Travellers looking for a unique way of exploring the world have discovered the appeal of river cruising. In the past couple of years, river cruising has become one of the most popular travel trends. It is proving extremely popular with big-ship cruisers looking for a more intimate experience and new destinations.

 

ccschumannelberiver_tcm46-9932River cruising is unique because it offers a small ship experience with the best dining and service, including complimentary fine wines with dinner. Chefs create menus that reflect the local specialties and available produce. Staterooms are modern and spacious with luxurious linens, minibars and flat-screen tvs. Most cabins also have floor to ceiling windows or panoramic, sliding glass doors, allowing you to watch castles and cathedrals, villages and vineyards as you drift slowly by. You can even have a room with a double balcony – highly recommended!

 

River cruising is also one of the best ways to see a country in detail. The riverways are the country’s original highways. When you step off a ship, you are in the heart of the destination. Unlike standard sea cruises, shore excursions are included in the price of a river cruise, which offers great value. Expert guides provide background and local perspective, but still allow free time for strolling and shopping.

 

One popular theme cruise is a late fall cruise on the Danube river so you can shop the famous Christmas markets for seasonal handicrafts. The markets are set up in front of cathedrals and city halls — sausages sizzle on grills, carolers sing and vendors’ booths are decorated with evergreen garlands and white lights.

 

Russian river vacations spend time in Moscow and St. Petersburg. In Moscow, you can enjoy a stop at the vast, stone-paved Red Square. It’s anchored at one end by St Basil’s Cathedral topped by candy-colored domes. A visit to the Hermitage is featured in St. Petersburg. The museum occupies six buildings, including the former Winter Palace of the czars.

 

Many German castles can be viewed from your ship’s deck as you cruise along the Rhine. Among them are Castle Marksburg perched above the town of Braubach near Koblenz, and Castle Katz in St. Goarshausen, which is near the Rock of Lorelei. Legend says that Lorelei sits high above the river and lures love-struck sailors to their deaths upon the rocks.

 

In spring, the tulip fields of Holland erupt in an explosion of color. You can view them from your ship on a special “tulip time” river cruise, which also includes a visit to Keukenhof Gardens, where 7 million bulbs are planted annually. These sailings take place in March and April and also sail to ports in Belgium.

 

Although river cruises are popular in Europe, there are tons of other destinations to sail. I did a 6 day river cruise along the Yangtze River in China which was wonderful. Sailing through the Three Gorges offered some of the most breathtaking scenery I have ever seen. Vietnam and Cambodia is also popular, and river cruises are available in India, Africa, Egypt and Peru.

 

River cruises provide a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere. They are a truly inclusive vacation experience, as one price encompasses quality accommodations, exquisite meals, most drinks, transfers, onboard entertainment, cultural presentations, and even shore excursions. River cruise lines even offer a variety of themed cruises, including wine, music, and art-themed cruises. Whether you want to float past majestic castles, sail the ancient Nile, cruise the Russian heartland or the beautiful Douro River in Portugal, a river cruise is an unforgettable vacation.

 

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Lisa Taylor TPI is an independent owner, affiliated with TPI.