Zel, Germany

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Combining city exploration with a small ship cruise is what makes River Cruising so unique. A great option for those looking for something a little different…

Watching the world go by is a favourite past time of many, and river cruising is the perfect way to admire the stunning scenery of the river banks, from the comfort of the ship. River cruising is becoming big business within the cruise industry and it’s easy to see why.

These sleek ships have come a long way from the early traditional river barges. Sailing through the beautiful forests of Europe and the exotic backdrops of Asia, you can now sail in six star boutique-style accommodation, as you wind along the world’s most incredible waterways.

The biggest contrast to ocean cruising is the size. Most river ships can hold between 60 and 240 passengers, giving you a much more intimate experience without feeling overcrowded. Being on a smaller ship means you can travel up rivers that larger ships could never sail on, giving a more unique experience and a distinctive journey.

The amenities are modern and stylish, with incredibly innovative features on some. Imagine swimming pools that transform into cinemas by evening, electric bicycles for you to explore ashore independently, and complimentary Wi-Fi aboard most of the ships.

Staterooms are typically large and luxurious and all come with a good view, meaning that you’ll never end up with an inside cabin. Enjoy twin balconies where you can sit out and enjoy the ever-changing landscapes. Plus you can let sea sickness be a thing of the past due to the lack of tidal currents.

The river cruise lines pride themselves on being more inclusive than ocean cruises. All included in the price you can get your meals, excursions, drinks with dinner, complimentary cycle hire ashore, gratuities and Wi-Fi, so there are less hidden costs that creep up on you. Some even boast that you can leave your wallet at home, as everything is included.  

A wonderful feature on selected ships is being able to cycle from one town or village to the next, following the river bank – a spectacular way to experience the scenery if you’re feeling energetic. Of course, you can always sit on deck and absorb the sights if you’d prefer to rest your legs.

Lengthy transfers from the port to the city on a coach or train are no more when it comes to river. You get a lot more time to explore ashore as you dock closer to the heart of each destination. You can maximise your time too with most itineraries staying overnight in more ports to absorb more of the ambience and night life. Most places come into their own at night; the lights and architecture of Vienna are magical after nightfall, and you’ll have more opportunity to sample the local culinary delights before returning to the ship.

Wake up each morning in a new place, and enjoy each landscape under the glow of the morning sunrise – if you’re an early riser, that is. The fascinating and ever changing views from the ship will guarantee you a picturesque and relaxing escape.

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Where to cruise?

Europe is rich in history, culture, architecture, art and much more, making it a fantastic destination for a river cruise – right on our doorstep. This enables you to experience many of the best cities, the surrounding countryside and the diverse culture of a diversity of countries. The Rhine and the Danube are two of the most popular rivers here.

 A trip along the Rhine is like something out of a fairy tale with dense forests, enchanting castles and Gothic churches, plus some idyllic villages along the river with some stunning landmarks. Travelling through six countries, you’ll see a variety of scenery, from the Swiss Alps right through to the North Sea.  It’s a joy to see the tulips whilst cruising the canals of Amsterdam, and sail through the Rhine Gorge, Cologne, and the Black Forest to discover the heart of Germany.

The mighty Danube is the perfect getaway to take in the beautiful cityscapes and scenery of 10 countries. There is nothing like sailing past the stunning Parliament building in Budapest, or absorbing the tranquillity of Austria’s stunning vineyards. The Danube travels approximately 1700 miles from the Black forest to the Black Sea, with a host of Bavarian treats and medieval landmarks along the way.

If you’re looking for an alternative, Europe offers some romantic Seine cruises from Paris to Normandy, the Rhone from Burgundy to Lyon, or the Douro to see the sights of Lisbon and Porto. However, you aren’t confined to Europe. Fly further afield to the Mekong or Yangtze and discover authentic Asia.

From the traditional rice paddies along the Mekong Delta, to the bustling city of Ho Chi Minh, the beauty of cruising on rivers is that you can experience a unique insight into a diversity of landscapes and cultures. The Yangtze is China’s longest river and takes in incredible wonders such as the Three Gorges, with land tours often included to see the ancient Terracotta Warriors of Beijing and the vibrancy of Shanghai and Xian.

Due to the smaller number of staterooms aboard, river cruising needs to be booked in advance. People tend to book about a year ahead to secure their room and itinerary that they would prefer, so you won’t find many last minute sailings. 

River Ship Far East

River Cruise Lines

AmaWaterways

Since starting out in 2002, AmaWaterways has made a name for itself as one of the top providers of luxury river cruises. They fly their flag in rivers such as Europe’s Danube, Rhine, Moselle, and also offer an exciting programme of cruises as far as the Mekong and the mighty Yangtze rivers. Their luxury fleet’s newest addition will be the AmaDara sailing the fascinating Mekong River from August 2015.

APT

APT started out life as a family owned touring company over 80 years ago and are still one of the best providers of fully escorted worldwide touring holidays. They then took this fantastic level of expertise and set their sights on becoming a major provider of luxury river cruise tours. APT offer both fully escorted European and worldwide river cruises with an impressive programme of tours in Asia.

Avalon

Boasting one of the youngest fleets in the industry, Avalon are true innovators in the world of river cruising. They provide full flexibility with over 14 regional airports available, numerous rail routes and an extensive ability to offer bespoke travelling arrangements to suit the requirements of even the most discerning client.

Cruise and Maritime Signature

Cruise & Maritime have a successful ocean cruise programme and have been selling river cruises since 2013. Following a successful opening season, they will be expanding their river programme to include no less than 18 sailings on the scenic Rhine, Danube, Rhone and Saone rivers, aboard the Premium Bellejour, Belvedere and Bellefleur.

Emerald Waterways

This brand new UK based operator made their debut in 2014, and is part of the renowned luxury operator Scenic Tours. They specialise in sailing the Rhine and Danube rivers throughout the year on their innovative new ships. A wonderful feature of the fleet is a heated pool with a retractable roof that doubles as a cinema in the evening.

Riviera

With a fleet of four and five star vessels, Riviera Travel are expanding their fleet to accommodate increasing demand for their product. The beautiful Lord Byron and William Shakespeare will be joined by the newly announced Charles Dickens this year. Riviera Travel operate a fully escorted European programme of seven night cruises, and have very attractive single rates on many of their ships.

Scenic Tours

This Australian based cruise line operates a fleet of luxury state-of-the-art ships known as ‘Space-Ships’. They offer one of the most luxurious and completely all-inclusive experiences that you will find in the world of river cruising. Almost everything is included in your cruise fare, such as a butler service in every cabin grade.

Uniworld

Uniworld is the only boutique-style river cruise line, feeling more like a six star hotel than a river boat. Their fully escorted all-inclusive cruises will wow you, from the VIP home departure, to the epicurean experiences you will enjoy on board and ashore. The dining on board has been recognised as the finest in river cruising, prepared for you by a team of highly trained chefs.

Viking River Cruises

Relishing its standing as the world’s leading cruise line, Viking is the largest river cruise company. They have been sailing Europe’s beautiful rivers on their award-winning fleet for over 15 years. With more thrilling itineraries and innovative ships than any other river cruise line, Viking offers incredible choice. Their award winning cruises sail throughout Europe, Russia and Asia including this year’s hottest River, the Irrawaddy in Myanmar (Burma).

For more inspiration, take a look at Iglu Cruise’s Top 10 River Cruises here.