River cruising – on and off the beaten track

It’s fair to say river cruising is considered by many to be the best way of seeing a country and its major sights and cities.

All over the world, rivers large and small have been a life-line for people since civilization began – they depended, and still depend, on the water as a source of economic livelihood and food.

Many European cities, including Paris on the Seine, Budapest on the Danube and Strasbourg and Avignon on the Rhine all grew up on and around the banks of major tributaries, and they have become popular destinations for river cruise itineraries.

If you’re thinking of a river cruise in Europe, it’s worth looking at some of the specialist river cruise companies to see what you can expect with this type of cruise.

Award-winning Tauck River Cruises has a French Waterways 2014 cruise from April 2014 which begins in Paris and ends in Lyon, with stops in Viviers, Arles and Avignon.

In November 2013, high-end river cruise operator AMAWaterways has is an eight-day Great Capitals & Vintages of the Danube which travels between Budapest and Vilshofen, with stops in Vienna, Linz and Passau.

Popular Viking River Cruises has an eight-day Rhine Getaway between March and December 2014 travelling between Amsterdam and Basel, with stops in Cologne, Heidelberg and Strasbourg.

Between July and November 2013, luxury boutique river cruise company, Uniworld, has an eight-day Venice & the Po River cruise, a round-trip from Venice, with stops in Ravenna, Bologna and Verona.

But while European river cruise destinations will always remain attractive to travellers, there are other river cruise options further afield.

Increasing numbers of river cruise companies are operating along waterways in more exotic and less-explored climes, such as the Yangtze in China, the Mekong in Cambodia and Vietnam, and the Amazon.

These cruises offer a way of seeing unfamiliar cultures close-up – in most cases the villagers on these rivers still rely on the river for fishing, drinking water, and crop irrigation.

Avalon Waterways is one of the companies operating on the Cambodia and Vietnam stretch of the 4,200 km Mekong River. Between August and September this year, the river cruise company is running a 14-day Fascinating Vietnam, Cambodia and the Mekong River, travelling between Ho Chi Minh City and Bangkok, with stops in Cai Be, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

Old cruise hands, Pandaw Mekong River Cruises, has been operating on the Mekong since 2002 and offer several cruise options, while Uniworld and AMA Waterways are also Mekong river cruise operators.

If you’re looking at China as a cruise option, Yangtze River cruises are often part of longer tours in China, with on-land hotel stays. Most cruises operate between Beijing and Shanghai and visit sights such as the Great Wall and the Terra Cotta Warriors of Xian. Highlights along the Yangtze include  the Shibaozhai Temple, a 12-storey red pagoda clinging to the side of a cliff and the Three Gorges Dam.

Viking River Cruises offer an Imperial Jewels of China 2014 cruise between February and November 2014. It travels from Beijing through to Shanghai visiting all the main highlights.

APT offers 23-day mixed hotel and cruise trips for small groups, with a four-day luxury cruise on the Sanctuary Yangzi Explorer. This also visits the Three Dams Gorge.

There are two ways to explore South America’s longest river, the Amazon; either aboard an expedition ship with a shallow draft allowing it to travel Brazil’s Lower Amazon or the Upper Amazon tributaries in Peru, or an ocean-going cruise entering the mouth of the river from the Atlantic, navigating the Lower Amazon as far as the Manaus.

Luxury operator, Anakonda Amazon Cruises offers four, five and eight-day cruises. On the eight-day cruise, they visit Yasuni National Park, the Cuyabeno Wildlife reserve, and the Limoncocha and Pañacocha biological corridors, giving passengers the opportunity to connect with the Ecuadorian Amazon.

Lindblad Expeditions and Aqua Expeditions also offer Amazon cruisers. Lindblad operates a nine-day Amazon excursion on the 28-guest Delfin II, while Aqua Expeditions offers three, four, and seven-night voyages aboard M/V Aqua and M/V Aria.


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