If you read Part 1 of my River Cruise Lesson in my last month’s blog post, you’ll remember I talked about the reasons why River Cruising is extremely popular these days and what distinguishes them from a traditional “Ocean Cruise.”
Well, as promised, today I’m going to go over….
…Which destinations you can enjoy a River Cruise in and who are the most popular River Cruise Lines to Sail with.
So, where in the World does a River Cruise sail?
Let’s take a look!
# 1. Europe By far, more people take a River Cruise in Europe than in any other part of the World. It makes sense when you consider the amount of rivers in that one area and the fact that it’s where the commercial River Cruise industry originated.
Now there are too many rivers in Europe to cover them all right here but the most popular ones in that region are the Rhine & Danube… which touch over a dozen countries between them and can take you from Amsterdam all the way to the Black Sea… with a stay in Istanbul at the end of course! 🙂
If re-kindling romance, experiencing a piece of history that makes the hair stand up on your arms and seeing enchanting castles along the waterline are your thing, a River Cruise here provides that…
…and Christmas Cruises are popular on these Rivers too where you can experience, first hand, how European families celebrate the festive season. (Or, on the other end of Europe’s River Cruise season, you can do a Spring-Time “Tulip Time” River Cruise!)
In case you’re wondering, a River Cruise on the Danube &/or Rhine can go from 7 Nights to 4 weeks long and more so your choices are plenty.
In France the Seine & Rhone Rivers are extremely popular! Unlike the Danube & Rhine, which feature a lot of German/Gothic design, these rivers feature more of a Mediterranean architecture.
And in recent years a new itinerary in the Bordeaux region has become another option in France!
The Rhone, which runs through Southern France/The Provence Region and right into the Mediterranean Sea, visits charming places like Lyon, Viviers, Tournon, Tain l’Hermitage, Avignon & Arles and has wineries abound.
The Seine, which runs right through Paris, can take you to places like Giverny, Rouen & the infamous Beaches of Normandy. Of course, extra time in Paris is a must when visiting this area! Many people combine these 2 Cruises, the Seine & Rhone, and turn it into a 2 week plus immersion of France… “ooh la, la!” 🙂 (And now with Bordeaux you can do France in 3 back to back to back cruises like I did in July, 2015 which you can see here in Cruise #s 40, 41 & 42)
Also quite popular in Europe is the Douro River which runs through Portugal. Many people who experience this River Cruise start off with some time in Lisbon or Madrid.
And finally, another fairly new itinerary in Europe is in Italy… a round trip Venice & “Po River” Cruise that offers an extension of visits to Milan, Florence & Rome… nice!!
So as you can see, Europe has a ton of options when it comes to taking a River Cruise.
Between its history, famous architecture, art & culture, its mix of ancient & modern, its timeless beauty & grace of old world… there’s something for everyone on a Europe River Cruise!
# 2. Vietnam & Cambodia These 2 fascinating countries are connected by the Mekong River. I sailed this intriguing River a decade ago and it was truly an unforgettable experience!!
Like my 1st ever visit to Asia in China, the people, history and culture were phenomenal to experience in this part of South East Asia.
Highlighted by an overnight stay on a “traditional wooden junk” in Ha Long Bay and visits to Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) & famous Angkor Wat in Cambodia, no wonder the Mekong River is one of the Hottest River Cruise destinations out there!
One more note, some River Cruise lines allow you to add on an extension to some other popular places in that area like Bangkok, Laos, etc…
Whether the River Cruise line offers that or not, land extensions prior to the River Cruise are for sure a good idea to help relieve jet lag, adjust to the time change, break up the long flights and see more of this fabulous part of the World!
# 3. Russia Sailing on “The Volga” River from St.Petersburg to Moscow (or vice versa) and visiting historic Russian cities & towns along the way… doesn’t that sound both Alluring & Mysterious!
You’ll see Red Square, St. Basil’s Cathedral, the Kremlin, the famous Hermitage and more…
…I visited St. Petersburg for 3 days once on an Ocean Cruise, got a taste of this famous Country, loved it, and a trip down the Volga sounds pretty awesome to me! 🙂
**NOTE** As of this writing in 2023 there are no Cruises at all, Ocean or River, visiting Russia due to the ongoing War with Ukraine. 🙁 Hopefully someday that will change as, leaving out the politics, Russia is a pretty fascinating part of the World to visit from the eyes of a traveler!
# 4. China What can I say about my 1st ever River Cruise that I experienced in 2009 on the Yangtze River in China… well, it was simply, Amazing!!
Out of my 100+ trips & vacations it’s been one of the best by far!
I saw the Forbidden City among other epic things in Beijing, visited the Great Wall, experienced first-hand the Terra Cotta Warriors in Xi’an, spent some time in Shanghai and sailed the “Mystic” Yangtze River which included passing through the Three Gorges Dam… the largest Dam in the World.
My advice for you regarding this River Cruise… “Just Do It!!”… China really is one of the most fascinating Countries in the World! 🙂
(DON’T make the mistake I did & skip going to Hong Kong… I made it there years later but if I hadn’t it would have been a shame, so if this is a one-time visit for you include Hong Kong!)
# 5. Africa This sailing on the Chobe River with optional extensions to places like Cape Town, Victoria Falls, Johannesburg and of course a Safari to see Africa’s famous wildlife is one of the most Exotic destinations you’ll ever experience!
And as this trip boasts an Intimate 28 guest River Cruise ship, which means you’re doing it in a very exclusive group… no wonder my clients who’ve done this trip have come back raving! 🙂
I’ve also done this River Cruise myself… amazing… it was my 55th Cruise & pretty much my best ever… Beautiful destination!! Here’s my review.
