There are few more relaxing ways to see some of the loveliest parts of the world than by a taking a river cruise. In Europe, that means following the meandering courses of the continent’s great rivers through beautiful countryside and watching the world drift by. It’s a wonderful way to explore bustling cities like Vienna and Budapest and quaint towns like Rüdesheim and Dürnstein, as well as World Heritage-listed highlights like Bamberg, Bruges and the Rhine Gorge.
Regardless of which part of Europe you find appealing, you’ll find a river cruise itinerary to suit: including the Rhine, Main and Danube Rivers, France’s Bordeaux and Portugal’s Douro regions, and even the highlights of Imperial Russia.
River cruise operators pride themselves on their attention to detail, with elegantly appointed rooms, stylish amenities and state-of-the-art facilities. First-time passengers are frequently surprised by just how generous the public spaces and staterooms are, with many operators also providing added features like in-room butlers, in-suite USB ports and well-stocked mini bars.
If you can justify the extra expense, it’s well worth treating yourself to the added luxury of a balcony suite, so that you can soak up the incredible scenery in blissful solitude. Some ships even include have a rooftop pool, and many cruises include all-inclusive dining, top-shelf beverages, Wi-Fi internet, airport transfers and gratuities, so they offer great value for money.
Once on board, you’ll quickly learn that there’s a dining option to suit every taste and appetite. Whether you are in the mood for fine dining, a relaxed café style meal or 24-hour room service, you’ll be able to sample everything from local delicacies to traditional favourites.
Of course, as wonderful as the ships are, your time ashore will be even more magical, with a range of shore excursions offered at every port of call and all of them designed to showcase the highlights of that region. You may like to take part in the organised shore excursions, but there’s always a self-guided option as well: whether it’s by bike, on foot or using local transport.
Many river cruise operators also offer exclusive, once-in-a-lifetime events that are unique to the destination: one evening you may be treated to a private concert featuring the music of Strauss and Mozart; the next, a mediaeval feast amid the ambience of an ancient castle.
But the waterways of Europe are not your only option if you have fallen in love with the idea of a river cruise holiday: you can also explore the highlights of Vietnam and Cambodia, cruising on the Mekong River, or Myanmar’s Irrawaddy River, discovering the wonders of South East Asia along the way. Whilst en-route, you can choose to sample cultural highlights such as cooking classes in Hanoi and Hoi An, a visit to Cambodia’s Killing Fields, a Tonle Sap lake cruise in Siem Reap or a cycle tour in Laos. Special events range from a private dinner at a ninth-century Angkor temple with local Aspara dancers, to a sunrise viewing of Angkor Wat with Champagne breakfast prepared by a local bakery school, or a traditional lamp lighting ceremony at Shwedagon Pagoda in Myanmar.
The relatively small size of river cruise ships means you’ll never feel overcrowded, but they still feature world-class facilities like resort-style pools, spa and wellness centres, gyms and beauty salons so you’ll always feel pampered.
Regardless of which destination you choose, you can be assured that this will be just the beginning of a long love affair with river cruises. Contact your local, personal travel manager to help you find the river cruise that’s just right for you.