To many travelers, a cruise conjures up images of a huge ocean-going boat lumbering from one tropical island to another. However, there is another more intimate type of cruise that is just as popular with travelers today — the river cruise. The boats for these cruises are typically much smaller than the behemoths that travel the sea and are the perfect platform for traveling by river from one interesting site or city to another. An overview of the best river cruises around the world:
The Douro River may not be as well known or as popular as some other European cruise destinations, but it’s not because it’s an unworthy destination. This wonderful little cruise, which takes travelers through Portugal and Spain, winds past picturesque vineyards and Medieval villages. This cruise is especially perfect for anyone who loves to venture off the beaten track. A Douro River cruise trip itinerary normally starts at the river’s outlet in Porto and could include visits to local vineyards, castles and cathedrals.
The Mighty Mississippi, the fourth longest river in the world, cuts through the heart of America and through some of this country’s most beautiful scenery. Many of the ships that ply this river are designed to look like old-fashioned paddle-wheel steamboats, which can give a traveler the feeling that they are traveling back to a time when life was enjoyed at a more leisurely pace. Depending on the itinerary, travelers on a Mississippi River cruise could float past quaint towns as well as major cities, such as St. Louis and Louisville. Again, depending on your itinerary, tour excursions could include visits to plantation homes as well as Battle of New Orleans battle sites. Cruises on the Mississippi can range from as little as a few hours to ones that last three weeks or even longer.
Travelers wanting to experience the beauty and charm of India’s backwaters should book a cruise through India’s amazing Kerala area. As they travel through this region’s canals and lovely lakes that form Kerala’s Backwaters, cruisers can enjoy living life like the locals. The Kerala area boasts an unique ecosystem with fresh water from the rivers mixing with the saltwater from the Arabian Sea. Travelers can choose from several different types of boats in which to explore this area, including the famous kettuvallams that employ native oarsmen or motorized thatched-roof boats.
The Volga River is the longest in Europe and is often thought of as the national river of Russia. Depending on the itinerary, travelers on a Volga River cruise might visit St. Petersburg and Moscow or the Golden Ring cities. A trip down the Volga River is an excellent way for a traveler to experience both modern and old Russia. Again, depending on the itinerary, a Volga River cruise could offer excursions to the ballet, the circus or to visit one of Russia’s magnificent palaces.
It’s not surprising that a trip down the Rhine River is one of Europe’s most popular cruises. The Rhine River winds leisurely through a number of countries that are popular travel destinations, including Switzerland, France, Germany and Holland. Many consider the part between Koblenz to Bingen in Germany the most beautiful parts of the Rhine river. Here travelers will enjoy some of Europe’s most beautiful landscapes and magnificent sites, including Medieval castles, lush vineyards and pass through picturesque towns that look like they came straight out of a fairy tale. Trips down the Rhine can be as short as a half day for those with limited time to multi-country itineraries that can last 11 days or even longer.
The Mekong River runs through China, Burma, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. While cruising down the scenic Mekong, travelers will find an interesting blend of modern cities and floating villages from the past. Depending on your itinerary, your cruise could include visits to such stunning sites as the ancient Angkor Watt temple complex in Cambodia or visits to floating villages and colorful markets of the Mekong Delta in South Vietnam. A Mekong River cruise is one of the best ways to experience and see the real Asia.
For many, a Danube River cruise is a dream come true. The Danube, which is the second longest river in Europe, passes through nine different countries, Austria, Bulgaria Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Romania Slovakia, Serbia and Ukraine. Depending on the itinerary, which can last from one day to a week or longer, a trip along the majestic Danube River can take a traveler past castles and imposing fortresses and through some of Europe’s most beautiful cities. For example, some Danube river cruises visit three European capitals, Budapest in Hungary, Vienna in Austria, and Bratislava in Slovakia.
The Yangtze River is the third longest river in the world as well as the longest in Asia. It travels past some of China’s most interesting and famous sites, including the stunning Three Gorges (Qutang, Wu and Xiling Gorge). On a Yangtze River cruise, travelers will sail through some of this immense country’s most gorgeous landscapes and may also have the option of taking shore excursions to various interesting sites, including to ancient temples and old ghost towns. The Yangtze River is also home for a number of this country’s endangered species, including the Chinese alligator and river dolphin. Yangtze river cruise trip lengths typically run between four and thirteen days.
The wild and untamed Amazon River has long captivated explorers who have longed to discover the secrets hidden in the dense jungles that line its banks. In the past, only the most adventurous souls would have dared to enter the Amazon Basin, but, fortunately, this secretive world is much easier for travelers to visit today. A number of cruise boats rove the Amazon. Accommodations on these boats range from modest to luxurious. Some boats feature cabins that even boast large picture windows so that travelers can view their surroundings from the comforts of their air-conditioned room. Though the Amazon river spans eight South American countries, most larger vessels’ itineraries are limited to sections between the Brazilian ports of Manaus and Belém. Smaller cruise ships, however can also venture further upriver to Iquitos in Peru, incorporating stops in more undeveloped regions of the Peruvian Amazon.
Because Egypt basically grew up on the banks of the Nile, a cruise is one of the best ways to experience Egypt and all of its glorious ancient sites, including the pyramids and the Sphinx. It’s estimated that there are over 400 cruise ships plying the mighty Nile River, so travelers will have many vessels to choose from. Some of these cruise ships offer such amenities as pools, sundecks and spas. Meals and some excursions are typically included in the cruise price. The average Nile River cruise lasts between three and seven days and travels between Luxor and Aswan.