To beat the heat this summer, a waterway vacation is just the trick. Whether it's a slow barge cruise along an ancient canal, a riverboat down the Mississippi or through Mozart country, or a rafting trip in Colorado, there's plenty of blue yonder to enjoy while afloat.
Luxury Barge Cruise (tel. 800/762-0104; www.luxurybargecruise.com/specials.html) is offering $500 discounts on certain trips. Traveling around the Ile-de-France and Picardy, this barge trip offers extreme luxury and comfort as it meanders its way through the French countryside on its way to Rouen and other points north such as the little port town of Honfleur. For $1,490 per person with double occupancy with the discount, you receive accommodations with private shower and bath, all meals with regional wines, use of the boat's bikes and other activities, and all round-trip transfers. Optional excursions like hot air balloons are also available. Departures where the discount is valid are on August 26, September 9, 23, 30, and October 7, 2006. Other summer specials include half-price trips to Provence leaving July 9, 23, 30, the Canal du Midi departing July 30 and September 3, and Burgundy leaving on July 16 and September 3rd. The trip to Burgundy starts at $1,750 per person for the week on the slow boat. Also offering barge trips through Germany, Venice, and England, Luxury Barge Cruise is known for its elegance and relaxing itineraries.
World Waterways (tel. 800/833-2620; www.worldwaterways.com) also offers barge trips in addition to some riverboat cruises with boats carrying 75 to 200 people. The Mozart carries 200-plus passengers through Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Slovakia. Starting at approximately $1,395 for nine days and going up to large state rooms costing $7,000 plus, the Mozart has just 100 cabins with a crew of around 80. Billed as the one of the must luxurious boats in the world, the Mozart offers six meals daily with three different decks and a sun deck and a swimming pool. With sailings on July 9 and 16, 2006, you do have to book your spot on the Mozart fairly soon. There are also departures every Sunday in August and September. Especially current, these trips take advantage of the events and celebrations surrounding Mozart's 250th birthday.
Also from Waterways, a United States river boat trip taking trips in and around Nashville, New Orleans, Memphis and St. Louis starts at approximately $1,400 per person as it saunters down the Mississippi and other rivers. Departures are often on this long barge that carries just shy of 196 passengers in 98 cabins. The sleeping berths on this ship are spacious and private, offering river level views of the passing countryside. You can choose which area you want to visit as this boat leaves and returns to several cities around the major U.S. river ports. Waterways also offer small ocean-going vessels that travel through Greece. See the website for details.
Another popular water trip is a stint on a houseboat on Lake Powell in and around Utah. Lake Powell Resorts and Marinas (tel. 800/528-6154; www.lakepowell.com/houseboat_rates.php) has a special on houseboats that if you pay a standard rate you get a free refuel, which in boat-speak means saving a nice chunk of change. With boats prices range from the hyper-luxurious $10,000 per week to a standard boat for $1,360 for three-days that sleeps 12 (that's only $100 per passenger); there's a lot to choose from. People have been cruising around Lake Powell on ferries since the 1870s, enjoying the social aspect of house boating, jumping off the boats for mid-day dips and taking in the scenery which includes red rocks, cliffs and secluded sandy spots. It's not uncommon to spot a wedding or birthday bash on the large lake. Activities include swimming, camping on the lakeshore, barbecues and scenic hikes around the odd-shaped rock formations.
On the less expensive side day trip or overnight level, Wilderness Aware (tel. 800/462-7238; www.inaraft.com/colorado-river-rafting-whitewater-overnight.htm) leads trips to the extremely picturesque Colorado River. The 28-mile trip labeled a Class II water trip, meaning pretty easy floating with the occasional sighting of a white rapid, costs $325 for adults and $270 for kids six to 16. Traveling through Rocky Mountain National Park, this trip spends a night camping cooking campfire food and telling the occasional ghost story. There's also plenty of free time for fishing or enjoying the sounds of the rushing river. Recommended for families and children and adults of all ages, this mild trip is deemed am "introduction to rafting." There are also multi-day trips, mountain biking excursions and more challenging trips along the waterways of Arkansas and Colorado. Award-winning, Wilderness Aware Rafting has a 17-acre headquarters on the banks of the Arkansas River.
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