# 6. Myanmar (AKA Burma) Several years ago two major River Cruise Companies began offering sailings on the Irrawaddy River in this once isolated Country but due to it’s popularity most major companies offer sailings there now.
Typically a Myanmar River Cruise would feature a 10-14 night sailing on the Irrawaddy River as well as a couple of nights in Myanmar’s major city Yangon, where your River Cruise Tour begins & ends… and always make sure it includes a stop in Bagan, amazing place!!
Like the “Yangtze River” in China & the “Mekong River” in Vietnam & Cambodia, as I’ve personally done this sailing myself I know this is another amazing River Cruise in Asia that you’ll be glad you went on!!
**NOTE** As of this writing in 2023 there are no River Cruises visiting Myanmar due to the current unrest in the region. 🙁 Hopefully someday that will change as Myanmar was one of the most “off the beaten path” places I’ve ever been/a place that any serious traveler would enjoy visiting!!!
# 7. Egypt Just to say you sailed on the Nile River (the world’s Longest river!) is almost enough reason to head to this region and enjoy a River Cruise. But of course, seeing Egypt’s Epic attractions along the way makes it that much better!!
Between visiting Mosques, Bazaars, the Sphinx, the Great Pyramids, Luxor and the famous Abu Simbel temples… it’s a River Cruise you’re sure to NEVER forget… I know I Never will!!
# 8. India This is one of the River Cruise industry’s newest places to sail, the Ganges River…
…during your visit to one of the most fascinating countries in the World you’ll have the chance to visit cites like New Dehli (India’s Capital City), Jaipur & Kolkata, you’ll go to multiple UNESCO World Heritage sites, you’ll have the chance to visit India’s most spiritual city, Varanasi, and of course no trip to India would be complete without a visit to the infamous “Taj Mahal” which will be included on your tour as well!! (As mentioned in this post some destinations are BEST visited by Land rather than Cruise… since originally writing this River Cruise “Destination” post I learned India is BEST visited on a Land Tour. Check out my India Land Tour with Tauck review here to see why!)
# 9. Peru/Brazil A River Cruise on the Amazon River can take place from a couple of countries… Brazil or Peru.
Either way the 2nd longest River in the World, and largest by volume, offers sites like exotic animals (think Macaws & Monkeys) and tribes along the banks where you will see local people and their villages.
A visit to this mysterious tropical green forest should be on every serious traveler’s radar!
(FYI, some River Cruise itineraries in this area also include a Cruise to the Galapagos Islands and Machu Picchu which give you 2 more GREAT reasons to add this destination to your “Bucket-List”!)
# 10. USA Rivers Not everyone realizes this but you don’t need to fly 1/2 way around the World to take a River Cruise… you can simply fly to places like New Orleans to take a Mississippi River Cruise or to Portland to take a Snake River Cruise. With that said, up until recently, there were only 2 US-based companies who offered these trips and the reviews from my clients on those rivers are always lower than all the other Rivers mentioned above. Recently though, the biggest River Line in the World came into the US market which is GREAT news as competition usually makes things better so, although I suggest waiting a few more years for things to improve, a River Cruise in the US can be one you add to your “travel radar”!! 🙂
# 11. Colombia In early, 2024 one of the major River lines (AMA Waterways) is set to launch a sailing on the “Magdalena” River, a first for a North American based company. You can learn more about that sailing here https://www.amawaterways.com/destination/south-america-river-cruises/2024/magic-of-colombia I am definitely excited for it as, personally, I’ve run out of Rivers to sail on as I’ve pretty much done them all so it’s great to have a new River in the mix! 😉
So there you go, some of the most popular and & enchanting places you can visit while enjoying a River Cruise…
…the only question now is, where in the World do YOU want to go?? 🙂
Oh yes! I also mentioned I’d tell you about who the major River Cruise Lines are.
Let’s get right into that!
Between the collaboration of my travel professional colleagues (you know we talk), reviews back from 100s & 100s & 100s of my own clients and my own personal experience from my 17 River Cruises, there are for sure some lines out there I DO NOT recommend but there are 5 River Cruiselines that BEST cater to my North American clientele… Tauck, AMA Waterways, Uniworld, Avalon Waterways & Viking.
Who’s the best?
Impossible to answer!!
I say that as it really depends where you’re going.
In Europe for instance, they all have some pretty amazing products (with that said, I consistently get lower ratings on Viking than the other lines as they offer the most basic/mass market product so I avoid putting my clients on them unless budget is their only concern and quality isn’t as important to them) and many times WHO to go with may boil down to who has the best promotion running & whether you want everything included in your upfront price or not.
Other parts of the World though, some River Cruise Lines are definitely stronger than others with better ships, better itineraries, etc.
That’s why virtually everyone booking a River Cruise uses the services of an experienced Cruise Consultant like me. I can help you choose the best line & itinerary in each area using my years of experience…
…at a cost to you of…
That’s right, it’s one of the best kept secrets in the travel industry…
…it NEVER costs you a dime extra to book with a Cruise Consultant compared to going to the cruise line directly, and many times you get a better deal, so don’t miss getting my vast experience & unbiased knowledge on your side!
(I explain all the benefits of booking with a Cruise Consultant in this informative article)
One last resource for you before I end off today’s post… here are the itineraries for the 5 River Cruise Lines I mentioned above:
Tauck’s River Cruise Itineraries
AMA Waterways’ River Cruise Itineraries
Uniworld’s River Cruise Itineraries
Avalon Waterways’ River Cruise Itineraries
Viking’s River Cruise Itineraries
Have a peek at their itineraries, see what interests you and then BEFORE you get overwhelmed contact me so I can simplify & help you start making your River Cruise “Dream Vacation” a reality! 🙂
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Your Trusted Cruise & Tauck Tour Expert!