River cruising may be the best way for many to travel through some of the world’s most interesting places. It is convenient and comfortable and certainly much easier than traveling by car, train or motor coach. It lets you get in-depth exposure to the cultures and history of each area. Many travelers have discovered the ease of river cruising making it the fastest growing segment of the travel industry.
Many of the great European cities developed along waterways such as Vienna, Paris and Moscow. Many are not accessible by cruise ship, but river cruising is the convenient way to visit so many cities, towns, and villages. You can see and experience more in a given time than by any other method of travel. The riverboat takes you, in most cases, directly into the center of all the action.
Riverboats have changed for the better over the years. Most now offer cabins that are very similar to those found on modern cruise ships with large windows or even sliding glass doors that open onto your private balcony. You have full private facilities and most of the amenities you would find on a cruise ship. Your dining is on board in dining rooms that may be better than those found ashore.
This is truly hassle-free travel. After boarding the boat, you unpack once, settle into your generous room and that’s it. This is your home for the balance of your river travel. No packing and un-packing. You can enjoy fascinating scenery from just about any place on your boat such as the dining room, the bar, the sun deck or your stateroom.
These boats are designed to accommodate between 100 and 300 guests, so there will be no long lines to embark, debark or have a meal. And, the rivers are calm so no worries about rough seas. Many riverboat companies offer well planned shore tours and even in-depth guided walks.
Where do these European riverboats cruise? You can travel the Danube, the Rhine, routes of the Czars and Cossacks and interesting areas in between.
Uniworld and others offer 9-day cruises along the Rhine from Basel to Amsterdam. This cruise will include the fairytale beauty and romantic spirit of the Rhine. You’ll see castles and more castles – Medieval, Gothic, and Renaissance castles –along the river valley. You’ll almost never be able to put your camera down.
Artists, musicians and writers from all over Europe have composed and written about this part of the world. You have a chance to enjoy a full day tour along the Alsatian Wine Road and taste the region’s famous Rheingau Rieslings. These sailings take you from Basel to Breisach, Strasbourg, Speye, Rudeshim, Koblenz, Cologne and Amsterdam, where you depart and transfer to the airport. Departures are all through the summer.
Several riverboat companies offer comprehensive cruises between Budapest, Hungary and Passau, Germany. You cruise the famous Danube River passing through Vienna and staying there for two days, then move into the scenic Wachau Valley for Linz (Salzburg) and Passau. On this cruise you will enjoy the best of Eastern and Western Old World Europe. Some of these companies even give you a bicycle to explore the towns.
There are Danube cruises that include extensions to Prague, which for me would be a must.
You can cruise for 14 days all the way from Amsterdam to Vienna, stopping in all the fascinating places along the Rhine and Danube Rivers. You’ll have time to have lunches and dinners ashore in many locations if you want some local cuisine rather than a meal on-board. Viking River cruises promise at least one shore tour every day so you won’t miss a thing. These guided tours bring you closer to the culture and history of the destination. Viking cruises offer a Grand European Tour operating from Amsterdam to Budapest for 15 days visiting all the important sights between. You’ll see Cologne, Koblenz, the Rhine River, Nuremberg, Passau, Danube River, Vienna and Budapest.
You can river cruise through France allowing time for dining ashore if you choose. What an experience this would be. I know I would gain 10 pounds!
Here is a great way to enjoy Russia. Take a river cruise from St. Petersburg to Moscow.
On this cruise you would spend three or more days in St. Petersburg visiting all the important must-see museums and assorted points of interest in one of Europe’s most thrilling cities. One night you will attend the ballet or opera. Some of the interesting excursions will include the Hermitage Museum, Peterhof Palace, Catherine the Great’s Palace and a tour of the city. These palaces have more than 1,000 rooms each and many are furnished as they were in the days when occupied by royalty. You almost can’t believe your eyes as you walk through these structures. I did this last summer and I still find the beauty and enormity hard to believe.
As you cruise through the Russian countryside you are able to see how the average Russian lives and you’ll never forget the experience. I found the Russians friendly and willing to assist with my needs during my last visit.
In Moscow, you’ll visit Red Square, the Bolshoi Theatre, St. Basil’s Cathedral, the famous GUM Department Store and the Metro. Included will also be a Russian folkloric performance, which is marvelous.
There are many European river cruises I have not included here, but I suggest you consult your travel professional who can provide you with brochures and consultation. The companies that will give you expert service on the rivers include: Viking, Tauck, AMAwaterways, Avalon, Uniworld and Collette.
China, for some time, has been a popular tourist destination and cruising the Yangtze River is gaining popularity. On the Yangtze, the near completion of the Three Gorges Dam project and stabilization of the waters have substantially changed the face of cruising in China. The river remains quite muddy, but here again is a chance to view China from the comfort of a riverboat. These boats are now quite luxurious and similar to those cruising the rivers of Europe.
A massive relocation project has been underway because of the Three Gorges Dam project and millions of people have been relocated from their old towns and villages to newly constructed locations. Some of these new locations remain unpopulated, but the transition will be soon.
Because of the dam project, costing billions of dollars and the largest ever attempted in the world to date, flooding or drought have been reduced greatly, and freight traffic on the river can now rely on enough water for passage, which has stimulated the economy in the region.
On the Yangtze cruise you will visit markets, temples, ancient villages and growing cities. These cruises can last from 4 to 9 days.
There are now river cruises in Vietnam and Cambodia, which were introduced last year and will increase tourism in these areas.
So, weather it be the Rhine, Danube, cruising through Russia, the French countryside or the Yangtze in China or in Vietnam or Cambodia, river cruising becomes more popular every year for Americans. This is the comfortable, trouble-free way to see a country.