Got a customer who doesn’t want to fly? with the quick and easy Eurostar, a river cruise on the continent is a superb option
There are many reasons why people choose to take an ex-UK cruise — but the most common one we’ve heard is that they avoid airports altogether. Some passengers simply don’t want the hassle of flying; others are unable to fly at all.
But staying grounded doesn’t totally limit travel options or mean lengthy, complicated journeys as some would have you believe. Not only are there several hundred cruise departures from UK ports in 2016 (see our extensive listings, p45), there are many more European river cruises that can be reached without boarding a plane.
While ex-UK cruises, of course, refer to itineraries that depart from UK ports, it seems an oversight to ignore the ever-growing river cruise market when you have a customer looking for a no-fly option.
Paris is just over two hours from London St Pancras International on the high-speed Eurostar, as is Brussels, where Thalys trains go on to Amsterdam (excitingly, as of 2017, a direct train will run between London and the Dutch capital).
The company’s additional stops make things easier still. In Kent, there are Ebbsfleet International and Ashford International stations, as well as Calais-Fréthun and Lille-Europe across the English Channel, offering connecting trains at each point.
Indeed, Europe’s vast network of railway lines and waterways combine to allow travellers enormous freedom to explore the entire continent, from cities to villages and vineyards.
Whether your customers want an extended holiday or a short Parisian getaway with a river cruise included, the Eurostar has made things very easy indeed.
St Pancras International, which combines a striking red-brick Victorian façade with impressive modern interiors, renovated to the cost of £800million in 2007, is fantastic place to begin an adventure. Holidaymakers can be in Paris, at the Gare du Nord station, in just two hours and 17 minutes. For those living in and around London, in Kent, or even further afield, it’s a no brainer when compared with air travel. In the time it would take to check in, shuffle through security and board an aeroplane, you could have arrived and already be indulging in a bit of Parisian café culture.
Of course, the French capital isn’t somewhere you want to be leaving in a hurry, so before your thoughts turn to the Seine, which snakes through the city, it’s worth looking at pre and post stays (remember, London, too, shouldn’t simply be seen as somewhere to depart from, especially for those travelling from farther afield).
But while the Seine doesn’t offer as many itineraries as the Danube or Rhine (see below), it does offer the unmissable chance to see Paris, perhaps the world’s prettiest city, from the water, as well as trips that include stops at Claude Monet’s garden at Giverny and the palace and grounds of Versailles.
Tauck, for example, offers a 14-night trip that starts and ends in London, taking in Paris and the above, as well as Rouen and Aubers-sur-Oise on theSeine, as well as a visit to the beaches of Normandy. Avalon Waterways also promotes train travel with its eight-day Paris to Paris Seine cruise, which also offers an excursion to the Normandy beaches, while its extended 11-day cruise comes with three nights in London at the end.
Of course, given Europe’s excellent network of railways — which stretch beyond the continent itself — customers can head where they want. But for those looking to take a river cruise, Amsterdam is the place to be. While a direct train is still a year away, the journey (which takes four hours and 44 minutes with a connection in Brussels) is worth it for those who don’t want to fly.
There are any number of itineraries, many of which begin and end in Amsterdam, making the return simple. Viking River Cruises, for example, offers a 10-day Tulips & Windmills cruise, which takes in the lively Dutch capital and Kinderdijk as well as Antwerp, Ghent and Bruges in Belgium.
Similarly, Riviera Travel has its Amsterdam, Volendam & the Dutch Bulbfields River Cruise, which includes a canal tour in Amsterdam and then a visit to Keukenhof Park, the 19th-century tulip park, which is as expansive as it is beautiful. On some itineraries, the line also offers customers supplemented travel from regional stations to St Pancras. One great option is the Rhine & Moselle cruise. Riviera Travel offers a coach transfer from Brussels, where the Eurostar arrives, over the border to Germany, where the cruise begins.