Imagine drifting past the picturesque rice paddies, steep gorges, and rainforest-clad peaks of Asia's Mekong.
Consider a waterside view of quaint European villages and fairytale castles as you meander along the Danube. As new ships set sail for new river destinations across the globe, river cruising is no longer just for baby boomers. Families and multigenerational groups are discovering the wonders of river cruising, and cruise lines are meeting the increased demand with fresh programs, more sophisticated amenities, and even kid-friendly fare, all designed to enhance the experience and create memorable voyages for travelers of all ages.
European itineraries along the Danube and Rhine rivers are popular with first-time river cruisers. In addition, "There are some really nice cruises in France along the Rhône and Seine rivers," said Angela Denton, director of marketing for Breton Travel. Travelers might visit Paris, Normandy Beach, and Monet's Giverny. And because river cruise ships are smaller than their ocean-cruising counterparts—hosting only about 165 guests—they can access off-the-beaten-path cities such as Arles and Nuremberg.
"Fall is popular for European wine cruises," said Denton. "And if cold weather doesn't bother you, northern Europe's Christmas Market cruises can be fun." For those who prefer stateside travel, Viking Cruises announced New Orleans as the homeport for its first North American river cruise, debuting in 2017. For the more adventurous, river cruise itineraries are opening up in places like Egypt, India, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Cambodia.
Instead of viewing miles of endless ocean, on a river cruise you sightsee while sailing, glimpsing daily village life and scenic countryside vistas. Europe's rivers were once its highways, Denton notes, adding that many small towns are built along the water. You can step off the boat into the heart of a city, walking to historic sites or hiking in nearby woodlands within moments.
"Because towns are so close to each other, you may spend the morning in one town, eat lunch on the boat, then sail to another town in the afternoon." Cruise ships often provide bicycles for guests to use. And for a fun twist, instead of sailing you might bike along a waterfront road to meet the boat at the next stop. River cruises also offer immersive, culturally oriented excursions. AmaWaterways offers hands-on cooking classes in restaurants, and on Viking River's Bordeaux itinerary, you'll visit a cognac house where you'll blend your own bottle.
To read more about river cruising, click here for the digital edition of West Michigan Woman magazine.
Photo courtesy of AmaWaterways.