Once the weather turns cold, river cruises aren't exactly top of mind among travelers. That's why it's smart to think about river cruises right now.
The winter lull, when relatively few travelers board or even think about river cruises, is often when river cruise operators roll out their best promotions in an attempt to stir up business. Here, examples from four big river cruise companies:
Uniworld offers two-for-one prices on "Treasures of Prague," a 10-day itinerary on the Rhine and Main rivers. Two-fers are available for 29 departures from May through early November in 2011, and a booking deadline is currently set to expire on December 15. Uniworld is also waiving single supplement charges on select departures of 15 different cruises in Europe.
Viking River Cruises also offers two-for-one cruises for 2011 departures, and one-ups the competition with two-for-one airfare to Europe for bookings made by December 17. But, annoyingly, the only way to get specific price quotes or even find out exactly which departures come with the two-fers is to call and speak with a Viking agent (800/304-9616).
Grand Circle Travel, meanwhile, is demonstrating that not all river cruise deals require reservations made far in advance. Like so many aspects of travel nowadays, travelers will often find the best deals by booking months ahead or by booking at the very last minute. Several of Grand Circle's Christmas cruises, which depart in the next couple of weeks, are available for about half off the brochure price -- just $995, for example, for a nine-day Christmas on the Seine cruise that is otherwise advertised at a rate of $2,295.
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