An ocean cruise is a great choice when you want to get away from it all, but sometimes it’s better to stay closer to the sights and sounds of a new land. A river cruise reveals a whole new side to a culture, landscape and people, and the experience is as comfortable as it is rewarding. For culture-seekers and loungers alike, these river cruises are sure to leave you with wonderful memories.
1. Rhône River
Running from the Alps down through Lyon and into the Mediterranean, the Rhône winds its way through some of France’s most stunning landscape and delicious gastronomy. From the stately Roman architecture of Lyon, alongside green pastures of the Ardeche and to the lavender fields of Provence, this southbound cruise is ideal for sun-loving, slow going culture seekers. By the time you hit the coastal city of Marseilles, you’ll be ready for some fresh coastal cuisine and a glass of crisp white.
2. Moselle River
Snaking through Northern continental Europe, the Rhine and Moselle rivers will take you past idyllic medieval towns and breathtaking landscapes cloaked in lush forests and vineyards. This is a perfect cruise for those who treasure the charm and splendor of bygone eras, but you can count on stopping off at some of the most illustrious centers along the way as well, like Antwerp and Bruges in Belgium, Germany’s Black Forest, and the delightfully unique Strasbourg.
3. Volga River
Witness Russia’s majestic past and storied culture as you float down Europe’s largest river. You’ll cruise between Moscow and St Petersburg, stopping at several cities reminiscent of the old empire, and get at the heart of the Russian landscape. This tour is brimming with art, culture and history, and while Tolstoy fans will be positively entranced, any traveler is sure to appreciate this beautiful and unique perspective on past and present Russia.
4. Douro River
A cruise around Portugal’s picturesque and sun-baked shores will delight foodies and port wine lovers. You’ll twist through lush vineyard country and past lovely little villages, and there will be plenty of opportunity to disembark for wine tastings and flamenco shows. Portuguese and Spanish wine country favors a colorful and laidback lifestyle, so a Douro cruise is an excellent choice for anyone looking for a sunny, indulgent and lighthearted escape.
5. Yangtze River
This trail through China’s Three Gorges region offers a unique, varied and awe-inspiring perspective of the country’s interior – something you’ll never see by train or airplane. A good stretch of the river is cloaked in fog for most of the year, which lends an ethereal feeling to the journey. In other areas, tea shops and souvenirs stand alongside army posts and monstrous crags. This is a cruise unlike any other, and although it doesn’t boast the luxury of a five star liner, it will leave you with plenty of insight into Chinese culture and memories to last a lifetime.
6. Pacific Northwest
America is riddled with rivers, and the mighty Mississippi is no longer the only game in town when it comes to river cruising. Two historic westerly waterways – the Colombia and Snake rivers – have become exciting new avenues for adventure cruisers. This route recreates the end of Lewis and Clark’s expedition to the Pacific, but with all of the natural beauty and wildlife in the area, you don’t need to be a US history buff to thoroughly enjoy the voyage. Since you’ll be floating through one of the nation’s premier wine growing regions, expect to enjoy some renowned vintages en route.
River cruise boats vary considerably in size, speed and degree of luxury. Comfort is also a subjective term that will differ according to region or country, so look over reviews from other cruisers and investigate local customs to avoid any unpleasant surprises. When you know what you can expect, you’ll be able to settle in quickly and enjoy the passing landscape to the fullest.