One of the things I love about river cruising is the way you come across places you have never heard of but, which all have a fascinating tale to tell. It might be a little village on the Seine where Richard the Lionheart built a fine castle or sleepy Dürnstein on the Danube where the Russians and French did battle during the Napoleonic wars.
Take a tour to Auvers-sur-Oise on a Seine river cruise in France and you come across the inn where Vincent Van Gogh lived and died. Cruise the Rhine and you discover a grand monument towering above little Rudesheim that commemorates the unification of Germany in 1871.
Amazing experiences come thick and fast on any and every river cruise. I’ve been blessed by monks in Cambodia while cruising the Mekong, watched the sun set over the U-Bein Bridge near Amapura on a voyage of the Irrawaddy in Myanmar and seen chanting Hare Krishna disciples while sailing the Ganges in India. You can do all that on river cruises with APT Travelmarvel, and naturally book them through the team at ROL Cruise.
Wine-lovers can indulge in tours and tastings in the worldfamous vineyards of Provence and Burgundy on cruises along the Rhône in France. Stay on that river to discover why the popes settled in France in the 1300s and visit the magnificent Roman Pont du Gard aqueduct. I went there on an Emerald Waterways’ Sensations of Southern France cruise and it was breathtaking. You can find out more about the itinerary from ROL Cruise.
Head to Austria and you find that much like the hills in the famous film, the Danube is alive with the sound of music. River cruise lines offer exclusive Mozart and Strauss concerts in Vienna (they are sometimes included, sometimes an optional extra), and you can visit Mozart’s home, now a museum, on excursions to Salzburg, where the Sound of Music was filmed.
And then there is the Douro, with gorgeous Porto at one end and beautiful Salamanca at the other. Book one of Uniworld’s Douro sailings with ROL Cruise and you can add a few nights in Madrid at the start or end of the trip. They even throw in a tour of the Prado museum, dinner with foot-stomping flamenco and a trip to Toledo.
If all that is not enough to persuade you to take to the rivers, check out my top 10 reasons for setting sail on one of the world’s great waterways.
2. Small and friendly
River ships in Europe hold an average 150 passengers; in Asia, the vessels are even smaller. What with open seating in the restaurant, allowing you to meet different people over dinner each night, it’s about as friendly as it gets.
3. It’s so easy
Just get on board, unpack and relax as your floating hotel takes you though the heart of Europe or Asia, stopping every day so you can go ashore and explore grand cities and medieval towns, see world-class museums and art galleries, and sample fabulous local food and wine.
4. Get into shape
Worried that it all sounds a bit too sedate? River cruise lines also offer bike tours, hiking trips and even kayaking in a range of different ports.
5. Watch the world go
by Castle-spotting in Germany’s Rhine Gorge and the gorgeous scenery along the Wachau Valley in Austria are always highlights but there’s plenty more to see as you sail from one port of call to another.
6. A room with a view All cabins on river ships face outside. Most new vessels have large panoramic windows that open to allow the sunshine in but for a treat you can’t beat a balcony. The team at ROL Cruise will help you choose the accommodation that suits your needs and budget.
7. No need to fly.
Take a Eurostar train from London through the Channel Tunnel and in no time at all you can connect to a local high-speed rail network to join your river cruise. Departures from Amsterdam, Paris or Lyon are ideal as you can be there in a few hours but if time is no object, you can take the train all the way to Budapest or Vienna.
8. The world is your oyster
There are some great river cruises in Europe but why not try further afield? There are exotic journeys on the Mekong in Cambodia and Vietnam, the Yangtze in China, the Ganges in India and the Irrawaddy in Myanmar.
9. It’s smooth sailing
Worried about the motion of the ocean? You don’t have to be on a river cruise as there are never any rough seas to contend with.
10. Modern living
Modern river cruise ships are spectacular, with beautiful décor, large suites, balconies, speciality restaurants and even swimming pools and cinemas.