One is on water, one is on land. And…scene.
Kidding. There are a ton of differences between our river cruise vacations and our land tours, and they produce totally unique experiences.
Let’s break it down.
Our European cruise vacations (which include both river and ocean cruises) range from about 125 to 225 guests. Our land tour vacations, by comparison (most of which take place in more far-flung locales) are typically around 40 guests.
We also have trips that combine a sizable land tour component with a river cruise; and these are, like our land tours, smaller groups of 40-50.
We don’t operate small group land tours of just a dozen or so, because we can’t take over entire cruise ships, safari camps, etc. with that small of a group, and we’re all about creating an LGBT bubble for our guests.
So, in essence, our European river and ocean cruises are our largest passenger groups, albeit still far smaller than typical ocean cruises of 3,000-4,000. Our guests favor a sense of intimacy and the ability to get to know their fellow passengers, which is why we’ve focused on these types of travel. The big ocean cruises are fantastic fun, but you may never see that great guy you met on the first day again.
On Europe’s rivers, Brand g charters the 5-star ships of the Amadeus line (not to be confused with Ama, which is a mid-scale brand). These ships are typically only a year or two old and are designed in a sophisticated, contemporary style. (Side note: some ships we use may currently be 3-4 years old, but only because they sat unoccupied for two years during the pandemic and thus are still essentially brand new. Just like we’re all taking two years off our ages because we didn’t go anywhere.)
If a pre- or post-cruise hotel stay is part of the trip, the hotels we use will match the quality of the ship. Typically, it’s a brand like Intercontinental or Kempinski.
On the open sea, we have chartered the 4-star Royal Clipper masted sailing ship many times, as well as the Belle de L’Adtriatique cruise ship. Starting in 2023, we’ll be chartering the 5-star (and brand new) ocean cruise ships of Atlas Cruises, like the World Navigator – our entry into the luxury ocean cruise segment (this trip sold out in 30 minutes, but we’ll have another cruise on it with a different itinerary for 2024).
For trips that include both a land tour and river cruise (where the river cruise is usually in some exotic locale, like India, Peru, Vietnam, etc), we charter 5-star ships where the level of service and detail is extraordinary. (Example: on a typical high-end river cruise, the staff-to-passenger ratio is 1 to 2.5 or 1 to 3. On these smaller, boutique cruise ships, the ratio is 1 to 1.
Trip Length and Level of In-Depth Touring
Our European river cruises and small ocean cruises are 7-9 days – offering either a cruise alone, or a cruise plus a one or two-night hotel stay to tour a flagship city, like Prague, Amsterdam, Brussels, etc. On these cruises, of course, you unpack once – a feature many guests love since you simply wake up in a new place every day.
These cruises are great for getting a taste of various cities and villages within a country or region. In some towns and villages you’ll be able to say, “I’ve done it, bought the t-shirt, no need to go back”. In others (the major cities, like Vienna, Budapest, etc) you’ll get a good sampling of that city and perhaps elect to go back another time on your own.
Our land tours, in contrast, are longer vacations (normally about 12 days – crafted to create a two-week vacation once you include flights to and from the destination) and involve several changes of hotel. These are offered for countries like Japan, Africa, New Zealand, Mongolia, Nepal & Bhutan, etc. The purpose of this is to give you a really complete tour of the country (or as many of the highlights as we can, depending on the size of the country), and you can’t accomplish that using just one city or hotel as your base camp.
However, these are not “If it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium” tours. (You’ve probably seen the offers for those straight tours where, in a 9 or 10-day trip, you’ll be in six different hotels. Kill me now.) We generally keep you in hotels for 2-4 nights, so that you don’t feel constantly uprooted. And, of course, we handle every logistic in getting from place to place. You simply walk out of your hotel and onto whatever mode of transport we’re using to get to the new destination (bus, bullet train, plane). Effortlessness is essential to us.
And then there are our land tour/river cruise combinations, to countries like Scotland, Peru, India, Vietnam & Cambodia, Egypt & Jordan, etc. These 12-13 day tours combine a significant land tour (5-8 days) with a river cruise component (4-7 days). In many ways, you get the best elements of both types of trips here, since you get a river cruise where you don’t have to move or unpack for a while, along with an amount of land touring (staying in just a couple of hotels) that gives you that sense of really having “seen” the country.
The different types of trips offer very different experiences. European river cruises and small ocean cruises are, of course, more relaxed, a bit more party and entertainment-centric (featuring Brand g signature entertainers), and just “easy” in every sense of the word. You won’t come away with the sense that you never need to go back to a given country (since you’re in many ports for a day or less), but you’ll have gotten a wonderful overview. You may, however, come home with a reservation for Betty Ford, but hey, it’s not your fault the drinks were included.
Our land tours and land tour/cruise combo trips involve some planes, trains and automobiles, but give you a truly in-depth experience of that country. I personally recently did the Peru trip (the Amazon/Machu Picchu, which is a land tour/river cruise combo) and Egypt & Jordan (also a land tour/cruise combo). These trips covered so much ground and offered so many unique (and once-in-a-lifetime!) experiences that my husband and I feel like those countries are “checked off”. We truly saw and experienced them in the most comprehensive way.
In 2017 I did the Africa safari and tour, which is perhaps our most varied trip in terms of experiences and is still one of my husband’s and my favorite trips ever. You get that lifechanging safari experience (in a 5-star all-LGBT safari camp), along with the stunning nature of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, and the sophisticated, cosmopolitan atmosphere of Cape Town, with its incredible hotels and restaurants and wine country.
The European river cruise trips and small ocean cruises are – by dint of their shorter length – our most inexpensive trips. (The fares may not appear “inexpensive” at first glance, but in contrast to the other LGBT tour operators, all Brand trips are – outside of airfare – virtually all-inclusive, so the only time you’ll need to pull out your wallet is to show someone that awful DMV photo). These are a great option for those just dipping their toes in the Brand g pool, as well as those who prefer the “unpack once” style of vacationing.
Since our land tours and land tour/river cruise combo vacations are longer, they’re a bit more expensive (some are considerably more expensive, some only a bit, depending on the destination), and, generally speaking, are a bit more “adventurous”. By that, I don’t mean arduous, but there is more travel involved. With that said, I can say from experience that these land tour and combo trips are, as our cruise director Johnathon would say, #lifechanging.
It All Comes Down to This
Are you someone who goes on vacation to relax and drink and just enjoy yourself and see sights along the way? Then one of our European cruise vacations is probably your best bet.
Or are you someone working their way through their bucket list with a determination to cover countries in a really comprehensive way? Then, it’s a land tour or land tour/river cruise combo trip that you’ll probably most fall in love with.
Or are you somewhere in between? (Like being bi, it’s all about having choices.) With 15 trips for 2023, I think we can safely say that no matter where you fall on the scale, there’s a Brand g vacation for you.