Cruises: ten incredible rivers to discover in 2015
CRUISING: There aren't many better ways to discover the wonders of a new country than by its rivers. Flowing through major cities and tranquil countryside, the following rivers provide the perfect itinerary for travellers who want to take life at their own pace.
Danube River, Germany and Austria
The Danube is the life-blood of Central and Eastern Europe, running through ten countries and four national capitals. From its origins in Germany's Black Forest, through the iconic cities of Vienna and Budapest, to its meanderings through the former Yugoslavia and its finale in Romania's wild Danube Delta, a trip along the Danube is a trip into the heart of Europe.
Emerald Waterways is a new specialist European cruise company focusing on the Danube and Rhine rivers, and offering a wide variety of high-quality, carefully prepared cruises as a result. The luxurious mixture of this sleek, modern outfit with the surrounding history is irresistible.
More information on the Emerald Waterways cruise can be found on the company's website.
The Mississippi River, USA
The Mississippi is the fourth-longest river in the world, running through ten US states, from freezing Minnesota to sub-tropical Louisiana, and peaking at seven-miles wide. This iconic river is just as important in US history and culture, with Native Americans and early explorers having long settled along its banks. Many will have been inspired by the Mississippi from a young age, through the stories of writers such as Mark Twain.
Follow in the footsteps of the likes of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer with a cruise along the Mississippi. American Queen Steamboat Company offers the most complete experience, taking you back into the past with their iconic riverboats. Itineraries include the Upper Mississippi, exploring Midwestern states such as Missouri and Illinois, and the Lower Mississippi through the Deep South, finishing in New Orleans.
Itineraries and departure dates for the steamboat cruises can be found on the American Queen Steamboat Company website.
The Seine, France
The Seine is - particularly in its Parisian stretch - one of Europe's most iconic rivers. It originates near Dijon, in eastern France, and runs through the French capital before finishing at Le Havre, in the English Channel. Passing by the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower and the Notre Dame, to name but a few, a boat trip through Paris a must, and take this one step further with a journey into the beautiful Normandy countryside.
Uniworld offers numerous trip taking you from Paris up the Seine's northern stretch, with stops in the region's picturesque and historic towns, such as Rouen, Honfleur, and Auvers-sur-Oise.
You can find out more about Uniworld's various boutique river cruises on the official website.
Irrawaddy River, Myanmar
The Irrawaddy is the main waterway of Myanmar (previously Burma), immortalised in Rudyard Kipling's nostalgic poem as the "Road to Mandalay". After years of a closed, repressive government, this beautiful country is starting to open up to the outside world, giving visitors an opportunity to discover the countless ancient cities, temples and monasteries that grace the banks of the Irrawaddy.
Amawaterways has recently opened up a new route along the Irrawaddy, offering a number of itineraries that embark on a ten-day journey between Yangon, near the mouth of the river, following in Kipling's tracks as they arrive in the former royal capital of Mandalay.
More information on the cruise itinerary and departure dates can be found on the AMA Waterways website.
The Rivers of Aquitaine, France
The rivers and canals of Aquitaine crisscross the landscape of Southwest France for 800 kilometres, linking the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. Built in the 17th century, the Canal du Midi (leading to the Mediterranean) was united in the 19th century with what is known today as the Canal de Garonne (leading to the Atlantic). The rivers - once used for the transport of goods - are now heaving with tourist boats, allowing visitors to follow their paths through the region's the beautiful landscapes, pausing in local villages to sample the local delights.
Viking cruises offer a seven-night "Châteaux, Rivers, and Wine" itinerary from Bordeaux aboard the 190-guest 'Viking Forseti'. Discover World Heritage Sites, farmer's markets, truffle hunts, oyster farms; and sample Bordeaux's famous wines.
For more information and reservations, check out the Viking River Cruises website.
The Amazon, Ecuador
The Amazon, the world's second-longest river, cuts its way through six South American countries - including Peru, Ecuador and Brazil. The Amazon rainforest is home to over a third of the world's animal species. As a result, a cruise along this beautiful river will introduce you to many fascinating animals, such as three-toed sloths, Amazon River dolphins, giant otters, anacondas, bull sharks, piranhas, electric eels, jaguars and much more.
The Anakonda Amazon River Cruise is one of the best ways to discover the Ecuadorian stretch of this breath-taking river, offering three, four and seven day cruises. You can discover many interesting villages inside the forest, trek through the jungle, kayak, explore the river and lakes, stargaze, and of course observe the birds and all the nature surrounding you.
The Anakonda website has more information on booking and itineraries.
Mekong, Cambodia and Vietnam
The Mekong River is the world's 12th longest river. Located in Southeast Asia, it flows 4,909 km through six countries: China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. The Mekong basin is the second richest area of biodiversity in the world and home to a stunning array of plant species, birds, reptiles and amphibians. In 2009, 145 new species were found in this region alone.
Embarking from Siem Reap, Phnom Penh or Saigon, Aqua Expeditions offer a 3 night discovery cruise, a 4 night explorer cruise, or a 7 night expedition cruise, down or upriver. Aqua Expeditions operate 48 weeks throughout the year, allowing tourists to discover flooded emerald forests, bamboo stilt villages and thousands of different species.
To find out more about the Mekong river cruises, check out the Aqua Expeditions website.
The Rhine, Netherlands
Meandering its way through four central European countries, the Rhine is the perfect river for first time cruisers. Beginning its journey deep in the Swiss Alps, it slowly traverses the borders of Germany, France and eventually the Netherlands - coming to an end when it meets the North Sea. Along the way, it takes in the picture-perfect lakes of Switzerland, the majestic cathedral in Cologne and the window-lined canals of Amsterdam.
AMA waterways provide a great 7-night cruise from Amsterdam to Basel. The cruise takes in the beautiful castles of the Rhine region, stopping off for all the highlights, including wine tasting in Rüdesheim and a city tour in Strasbourg. It ends with two nights in the Swiss city of Lucerne and a final two nights in cosmopolitan capital, Zurich.
For more information on itinerary and departure dates, head to the AMA waterways website.
The Nile, Egypt
Carving a slice of green through the otherwise sandy environs of Egypt, the Nile brings fertility and a huge dollop of history to life along its banks. As tourism gets set to explode back into the country, more and more cruise lines are offering packages which let you explore the pyramids, temples and tombs of an ancient civilization. Whether you're a history fanatic or an experienced cruiser looking for the next adventure, the Nile is an exceptional experience.
Saga offers a brilliant seven-night round trip cruise which takes you upstream from Qusin to the ancient ports of Luxor and Aswan. Arriving back at port, you'll also have the chance to relax on the beaches of the Red Sea before your flight home.
Itineraries and further options for solo travellers can be found on the Saga cruises website.
The Yangtze, China
A slow cruise along China's famous river takes you through the spectacular surroundings of the Three Gorges, soaking up the history of this ancient nation and providing a home for an astounding array of wildlife. Perfect for active bods keen to delve a little deeper into China's fascinating past, an escorted cruise will ensure you get to see the sights that lay a little off the river itself - including the Great Wall, the Terracotta Warriors and Xian and the Forbidden City.
In this vein, Shearings offer a spectacular 13-night cruise from Shanghai to Beijing, stopping off at all the key historical landmarks on route. Take a few days to relax in cool, cosmopolitan Shanghai and end amongst the rickshaws and bicycles of Beijing.
More information on the Shearings cruise can be found on the company's website.