Ten of the Best: River Cruise Destinations

9 May 2014

Russia, Myanmar and the Mekong are tipped as ‘the ones to watch’ for river cruising in 2015 and beyond.

Australia’s relatively new found love of cruising has made it one of the travel industry’s fastest-growing segments.

Proving particularly popular this year is river cruising, a segment of the cruise market where the ships are smaller for a boutique, intimate experience. Luxuriously appointed, river cruises allow travellers to get up close and personal with itineraries often including a number of shore excursions.

Flight Centre’s team of experts, together with luxury river cruise operator APT, has compiled a list of ten river cruises to add to your bucket list.

1.    Central Europe

Central Europe is still the most popular destination for Aussie cruisers due to the fact that so many countries can be covered in one itinerary for a diverse offering of history and culture.

TRY THIS:  APT’s 15-day Magnificent Europe luxury river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest. Guests visit five countries (Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary), taking in 16 towns, village and cities and enjoying 28 included experiences. It’s an all-inclusive trip so all meals, drinks, accommodation, sightseeing, transfers, tipping, port charges and porterage are included in the price.

2.    Russia

Russia is tipped to be one of the hottest river cruise destinations of 2015, steadily rising in popularity over the past couple of years. River cruising offers a great way to explore as it covers vast areas, giving guests access to sights and destaintions that would otherwise be hard-to-reach.

TRY THIS:  APT is launching a new river cruise ship, called the MS Anastasia, which will make its debut in May 2015 on a 13-night Russian Waterways cruise. A restaurant by celebrity chef Luke Nguyen, two whirlpools and a champagne and caviar bar are just a few of the luxurious highlights that guests can expect to enjoy in addition to the extensive sightseeing program.

3.    Portugal 

Go off the beaten track with a river cruise in Portugal. Still one of river cruisings ‘best kept secrets’, this destination can be easily pared with land tours in Spain to create an Iberian adventure of a lifetime.

TRY THIS: Thread your way through Portugal’s ethereal landscapes on a Douro river cruise from Porto to Barca d’Alva. Highlights include the 14-century Alpendurada Monastery, Lamega Castle, the Palacio de Mateus near the city of Vila Real and not to mention wine tastings and the chance to sample the world famous local tipple – Port!

4.    Mekong

River cruising in Vietnam and Cambodia is the only way to access and explore some of the more remote regions of these countries and that’s what is driving the appeal of this travel style for Australians looking to experience a real slice of local life.

TRY THIS: Benefit from the input of APT Ambassador, celebrity chef Luke Nguyen, who will be hosting two APT holidays to Vietnam in 2014, sharing some of his own some personal stories, local customs and a selection of culinary experiences.

5.     Burma (Myanmar)

Burma is a relatively new destination for river cruising, with 2014 set to see the region slowly emerging from the far-reaching shadows of its more developed neighbours and with good reason. Mystical, mysterious and largely uninfluenced by the Western world, it’s a country of incredible charm.

TRY THIS: There’s no better way to explore the untouched essence of this beautiful nation than on a river cruise along the mighty Irrawaddy River. APT’s new luxury river cruise ship,   the MS AmaPura, accommodates just 56 guests and will make her maiden voyage on these waters in 2014.

6.    Mississippi 

Cruising America’s Deep South between New Orleans and Memphis, Mississippi river cruising is proving a big hit.

TRY THIS:  APT’s first Mississippi river cruises aboard the boutique-sized Queen of the Mississippi  paddle-wheeler set sail this month. Highlights include a visit to Oak Alley – an historic mansion and plantation located in the community of Vacherie, Louisiana; a tour of the Vicksburg National Military Park for an in-depth discovery of the history of the civil war; the chance to tour a working cotton farm; a tour of Graceland, former home of Elvis Presley; and a backstage tour of The Grand Ole Opry House which holds an iconic weekly stage concert and radio broadcast.

7.    Amazon

River cruising on the Amazon is one of the most spectacular experiences, offering a magical interaction with the wildlife and natural beauty of a region that boasts around one third of the world’s recorded plant and animal specials.

TRY THIS: APT offers its popular and exclusive luxury Amazon river cruises aboard the 28-suite Delfin II with guests spending three nights exploring the bountiful wildlife on these waterways. Highlights include swimming with pink dolphins, hiking through rainforest, cruising on a skiff through inaccessible tributaries and visiting a riverside community to gain insight into the local way of life.

8.    Zambezi

Glide through Botswana’s Chobe National Park aboard a luxury river ship and you’ll soon see the benefits of a river safari. As well as being able to spot animals and birds as they come to the river at dusk to drink, you’ll also glide over to the shores of Namibia to meet local villagers and have the chance to get even closer to the wildlife by taking out a small motorised boat.

TRY THIS: Sail onboard Botswana’s Zambezi Queen on either an 18-day African Journey or the new 23-day Great Game Parks itinerary. Sailing though the Chobe National Park, guests have the chance to see hippos, elephants, buffalo, lions and leopards congregating along the river banks. With just 14 suites, the Zambezi Queen features a reading room, gift shop, internet access, plunge pool, sun deck and shaded area, fine dining restaurant and an open lounge area with panoramic views.

9.    China

The Yangtze River between Yichang and Chongqing is one of the most scenic areas in China. Guests who cruise this 660km stretch of water enjoy an in-depth discovery of the region, including the chance to explore The Ghost City of Fengdu, located at the foothill of Ming Mountain.

TRY THIS: During a cruise here you’ll learn about many local legends and take in a number of fascinating temples and shrines. At Shennong Stream tranquil waters, lush forests and stunning gorges provide an incredible backdrop for a trip out on a traditional sampan (longboat).

10.  France

Is there anything more romantic than cruising the Seine down Paris? Or anything more delicious than sampling truffles, regional produce and wines? Paris to Rouen is an old-time favourite for river cruising but Southern France is becoming an increasingly popular river cruise choice.

TRY THIS: On the stretch of water from Arles to Lyon in Southern France, guests sail through towns and villages, stopping to explore and take in ancient architecture, history and the beauty of the Provencale countryside before arriving at Grignan where they can choose to visit a family-owned lavender estate or head out with dogs in search of truffles before a visit to Grignan Castle for a cocktail and tastings of regional produce as local musicians entertain.

For any APT river cruise bookings and details, phone your nearest Flight Centre store on 1300 939 414 or see www.flightcentre.com.au

Kellie Carty

If you're a travel writer, journalist, reporter or freelance travel writer, with a media enquiry relating to Flight Centre, please don't hesitate to send me an email. I'd be happy to help with any travel-related questions or put you in touch with the right people. You can reach me at media@flightcentre.com.au