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Grand Circle Cruise Line is hoping to tap soaring demand for tours to Myanmar with new river cruises on the country’s Irrawaddy River.

The Boston-based company today will announce it is launching 15-day cruise tours to the long-isolated country, formerly known as Burma, to begin in 2013. The announcement comes as Myanmar continues to shed its pariah image after a brutal, decades-long military rule that sparked a tourism boycott.

“The release of (activist) Aung San Suu Kyi from two decades of house arrest and her election to parliament has helped this once isolated country begin opening its doors to the West,” Grand Circle chairman and CEO Alan Lewis notes. “From calling for a boycott of travel to Burma, the Nobel Peace Prize winner is now encouraging responsible travelers to visit her country, and as result, Burma has become the hottest travel destination of the year.”

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Grand Circle says its sister company, Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT), sold out an initial series of small group adventure trips to Myanmar this year with 850 Americans signing up for the outings — nearly double the 456 travelers the company originally projected.

To be called Burma & the Irrawaddy River: Bagan to Mandalay, Grand Circle’s new Myanmar itinerary will start with a four-night stay at a hotel in Bangkok and a three-night stay at a hotel in Yangon (the capital once known as Rangoon) followed by a flight to Bagan — home to 2,000 ancient temples on a 26-square-mile plain. From there, customers will board a new, 34-passenger river ship for a seven-night cruise calling on remote villages, trading centers and Buddhist sites. The itinerary ends in Mandalay, one of the country’s major cultural centers.

The new vessel, the Paukan, will be under charter to Grand Circle. Departures are available in 2013 from March to May and September to December, with fares beginning at $3,795 per person for the cruise portion of the trip only and $4,895 for the entire 15-day cruise tour. The price includes international air, airport transfers, government taxes and fees.

Grand Circle also is offering optional, six-night extensions to Vientiane & Luang Prabang, Laos, and The Hill Station of Maymyo & Inle Lake, Myanmar, both priced at $1,395 per person. The company says there is no extra charge for solo travelers on either the cruise tour or a pre- or post-trip extension.

On the cruise portion of the trip a reverse itinerary, from Mandalay to Bagan following the Bangkok and Yangon land tours, also is available.

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