EXPERIENCED ocean cruisers know that the ship they are travelling aboard is often the destination itself.
With river cruising, which has become hugely popular in recent years, the ship is your vehicle. Your destination is, er, your destination.
And what destinations they can be.
With this in mind, my wife and I have signed up to host our first river cruise, something we've been wanting to do for several years.
In May 2015, we will join forces with Carlson Wagonlit Travel, our partners for our last six winters of ocean cruising, to escort a group of Manitobans on a spectacular Viking River Cruise of Europe.
It would be wonderful if you could cruise along with us.
Our 15-night trip begins on May 2, 2015, in Amsterdam. After a sightseeing tour of the city and a night (including breakfast) in a city-centre hotel, we will board a new Viking longship, the 190-passenger Magni, for 14 nights of luxury travelling down two of Europe's historic rivers, the Rhine and the Danube.
In the process we will stop in 13 cities in five countries: Holland, Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary.
The cruise ends on May 17 in Budapest.
We are told that this trip is Viking's most popular river cruise. Because of its popularity, and because the ships that ply European rivers are necessarily small, the cruise fills up quickly. One must book early.
In Holland, we will see the iconic Dutch windmills and the tulips in bloom. Along the Rhine we will cruise by the famed Lorelei Rock and tour the spectacular cathedral in Cologne.
In Wurzburg, we will tour the vast 18th-century Residenz Palace, and in Miltenberg we will go on a leisurely walking tour that will take in, among other things, a traditional glass-blowing factory.
In Germany we will tour the historic Bavarian city of Nuremberg on a day that will include an optional visit to several Second World War sites.
Also in Bavaria, will we stop in the city of Regensburg, where the sights include the famed Dom Cathedral, an example of German Gothic architecture, started in 1234 and finished in 1634.
We will attend an organ concert in Passau and do an abbey tour in Melk and a city tour of Vienna, Austria, where Wolfgang Mozart composed his immortal music.
We will conclude with a city tour and an overnight stay on board ship in Budapest before returning to Canada
In total we will enjoy 13 guided sightseeing tours that will take in nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The cost for all 15 nights starts at US $4,995 per person based on double occupancy (airfare additional).
You will save $200 per cabin if you book before March 14, 2014. All staterooms on the Magni, by the way, boast river views.
River cruises appear more expensive than ocean cruises, but keep in mind that the booking price includes all shore excursions and sightseeing trips.
It also covers three meals a day on board ship as well as complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks with onboard lunches and dinners.
We will host a welcome-aboard cocktail party that will give everyone a chance chance to meet and mingle with their fellow cruisers.
Perhaps the biggest attraction of river cruising is that these old European cities grew up along the river banks.
Instead of docking at a port miles from the city centre, we will be travel right through the heart of some of the world's most beautiful and historic cityscapes.
For information on the 2015 Grand European River Cruise, contact Carlson Wagonlit Travel in Winnipeg at 204 336-7227.