Princess Cruises has teamed with Avalon Waterways to offer a cruisetour that combines an 11-night Scandinavia and Russia cruise on Emerald Princess with a seven-night Rhine River cruise from Basel to Amsterdam aboard Avalon Felicity. The 20-night tour -- which also features overnight stays in Amsterdam and Copenhagen -- is being offered on July 31, 2011. The tab for the 20-night adventure? It starts at a hefty $6,549 per person . . . for inside cabins.
The tour begins with a leisurely river cruise along the Rhine, where passengers can visit a sandstone castle in Heidelberg, a gothic cathedral in Strasbourg and a wine market in Mainz. After debarking, travelers have two free days to explore Amsterdam and Copenhagen before trading (way) up to mega-ship Emerald Princess. The 11-night Baltic cruise tours the great cities of Northern Europe, such as Berlin, Stockholm, Helsinki and St. Petersburg (where passengers spend two full days).
Just be prepared for three weeks of intense sightseeing, as there are only two sea days during the entire trip.
Princess is no stranger to partnering with other travel companies to create cruisetour itineraries. The line has worked closely with Globus (sister company to Avalon) for the past few years to operate some of its land tours in Europe, such as trips around the Ring of Kerry in Ireland. And Princess partners with Victoria Cruises to offer Yangtze River cruises about four times a year as part of China-based cruisetours. But never before has it partnered with a European river cruise line to offer this kind of ocean-meets-river experience.
"Based on the popularity of our Imperial Europe Cruisetour and the popularity of Europe riverboats cruises, we think this is a new market that could be very successful, so we're giving it a try," says Princess spokeswoman Karen Candy. "Lots of big-ship cruisers also like to river cruise, so this is a great opportunity," adds Pam Hoffee, vice president of product and operations for the Globus Family of Brands.
As the combo ocean and river cruise tour is so new, space is fairly limited. Princess has not chartered Avalon Felicity, but instead has blocked group space in a few cabin categories, and Princess cruisetour participants will be onboard with regular Avalon passengers.
Hoffee expects a dozen or so Princess passengers onboard, but if this trial is successful, the line will consider adding similar options in 2012.
-- by Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor