VENICE, Italy — Even first-time voyagers can appreciate the way a cruise offers travel without constant packing and unpacking. It also provides hassle-free sightseeing and shopping excursions.
The down side is having only one day to see cities such as Rome, Florence or Venice. This is why adding a land package to a cruise makes sense.
With a simple pre- or post-cruise package, usually bought through the cruise line when you book your trip, you can spend several days getting acquainted with a city.
On Princess Cruises' Royal Princess, for example, you can add a two-night stopover in Barcelona in September or October for $229 per person, double occupancy. Accommodations are in the heart of the city in the Art Nouveau-style Condes de Barcelona Hotel.
More ambitious is Ocean Cruise Line's 250-passenger Ocean Islander, on which you can stretch a seven-day Mediterranean cruise in September or October into a 15-day holiday with stopovers in Nice, Athens and Paris.
Prices begin at $2,445 per person, double occupancy, or $163 a day, and include transatlantic air fare, flights within Europe, hotel accommodations, sightseeing and most meals.
Some cruise lines, such as Sun Line and Royal Viking Line, operate affiliated tour companies. Others work in conjunction with tour packagers to create a combination land and sea package.
We sampled one of the latter, combining an 11-day cruise of Italy, Greece and Turkey with an 11-day land tour of northern Italy for $3,953 per person, double occupancy, or $169 per person a day, including round-trip air fare from New York City. The only extras were transportation from Rome to Venice (about $57 each for first-class rail tickets) and six meals.
In this instance, Costa Cruises has joined forces with Central Holiday Tours, which specializes in Italy, to offer a variety of land programs paired with a cruise aboard Costa's Danae.
Hotels used for the land portion were first-class and central. Shopping and independent sightseeing was easy, even for the most timid traveler.
Scheduling a cruise at the end of a trip, rather than the beginning, also can offer relaxation after the stimulation of land touring.
Remaining departures this season for the Danae 11-day cruises are Sept. 8, 19 and 30, and Oct. 11 and 22, with various Central Holiday Tour programs in Italy available through the end of October. Call toll-free (800) 526-6045 for more information.
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Several cruise lines have cancelled China calls for 1989. Pearl Cruises' Ocean Pearl will replace this fall's scheduled China sailings with three Asian programs, "Bali, Bangkok and Beyond," "Great Cities of Asia" and "Spice Islands."
On the rescheduled sailings Sept. 3 through Oct. 21, passengers will get free round-trip air fare from Los Angeles, a free shore excursion in every port and a free cabin upgrade. Call Pearl Cruises at (800) 338-1700 for details.
Royal Viking Line's Royal Viking Sea will substitute a Hong Kong-to-Bangkok cruise and a "Shogun Autumn" itinerary for its October China sailings.
Oceanic Cruises' Oceanic Grace has changed its October China departures to call instead in Japan, Taiwan, Korea and Hong Kong, while Princess Cruises' Sea Princess will visit ports in Japan, Korea, Okinawa, Taiwan and the Philippines, rather than its previously scheduled Oct. 6 China sailing between Tokyo and Hong Kong.