Arthur Frommer: Low-budget site offers Europe's rivers cheap

07/24/2011 12:00 AM

07/24/2011 5:53 AM

Want a rock-bottom-price cruise of the Rhine or the Danube? In a field where companies have boasted about the deluxe nature of their river cruises (and charged accordingly), a celebrated champion of cheap vacations — the long-in-business YMT Vacations — has suddenly made a surprise appearance.

Using two specially constructed riverboats commissioned by its new owner (Europe's giant TUI Tours), YMT has launched a program of 14-night vacations in 2012, each including seven days on the Rhine or Danube and seven days of land arrangements in nearby capitals, for a total of either $1,899 or $1,999 per person (plus airfare to Europe). Tipped off to this development by a top official of TUI (whom I've known for years), this column may very well be the first travel source of that news, independent of the fact that the website YMT Vacations (800-922-9000; now carries a description of the program.

YMT Vacations (the initials originally stood for "Your Man Tours") has long been proud of its ultra-low-cost packages to Hawaii, California and the Far West. Its clientele has always been advanced in age, and certainly among the most cost- conscious of all Americans, and its advertisements have headlined remarkable bargains in price, like $999 for an escorted two-week tour from Los Angeles to Las Vegas to Big Sur to San Francisco.

I once intercepted a YMT tour outside Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles, and was impressed by the enthusiasm of its low-income passengers, who were all thrilled to be on the vacation of a lifetime. None of them was at all dismayed over being lodged in simple motels throughout the trip, nor of being taken on a motorcoach tour in which one person was both the driver and the tour guide. They had booked a low-cost tour, and they were proud of it.

YMT has been bought by Europe's giant travel conglomerate TUI, and will now have unimpeachable financial resources behind it. It apparently is TUI that arranged to build two custom-designed riverboats for these cruises. And it is these river boats that will now be taking Americans on the one-week river-cruise portion of a longer 14-day trip. Whereas other river-cruise companies charge $1,899 and up (way up) for a mere seven-night cruise, YMT will now give you a complete 14-day trip for as little as $1,899.

If you have retired relatives, or know of other folks with limited resources and who are anxious to enjoy an inexpensive fortnight in Europe, you might direct them to the YMT website, where the new river-cruise-included tours are described.

Note that on all river cruises in Europe, airfare to Europe — usually costing about $1,000 round-trip — is not included in the basic price of the cruise. And that's the case, as well, for YMT's program. The 40-year-old YMT Vacations, headquartered in Los Angeles, is not hesitant about proclaiming that it caters to a mature audience. Its river cruises priced at $1,899 and $1,999 will be operated in April, July and September 2012.

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