A river cruise is defined as a form of leisure travel that takes a trip along inland waterways. It often stops at multiple ports along the way and can last anywhere between 30 minutes to a full day, and even overnight for a few days. For the cities and towns around rivers, river cruises are an interesting way to explore them. The cruise ships are much smaller than the behemoths that travel the sea and frequently dock in the centre of cities and towns. Due to their size, they usually carry as few as 10 people or as many as a few hundred. With river cruises, gracefully gliding past small villages and cities will give you a more relaxed and intimate experience of the destinations. Here are some of the best river cruises in the world.

The Best River Cruises In The World:

1. From Pagodas To Jungles: Mekong River Cruise

Border between Thailand and Laos (pictured from Thailand to Laos)

At 4,350 km long, the Mekong River runs through China, Burma, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand. As you cruise down this scenic river, you will find an interesting blend of old and new, with modern cities and villages gliding past. Depending on your chosen itinerary, you might drive past the lower reaches’ bamboo jungles, stilt villages, rice fields, and pagodas between Laos and the South China Sea, colourful markets, royal residences, and even the ancient Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia.

When and how long: The Mekong River cruises are typically week-long cruises that are open all year round. Winter season (Nov-Feb) is cooler but tends to be packed, while the rainy season (Jun-Oct) is less busy, with heavy, often fleeting, showers. It will be the best choice if you exploring the best cruise for couples.

2. History Of Modern America: Mississippi River Cruise

Louisville, Kentucky, USA - Oct. 15, 2016:  The Belle of Louisville is the oldest operating Mississippi River-style steamboat in the world. The Belle offers a variety of cruises on the Ohio River.

Running 3,734 km long, the mighty Mississippi is the fourth-longest river in the world. It swerves through 10 US states offering some of this country’s most beautiful scenery and is, therefore, a must-do among river cruises in the USA. You can pick from a variety of boats, some of which are designed to look like old-fashioned steamboats. The Mississippi River cruise is the best cruise for couples and will take you back in time while narrating the birth of modern America, through the plantations of Oak Alley, and major cities such as St. Louis and Louisville. In between, you will also see aging river towns, wild swamps, as well as sites from the Battle of New Orleans.

When and how long: The cruises are usually planned during the winter season Nov-Dec and during the summer season Apr-Jun. Typical Mississippi River cruises can range from as little as a few hours long to three weeks or longer.

3. Let Romance Guide You: Seine River Cruise

Sunset on the historic center of Paris with the river Seine and a riverboat in the foreground, River Cruises

One of the best ways to explore Paris is through river cruises on the Seine. This short cruise allows you to focus on sightseeing in and around the City of Love and is one of the best river cruises in Europe. There are longer cruises available as well. These include a day or two in Paris, before travelling northwest toward Honfleur and the English Channel where the Seine drains out. A cruise on the Seine stops at Giverny, the one-time home of Impressionist Claude Monet, and Rouen, the City of a Hundred Spires. From Rouen, you can also visit the many beaches of Normandy to see D-Day memorial sites. This cruise is perfect for romantic couples, art lovers, and Francophiles.

When and how long: River cruises on the Seine last about an hour, or can be week-long voyages. Some companies offer cruises seasonally, whereas others operate year-round. The high season is generally from April-September and the low season is from October- March.

4. Ghost-towns And Breathtaking Scenery: Yangtze River Cruise

Cruise ship sailing up the Yangtze River on a hazy morning,

With a length of 6,300 km, the Yangtze River is the third-longest river in the world and the longest in Asia. History buffs will love this river cruise as the Yangtze passes through some of China’s most interesting and famous sites such as the ‘ghost city’ of Fengdu, including the stunning Three Gorges (Qutang, Wu, and Xiling Gorge). Travellers, while sailing through some of this immense country’s most gorgeous landscapes, may also have the opportunity to witness China’s endangered species such as the Chinese alligator and river dolphins. 

When and how long: This river cruise typically runs between four and thirteen days. Also held all year round, the spring season (Mar-May) and autumn season(Sep-Nov) are suggested as the best times, as they offer cooler breezes and fewer mosquitoes.

5. A European Treat: Rhine River Cruise

Beautiful medieval Cochem town over Rhein, Germany.

Known as one of Europe’s most popular cruises, the Rhine River cruise offers you a variety of scenery while sailing through a number of countries like Switzerland, France, Germany, and Holland. Choose this best cruise for couples and enjoy some of Europe’s most beautiful landscapes and magnificent sites, ranging from battlefields and lush vineyards to Baroque palaces and medieval castles. As the river trickles out of Switzerland, through western Germany to the Dutch coast, you’ll get to see some picturesque towns that look like something straight out of a fairy tale. Do remember to check out Germany’s oldest city Trier, Riesling wines in Rudesheim, and Strasbourg’s Cathedral, all among Europe’s finest medieval buildings.

When and how long: Trips down the Rhine River can be as short as a half-day one. Multi-country itineraries can last 11 days or even longer. The river cruises on the Rhine run year-long, however, December brings incredible winter markets, so berths get booked fast. 

6. Get A Taste Of Ancient Egyptian History: Nile River Cruise

River Nile and ship at sunset in Aswan,

The Nile River is 6,853 km long and the cruise along the river is one of the best ways to experience Egypt. As the city basically grew on the banks of the river Nile, a cruise will allow you to experience its 5,000 years of history, from its pyramids, collonaded temples in the ports of Luxor and Aswan, to the ancient necropolises (Valley of the Kings). Due to its popularity, there are 400 cruise ships plying the mighty Nile, ranging from a classic small cruise ship to the Steam Ship Sudan or a dahabiya houseboat with its giant sails, pools, sundecks, and spas. This cruise is a must for history lovers and it will allow you to appreciate Egypt’s many antiquities.

When and how long: Boats sail year-round on the Nile, but Oct-April is the coolest period, with Dec-Feb being the high season. The Nile river cruises usually last between three and seven days.

7. Filled With Art And Culture: Danube River Cruise

A romantic river boat cruise along the Danube in Budapest

With a length of 2,888 kms, the Danube is the second-longest river in Europe. It passes through nine different countries, and its basin is shared by 19 countries. Depending on the itinerary, the cruise along the Danube will take you past castles and imposing fortresses, through some of Europe’s most beautiful cities. The scenery will cover three European capitals (Budapest, Vienna and Bratislava), Germany’s Black Forest, the vineyards of Austria, the Soviet-era architecture of Belgrade, and the gorges and peaks of Romania. You will get to experience the Baroque Austrian streets of Linz, the Little Carpathians of Slovakia, and even Serbia’s ‘Iron Gates’ the clawed gorges that mark its border with Romania. The river cruise usually ends in Tulcea which will allow you to explore the dramatic Black Sea delta. 

When and how long: Typical river cruises on the Danube can be 24-hour cruises or last around eight days. They run all year long, summer months (Jun-Jul) lead to low water levels and are best avoided to skip potential cancellations.

Have You Been On Any Of These River Cruises?

River cruises seem like an interesting way to explore cities and towns. Why not drop the usual roadways and try them out for a change? Allowing you more time and more scenic vistas to cover, they are definitely worth a try. These cruises are offered by many companies such as Vikings river cruises, Uniworld River Cruises and Crystal river cruises—among the best ones for river cruises in Europe. If you have already covered the river cruises mentioned above, let us know about your experience in the comments below.

Also Read: Are Millennials The Newest Fans Of Cruises?


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