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TRAVEL Q&A

Savoring Europe's Slow Boats

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By K.C. Summers
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, November 9, 2008

Q. My best friend and I want to celebrate our 60th birthdays on a river cruise in Europe, but we don't see much difference between the major lines. We would like wine included in the price, and would like a line that is not primarily geared to Americans. Any suggestions on how to pick the right cruise?

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Kathie Shahan, Washington

A. You're on to something: There's not all that much difference between the major European river-cruise lines, said Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor in chief of the cruise information site Cruise Critic ( http://www.cruisecritic.com).

"All the companies, which include Uniworld, Grand Circle Travel, Avalon, Viking River and Deilmann, pretty much travel the same rivers in Europe and visit the same ports."

But Deilmann, Brown said, may be a good choice: The German line (800-348-8287, http://www.deilmann-cruises.com) markets strongly throughout Europe, so you'd probably encounter fewer Americans than on other lines. Whichever line you choose, she said, if wine is included with meals it will be fairly basic. If you want better wines, you'll have to pay additionally.

Another option to consider: barge cruising. These small (eight- to 18-passenger), slower-paced vessels visit villages and towns rather than big cities. Meals can be outstanding, Brown said, recalling a French Country Waterways cruise she took of the Loire Valley. "Wines, served course by course and at lunch and dinner, were included in the fare," she said, adding that they were "outstanding choices." Details: 800-222-1236, http://www.fcwl.com.

My husband and I are considering a weekend visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. We're hoping to stay in the city within walking distance of the museum. Do you have suggestions for evening activities nearby?

Nola Tiernan, Silver Spring

Several hotels are within walking distance of the Rock Hall. The closest is the Holiday Inn Select City Centre Lakeshore (1111 Lakeside Ave., 216-241-5100, http://www.hiselect.com), about a five-minute walk. Within 10 minutes are the Cleveland Marriott Downtown at Key Center (127 Public Sq., 216-696-9200, http://www.marriott.com) and the Crowne Plaza Cleveland City Centre (777 St. Clair Ave., 216-771-7600, http://www.clevelanddowntownhotel.com). The museum's Web site, http://www.rockhall.com, shows hotel package deals under "Visitor Info."

For downtown concert venues, try the historic Agora Theater (5000 Euclid Ave., 216-881-6700, http://www.clevelandagora.com), the House of Blues (308 Euclid Ave., 216-523-2583, http://www.hob.com) and Peabody's (2083 E. 21st St., 216-776-9999, http://www.peabodys.com), which says it's "where up-and-comers go to cut their stage teeth." Farther afield, in Cleveland Heights, Jessica Wagner of the Ohio Tourism Division likes Grog Shop (2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., 216-321-5588, http://www.grogshop.gs), which hosts mainstream and hipster bands. It's "way too cool of a place to miss." For more night life, she recommends exploring West Sixth Street and East Fourth Street.

It's Baaaack

After a summer hiatus, Travel Q&A rejoins the blogosphere starting next week. That's right: Insta Q&A is back. Go to the Travel section's blog, Travel Log, at http://voices.washingtonpost.com/travellog on Wednesdays to join the fray.

Send queries by e-mail (travelqa@washpost.com) or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071). Please include your name and town.


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