Set sail on a luxury cruise to Europe

Picturesque countrysides, charming cities, history-steeped landmarks and the world’s most indulgent gastronomic delights make Europe a must on every traveler’s list. Framed by the Atlantic Ocean and glittering Mediterranean Sea, Europe is a prime destination to sail through – seeing the Eiffel Tower starboard from a nautical penthouse on the River Seine has an opulence all its own.

Several local cruise lines offer unique European waterway getaways in 2008. And with chic accommodations and amenities, cruising has never been more of a luxurious adventure.

Savor France’s finest wines and fabulous cuisine on Regal Travel’s “Flavors of Burgundy & Provence” river cruise. The 12-day tour on Avalon Waterways courses through the Rhone and Saone rivers, stopping in French cities famed in history and in the culinary world. “Flavors of Burgundy & Provence” begins in Nice, a city in southern France dubbed the “Queen of the Riviera.” Winding through to Arles and into Avignon, the cruise highlights the Roman Amphitheater and “The Palace of Popes.” Other stops on the tour include Lyon, France’s gastronomic capital, where wine region Beaujolais awaits discerning connoisseurs. The cruise concludes with a three-night stay in Paris’ luxurious Le Meridien Etoile.

Crystal Cruises takes you from London to Rome on its “Epicurean Adventures” tour. The 12-day cruise calls port in France, Spain, Italy and Portugal with optional excursions through the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, and the historic castles in Lisbon. Activities can be customized to your preference – from a “Cognac Discovery & River Crossing” to English tea in Gibraltar and a lesson in Spanish cooking in Barcelona, Crystal Cruises caters to your tastes.

“This voyage is a designated Wine & Food Festival cruise, which is one of our many theme cruises,” says Julie Dibble, public relations coordinator at Crystal Cruises. “We have been offering this theme for several years, and it is always extremely popular.”

And discerning tastes will find a treasure trove in the ship’s amenities. Penthouse accommodations include a full Jacuzzi bathtub, large private verandah, private workout room and a fully stocked, complimentary in-room bar. Penthouse guests also are treated to a personal butler service that, according to Dibble, “takes extra measures to accommodate guests’ customized requests.”

The “Epicurean Adventures” tour departs May 7.


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Regardless of where your cruise through Europe may lead you, Richard Velasquez of AAA Travel Hawaii, which books travelers on Crystal Cruises lines, offers the following tips for cruising abroad:

* Take proper medical precautions. “If you have special health needs, call your cruise line for information about the ship’s medical facility,” Velasquez says.

* Bring proper forms of ID. “If you’re sailing from and returning to an American port, you’ll need a passport. If you’re sailing within a foreign country, you may need a visa, too.”

* Pack appropriately attire. “For cooler climates, bring casual clothes that can be layered easily and a raincoat and waterproof hat or umbrella and gloves. Certain shore excursions may require particular attention to clothing.”