What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about river cruising? Do you imagine yourself watching the sunset as you dine on a meal prepared by the chef that highlights the cuisine of the city you’re traveling through? Or do you imagine yourself camping out near the boat’s bow to get an uncluttered view of the journey ahead, spotting hilltop castles, rolling vineyards, riverside monasteries and more? These are all great river cruise experiences that allow you to relax and enjoy – at a slower pace – the journey while you also have an opportunity to explore each destination through unique excursions.
A.A. Milne’s wise bear, Winnie-The-Pooh, once said, “Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there someday.” Such is the case when embarking on a river cruise. And along the way you’ll dock at the very center of quaint villages and cosmopolitan cities, allowing you to step off the boat and into history. Within moments you find yourself fully immersed in your new destinations, surrounded by street vendors selling fresh pastries, locals sipping coffee in outdoor cafés and flowers blooming in the city square.
See the Sights on Your Own
The choice is yours! Dive in and explore the destination and culture, using your ship as a home base to jump on and off as needed. Many river cruise companies include free guided tours at each port that allow you to visit the city’s highlights before venturing off on your own. These tours often include a headset, so you can roam away from the group to take that perfect selfie without missing any information from your local guide.
Taste a Gourmet Meal Made with Local Ingredients
Then it’s back on the ship for an elegant dinner inspired by the region you are sailing through. Because while you were on shore, touring yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the ship’s chef and her team also disembarked to visit local markets and small farms, procuring fresh, local ingredients that will dictate the night’s gourmet cuisine.
Let the Awe-Inspiring Ambience Consume You
And if the food doesn’t inspire you, the view will. You’ll enjoy breathtaking scenery from just about everywhere on the ship, where panoramic views can be found in the restaurant, on the sun deck or from the privacy of your stateroom. Just imagine sipping a dry Riesling in your room with the floor-to-ceiling window open to welcome the cool breeze coming off the Mosel River, and if you listen closely, you’ll be able to hear the laughter of schoolchildren playing soccer on the banks next to an 18th century gothic church.
Escape on a Russian River Excursion
Russia’s rivers also hold a treasure-trove of beguiling wonders. On the Volga River from St. Petersburg to Moscow, you can see Catherine Palace, Peter & Paul Fortress and St. Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg, along with the Cosmonaut Museum, Red Square and the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow. The Neva and Svir rivers are other popular waterways to visit unique villages like Mandrogy, where you can visit the Vodka Museum and shop for handmade Russian crafts, or stop in Kizhi, where you can see a collection of Russian wooden houses, windmills and churches at the fairytale-like Open Air Museum of Architecture, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Cruise on Europe’s Wondrous Waterways
Of course, the view changes depending on which waterway you travel upon. You could cruise the romantic Seine from the famed Left Bank in Paris to the historic beaches of Normandy, or sail from Amsterdam’s celebrated canals to the fairytale world of Germany’s Black Forest on the Rhine. Choose the Danube, and you’ll pass through the striking beauty of Austria’s Wachau Valley on your way to Vienna, Budapest, Munich or Prague.
Experience Asia’s Ancient Culture
A journey in Asia will reward you with exotic landscapes and ancient temples. Sailing down the Yangtze, Mekong or Irrawaddy rivers, you’ll have a front row seat to the jewels of China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. This is where you can walk amid Bagan’s majestic Sein Nyet Sister Temples; stand in awe of Myanmar’s gold-plated Shwedagon Pagoda; have your breath taken away by China’s impressive Three Gorges; take a journey around the limestone peaks in Thailand’s picturesque Phang Nga Bay; and experience the grandeur of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat temple with your own eyes. Your relaxing river cruise to explore and immerse yourself in culture awaits!