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Ocean and Rail Cruises, So Why Not Air?

"Air cruising" is the latest form of cruising to appear on the scene. So far, it's off to a slow start, but its future depends on how well travelers take to the idea.

Currently, the main operator in North America seems to be Mauiva AirCruise, which operates one U.S. itinerary in the East and one in the West. Both operate in the same way: You spend a full day in a series of regional destinations and fly in a private plane between stops.

  • The East itinerary starts in New York City. You'll take the bus to White Plains Airport, then visit Niagara Falls on day one; Toronto and more Niagara Falls on day two; Hershey and Amish country on day three; Harrisburg and Washington, D.C. on day four; and more D.C. on days five and six. Return to New York that evening.
  • The West itinerary starts in Los Angeles. You'll take the bus to Burbank Airport, then visit Monterey and Carmel Bay on day one; San Francisco on day two; Marion and Sonoma Counties on day three; Yosemite on day four; Cedar City, Utah on day five; Bryce Canyon and Grand Canyon on day six; and Las Vegas on day seven. Return to Los Angeles that evening.

Travelers have a choice of two modes. "Comprehensive" includes all ground transportation by private bus, guided tours, accommodations, meals, and admissions to attractions. "Fly, Stay, & Drive" includes hotel accommodations and a daily rental car at each stop. Both feature air travel by private plane, departing from fixed-base operators rather than main passenger terminals so that travelers can avoid long security lines and the other usual air travel hassles.

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My initial take is that the idea has some merit for regional travel, and Mauvia posts some rave reviews from previous travelers. As a possible customer, my main concerns would be (one) cramming too many different attractions and activities into each day and (two) doing the whole air trip in a very uncomfortable small turboprop such as an Embraer 120 or Saab 340.

List prices, which are all per person and double occupancy, are $1,019 for Fly, Stay, & Drive or $1,499 for Comprehensive in the East; $1,299 or $1,799, respectively, in the West. However, I've seen some discounting: Groupon has posted rates of $939 in the East and $1,129 in the West for the Comprehensive option, and Travelzoo currently posts the West Comprehensive tour at $1,079.

Over the years, I've seen a handful of other "air cruises," but most have been extended regional or worldwide tours using big jets in all-business-class configurations. These have all been one-off promotional deals and extremely expensive. The absolute top of the lot were extended worldwide tours incorporating the Concorde and top-rank hotels.

Will Mauiva AirCruise be a success? It's way too early to tell. But give it a try if you're interested.

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(Photo: Shutterstock/Pablo Scapinachis)

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