River cruising is certainly one of the finest ways to experience the bacchanalian pleasures of foreign lands. But why do so many cruises limit themselves to the vineyard?
Travellers have an assortment of tastes and not every country is known for its vino. Take Germany and Belgium, for instance, where beer is a prominent highlight; or Scotland and Ireland, home to world-renowned whisky/whiskey.
Here are some of the best cruises for beer-lovers, whiskey-swillers and Absinthe-quaffers.
Medieval Rhine & Main Cruise
If there is one country in Europe to visit for its beer, it's Germany. Saga's Medieval Rhine and Main cruise, a seven-night trip from Nuremberg to Amsterdam, includes an excursion to the 350-year-old Brauhaus Faust brewery in Miltenberg.
A tour of the building gives guests an insight into the making of traditional Bavarian beer, and is then rounded off with a comprehensive tasting, complete with pretzels.
Rhine & Moselle River Cruise
Of course, Germany doesn't just do beer. Riviera Travel's Rhine & Moselle river cruise passes through the picturesque wine-making town of Rudesheim am Rhein, which is also famous for its Asbach Uralt brandy.
Passengers on the eight-day cruise starting and ending in Cologne will have the opportunity to visit the distillery and participate in a tasting session.
Charms Of Holland & Belgium Cruise
For an entirely beer-soaked cruise, Avalon Waterways are introducing an eight-day Charms of Holland and Belgium itinerary in 2016, with one April departure dedicated entirely to the beverage.
Passing through Antwerp and Ghent, as well as the smaller towns of Middelburg and Willemstad, it will include on-board tastings, a brewery visit, tips on beer brewing techniques and special lectures with a beer expert.
Beer will be heartily championed on AmaWaterways' Christmas Time Cruise on the Danube in December, with visits to local breweries, beer-themed tours and onboard presentations.
Expert and writer Don Russell will escort enthusiasts around sites such as the Heineken Experience in Volendam, Gruut Brewery in Ghent and De Halve Maan in Bruges.
Non-beer-drinking partners can enjoy spring blooms or Christmas markets, join an organised city tour or hop on one of the ships’ complimentary bicycles. Beer and wine are included at mealtimes onboard.
Bourbon-Themed Mississippi Cruise
If you want a cruise that encapsulates the cultural identity of America's heartland, a Bourbon-themed steamboat cruise up the Mississippi comes pretty close.
Starting in St Louis and ending in Cincinnati, The American Queen Steamboat Company operates a nine-day cruise through the Kentucky Bourbon country that incorporates tours of some of the country's most famous whiskey distilleries.
Incidentally, there's also a chance to visit the Anheuser-Busch Brewery in St Louis.
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Pacific Northwest Craft Beer Cruise
Alternatively, travellers in the USA can head to the Pacific Northwest, a region that has become synonymous with the American craft beer movement.
The American Queen Steamboat Company also operates a nine-day cruise from Portland to Clarkston along the Columbia and Snake rivers, calling at multiple brewing towns along the way.
The ship itself, American Empress, is also well stocked with local beers.
Veurne To Bruges Brew Cruise
Given the country's reputation for world-class brews, it's no wonder so many beer-tasting cruises take place on the many canals and rivers of Belgium. EWaterways' small, six-passenger cruise from Veurne to Bruges, lasting seven nights, combines Belgian beer with another of the country's great exports: chocolate.
With excursions to the Hop museum at Poperinge and the biscuit factory of Jules Destrooper, there's also the opportunity to taste some fine Trappist beer in Nieuwpoort.
Douro River Cruise
Although technically a form of wine, we feel that Port is a thing of its own and its inclusion on this list can therefore be justified. Produced exclusively in the Douro Valley in northern Portugal, many Douro river cruises feature a Port-related excursion, including this itinerary from Riviera Travel.
Stopping in Porto, guests have a chance to tour the city's Port wine cellars before setting off on an 11-day cruise on one of Europe's most beautiful rivers.
Waterways Of The Tsars Cruise
Viking River Cruises' 13-day Waterways of the Tsars itinerary, starting in St Petersburg and ending in Moscow, features at a number excursions to all manner of museums, one of which is – slightly stereotypically – dedicated to vodka.
Located in Mandrogy village, itself a sort of 'living museum', it reportedly houses more than 20,000 bottles from more than 2,000 brands. Needless to say, visitors can participate in tasting sessions.
Paris To London Seine Cruise
Those cruisers who prefer a slightly more potent form of tipple need look no further than Tauck's 14-day Seine itinerary from Paris to London. A stop in Auvers-sur-Oise means a chance to visit the Absinthe Museum – an appropriate location, as one of the town's most famous residents was Vincent van Gogh.
A later excursion takes guests to one of Normandy's ubiquitous cider houses, where they can sample calvados, a local apple brandy.
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