River Cruises for Every Type of Traveller

Lauren Hill

Senior Contributor

With luxury river cruises navigating some of the most compelling waterways across the world, there’s a destination and itinerary to suit everyone. Whether you’re travelling for adventure, wildlife, culture, history or culinary insight, these are the river cruises to step aboard in the coming year.

For the Foodie

Of all the Southeast Asian nations, Vietnam and Cambodia are two that have long attracted travellers for their food. The luxury cruise specialist Emerald Waterways is drawing on these two nations’ culinary appeal with its 15-day Majestic Mekong river journey. An itinerary starting in Ho Chi Minh City takes passengers through Vietnam’s rice paddies and into cities to try street food favourites such as the traditional noodle soup bún riêu. A journey upriver then passes through the Mekong Delta’s famous floating markets filled with fresh produce and local coffee before eventually arriving in Cambodia. Days here are spent discovering this other celebrated cuisine while also exploring sites such as UNESCO World Heritage Angkor Wat. For more insight into the local food, you can join the itinerary’s Culinary Cambodia tour.

For Wildlife

The luxury travel specialist Sanctuary Retreats hosts a series of river journeys to some of the most appealing areas of natural beauty in China on-board the Sanctuary Yangzi Explorer. The four-night Shennongjia Sailings cruise takes passengers from the dramatic Xiling Gorges and Three Gorges Dam to wildlife-rich Shennongjia Nature Reserve, known as the ‘Green Pearl’ of China for its ancient forest home to the golden monkey. From here, the cruise continues on to the scenic Shennong Stream and gorges of Qutang and Wu before finishing in Fuling and Chongqing. Additional activities along the scenic route include interacting with the wildlife at the Golden Monkey Protection and Research Base and exploring the Shennong Stream on a local longboat with the Tujia boatmen.

For Culture

Myanmar is the setting for Sanctuary Retreats’ luxury vessel, Sanctuary Ananda, with itineraries ranging between two and 11 nights and each journey taking in the local culture and heritage sites between Bagan, Mandalay and Yangon. The four-night Mandalay to Yangon river cruise introduces passengers to revered sites such as Mahamuni Pagoda and Shwenandaw Monastery, the 554-monastery Sagaing Hill and the panoramic Soon U Ponya Shin Pagoda. You’ll catch sight of the cotton and silk weavers of Amarapura and take in the sunset at U Bein bridge along the way, before cruising on to Sin Kyun farming village and Mingun Pagoda. After marvelling at the pagoda dotted plains of Bagan from Tan Chi Taung mountain, you’ll finish the cruise in the celebrated UNESCO World Heritage ancient city where historic sites date back as far as the ninth century.

For Wellness

More cruise lines than ever are now placing the focus on wellness. Uniworld is among the operators excelling in its fitness and wellness offering. The ships’ Wellness on the Water offering includes sunrise yoga sessions, well-equipped fitness centres with classes such as TRX and the Serenity River Spa for rejuvenating treatments. A Travelling Lite menu provides healthy eating options and the Let’s Go onshore excursions focus on activities such as hiking, cycling and kayaking. The 13-day India’s Golden Triangle & The Sacred Ganges cruise then takes this wellness element a step further with an introduction to India’s ancient wellness traditions and the practice of yoga, in addition to the itinerary’s inclusion of major historic sites such as the Taj Mahal.

For History

In 2020, Scenic Luxury Cruises will be celebrating the 250th anniversary of composer Beethoven’s birth on the eight-day Rhine Highlights river cruise from Amsterdam to Basel. Visits to Amsterdam, Cologne, Koblenz, Mannheim, Trasbourg and Basel will include a guided tour of Gamburg Castle, a visit to Drachenburg Castle and Cologne’s cathedral, a concert at a Baroque palace in Mannheim, tour of the Roman baths in Baden-Baden and visit to a local winery in Koblenz. Most notably, the itinerary comes with an introduction to Bonn with insight into Mozart’s life and his connection to the city. The itinerary comes to a close in Basel where plenty more historic sites are waiting to be explored.

For Adventure

2020 is a big year for Aqua Expeditions. Its first coastal ship Aqua Blu launched towards the end of 2019 and the new Amazon-based vessel Aqua Nera will be making its debut in August. While the expedition provider’s river boat Aria Amazon has cruised these waters for a number of years, Aqua Nera aims to become the most state-of-the-art river boat in the region. Luxury interiors inspired by the surrounding environment use sustainably sourced materials while providing panoramic views over the water. The celebrated Peruvian chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino will be creating menus using Amazonian ingredients and adventurous excursions are to include exploration of the blackwater lagoons, tributaries and Pacaya Samiria National Reserve on launch boats with expert naturalist guides.

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