For many, a Scenic European cruise of two weeks meandering through multiple countries via the Continent’s network of grand river-boulevards is an enticing holiday or retirement dream. Perhaps the controlled cocoon of a cruise ship is alluring in these uncertain times, too. Currently, a rare opportunity worth jumping at cuts prices for some Scenic itineraries, offering cruise-only rates. Until sold out a number of 2017 cruises, usually with flights included, are being offered ex-airfares: allowing travellers greater flexibility by taking advantage of booking flights separately, utilising their own or family frequent-flyer points or selecting their own carrier/s, class, route and time of travel from a competitive field, or adding a cruise into a longer sojourn when already landed in Europe.
At $9190 a couple (from $4595pp twin share) the 15-day Jewels of Europe explores waterways from Amsterdam to Budapest, discovering castles, vineyards, historic towns and charming villages along the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers. Gems of the Seine, an 11-day cruise (from $4195pp twin), is a round trip from Paris to the achingly picturesque harbour of Honfluer (adjacent to Le Havre and the Channel in the country’s north-west and a favourite locale of Claude Monet’s), taking in postcard scenes of rural France, historic wartime locations and architectural landmarks. Scenic tours, a solid Australian-based operator, features vessels with spacious suites, fine dining and a range of onshore excursions. “Leave the wallet at home” is their catchcry, all meals, complimentary beverages 24/7, activities like use of e-bicycles with GPS touring guides, and tips included. For this limited offer, available only until all sold, call Scenic on 138 128 (prices may differ on website).
NEW HORIZONS: Certainly the Western world traveller’s map is being redrawn, a revision that happens periodically for a range of reasons but especially so now as a consequence of random violent and terrorist incidents. France, perennially the most sought-after country with seven million visitors a month, is suffering not only the tragedy of the strikes but facing a downturn in its important tourism industry; the city of Nice, centre of the Cote d’Azur, is that nation’s most visited centre after Paris, the two the focus of most recent alarm. But while some prospective tourists postpone their plans, and many airlines and tour operators offer discounted packages to encourage trade, by far the majority of visitors to France are from neighbouring European states: the Germans will keep on driving to the French skifields, the Dutch and Belgians continue to use the economical high-speed train.
Nevertheless, travellers around the globe are reassessing their aspirations, the bonus the discovery of new horizons distinct and distant from conventional destinations. Other impetuses are a “wider world” to choose from thanks to expanded airline options; internet marketing offers; the fluctuating A-dollar and so on. Qantas’s partnership with Emirates saw its revised routes via Dubai rather than former hub, Singapore, alter passenger choices; this month’s Olympics have, over the past four years’ lead-up, heightened Rio de Janeiro and South America generally in the public awareness, destinations now being considered by a bigger market.
While flights to Central America (via LAX) are prohibitive as a single-purpose destination, travellers coincidentally in South or North America might consider an add-on adventure cruise in Costa Rica and Panama, including a sightseeing sector on the Panama Canal, from Pacific to Caribbean. An eight-day Uncharted Isthmus: Sloths, Moneys & Mangroves passage on 62-guest Safari Voyager offers abundant wildlife immersion: lush jungles with macaws and monkeys, a butterfly- and flower-filled tropical botanical reserve and the chance to explore by hiking, skiff, stand-up paddle-boarding, kayaking and snorkelling in crystalline waters. Luxury vessel, fitness equipment, individual air-con; singles accommodated. Current discounts and incentives. See: www.adventuresmithexplorations.com
TRAVEL BOOK OF THE MONTH: All This in 60 Minutes, by Nicholas Lee. The perfect traveller’s companion, in handy paperback. Longtime 60 Minutes cameraman Nick Lee sees the world through not only his camera lens but the prism of a wry but generous-spirited personal perspective. Each self-contained chapter makes for a witty, uplifting delve into exotic locations, with candid authentic goss on lots of stars (but frequent four-letter word overload). I was a colleague of Lee’s for two years on the show’s production team, creating compelling original stories. Lee had 30 years there, with commensurately greater adventures. Interestingly, written with a real journalistic discipline and flair. Allen & Unwin, $32.99.
Travel Editor, Susie Boswell