with a 4-night Galapagos cruise aboard the 90-passenger, 5-deck SANTA CRUZ II (Tauck passengers only). Cabins are all outside with twin or double beds. December is a family departure.

-Antarctica: 13-day Antarctica cruise tours, January and December 2017, include 2 nights in Buenos Aires and 10 nights aboard Ponant Cruises’ LE SOLEAL or LE BOREAL (224-264 passengers). These 6-deck ships, built since 2010, have all outside cabins, (most with balconies), twin beds or queen-size, some cabins with bathtubs, two restaurants and two panorama lounges, two viewing terraces, open-air bar, and elevators to all but the highest Deck 7.

-New Zealand: A 9-day cruise of the North and South Islands aboard LE LAPEROUSE (184 passengers) with an Australian component to Melbourne, Sydney and the Great Barrier Reef. adding up to 20 days.

L'Austral. * Photo: Tauck

L’Austral cruises to Antarctica. * Photo: Tauck

-Japan: A week’s cruise aboard Ponant’s L’AUSTRAL (264 passengers) or LE SOLEOL (244 passengers)  makes a loop around southern Japan with a call at Busan, South Korea as part of a 14-day cruise tour with April departures.

Japanese gardens are a major feature of a cruise tour.

Contact: TAUCK, 10 Westport Road, Wilton, CT 06897-4548. www.tauck.com; 800-468-2825

TWS

 

 

Blue Lagoon Cruises

10 Great Places Only Small Ship Cruises Go

by Ted Scull & Heidi Sarna.

If you love traveling by water, here are 10 neat places around the world only accessible by our wee quirky fleet of ships, from North America to South America and Europe out to the Far East. Big ships can’t get to any of these cool spots.

The Islands of New England, USA

Yes, a couple of large cruise ships have called at Martha’s Vineyard disgorging many hundreds into poor Vineyard Haven, but they can’t get anywhere near the more charming town of Nantucket. Neither can they get close to the utterly Victorian nature of Block Island, tiny Cutty Hunk in the Elizabeth Islands or through the flood gates to access New Bedford, the former whaling capital of the world.

Jared Coffin House, Nantucket. * Photo: Ted Scull

Jared Coffin House, Nantucket. * Photo: Ted Scull

New York State’s Hudson River Valley

A big cruise ship could not get you beyond the New York City limits, while one of our small ship cruises will take you 150 breathtaking miles up America’s Rhine past stately mansions with Hudson River views and the spectacle of fall foliage as breathtaking as Vermont’s.

Walkway over the Hudson at Poughkeepsie. * Photo: Ted Scull

Walkway over the Hudson at Poughkeepsie. * Photo: Ted Scull

Alaska’s Glacier Bay

Sure, it’s accessible to all sizes of ships with the proper permits — all the big ships sail up to the same glacier then turn around and leave, while small expedition ships do that and more such as venturing up to the Johns Hopkins Glacier, an immense growing glacier that big ship passengers will never see. Hundreds of harbor seals will be lounging on the ice flows.

Glacier Bay, Alaska. * Photo: Ted Scull

Glacier Bay, Alaska. * Photo: Ted Scull

Upper Reaches of the Amazon River

Medium-size cruise ships can make it 1,000 miles up the broad Amazon to Manaus where they have to turn around stopping at locations where hundreds go ashore to over-visited villages, while small riverboats sail the Upper Amazon and its amazing network of tributaries to some of the most remote places on earth reached by water. Here riverside villages are completely isolated from one another, except by small boat, and wildlife abounds in the water, in the sky and deep in the rainforest.

Lily pads along the Amazon.* Photo: Ted Scull

Lily pads along the Amazon.* Photo: Ted Scull

The Length of the Chilean Fjords

The big ships duck in and out where they can safely turnaround while small ship cruises can travel the length of Chile’s inside passage south to the tip of South America while sailing close to numerous glaciers and up narrow inlets to spot mammals and birds, and stopping at islands en route.

Laguna San Rafael, Chilean Fjords. * Photo: Ted Scull

Laguna San Rafael, Chilean Fjords. * Photo: Ted Scull

Mother Russia

Big ships dock at St. Petersburg, a wonderful city with a couple of palaces just outside, but to see Mother Russia, an inland river cruise will expose you to the vast interior countryside and allow you to step ashore to see Russian life in small towns and cities.

Cruising into the heart of Mother Russia. * Photo: Ted Scull

Cruising into the heart of Mother Russia. * Photo: Ted Scull

The Interior of France

River cruises take you into the heart of France directly to Claude Monet’s Giverny Gardens, not to a coastal port with a long bus ride inland like the big ships offer. On a small ship river or canal cruise, there’s no need to endure an even longer drive from a Mediterranean port to spend a few hours at the wonder of Avignon as riverboats docs just outside the medieval walls.

Avignon, medieval France. * Photo: Ted Scull

Avignon, medieval France. * Photo: Ted Scull

Fiji’s Out Islands

When ships of all sizes cross the Pacific they may make a stop at Fiji’s major port, but only small ship cruises sail from Fiji to the many nearby out islands and drop anchor in a blue lagoon to go snorkeling, enjoy a beach barbecue, and visit a local village and its school.

Out Islands - Fiji, South Pacific. * Photo: Captain Cook Cruises

Out Islands – Fiji, South Pacific. * Photo: Captain Cook Cruises

The Interior of Cambodia, Vietnam & Laos

River cruises sail into the interior of all three countries via the Mekong River and its tributaries, visiting exotic cities like Phnom Penh (Cambodia) and Luang Prabang (Laos). Meanwhile, big ships can only get to the coastal cities of Vietnam, and it’s still a two- to four-hour drive each way to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

Ted samples the local delicacies! * Photo: Ted Scull

Ted samples the local delicacies! * Photo: Ted Scull

Eastern Indonesia

Big ships can get you close enough to Bali to go ashore and join the masses of tourists already there, but small ship cruises explore the eastern end of the archipelago, from the Raja Ampat islands to Papua New Guinea, sailing deep into the island’s interior via the Sepik River.

Outrigger canoes, Indonesia. * Photo: Ted Scull

Outrigger canoes, Indonesia. * Photo: Ted Scull

 

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