Wednesday, 30 November -0001
A river runs through it
Top river cruises for all tastes, selected by Wendy GomersallRiver cruises are hugely popular and offer all the benefits of an ocean cruise – an exciting itinerary with a number of ports of call, you unpack only once, and all meals – and often a bit more – are included.
You may find the price also covers tips, wine with dinner and extensive sightseeing with local guides and a couple of extra days in an interesting city. Ships are smaller so there will be fewer passengers and the atmosphere will be friendlier; more intimate. Also, there is plenty of choice.
For many, the fairytale castles and picturesque countryside of the Rhine provide the perfect scenery for a memorable river cruise. Voyages Jules Verne offers Amsterdam to the Romantic Rhine, a classic seven-night Rhine cruise visiting Amsterdam, Kinderdijk, Cologne, Koblenz, Rüdesheim, Boppard and Düsseldorf.
Sightseeing highlights include the Kröller-Müller Museum, which displays a large collection of works by Van Gogh, Cologne’s Jewish quarter and the Romanesque Great St Martin Church and a wine tasting. It costs from £1,295 per person, including full board on the cruise, sightseeing, and BA flights from Gatwick. Departures run from April to September (there are limited ‘no single supplement’ places available on the 25 July departure).
Voyages Jules Verne: 0845-166 7003, www.vjv.com
The Danube is one of Europe’s most popular river cruises. The new Cruising By Rail brochure from Great Rail Journeys offers trips that combine rail travel with a cruising experience. The new 10-day Mozart Danube Cruise, from £2,025 per person, covers first and standard rail travel from St Pancras International, a seven-night cruise on MS Mozart, including all meals and wine with dinner, and two nights’ hotel accommodation with breakfast and dinner. Guided tours include Melk Abbey, Budapest, Bratislava and Vienna, with visits to Esztergom, Dürnstein and Göttweig Abbey, and wine tasting in Krems. There are regular departures from April to October next year.
Great Rail Journeys: 01904-521936, www.greatrail.com
Swan Hellenic has expanded its 2013 river cruising programme with the introduction of the luxurious Royal Crown and sailings on the Dutch waterways. Highlights Of The Dutch Waterways, an eight-day cruise from £2,250 per person, explores historic cities, palaces and villages.
The Golden Age Of Dutch Waterways is another eight-day cruise, from £2,250 per person. The itineraries include talks by guest speakers. Royal Crown accommodates 79 passengers in 42 Art Deco-style cabins, some of which are for singles. Cruise fares include shore excursions, tips, meals and return flights from London.
Swan Hellenic: 0844-488 1052, www.swanhellenic.com
If you want an exclusive, luxury river cruise to celebrate a special event perhaps, try the wonderful houseboat hotels of Afloat In France. The cruise includes fine dining with the best local wines and foods, and sightseeing organised according to your interests and tastes. A Burgundy cruise aboard Fleur de Lys, which has only three cabins, might include stunning Chateau de Pommard, Chalon’s quaint antique shops, wine-tasting at Chateau Marguerite de Bourgogne at Couches and a tour of Dijon. This isn’t a cheap holiday, but it is very special. A sixnight cruise costs from £4,750 per person, including all meals and drinks, tailored sightseeing and private car transfers from Paris. London to Paris return travel is not included.
Afloat In France: 0845-077 2222, www.afloatinfrance.com
The landscapes of the Douro region of Portugal are stunning, featuring stone terraces hacked out of the cliffs to create vineyards in which the region’s famous grapes are grown. A sevennight cruise on the River Douro with Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection, bookable through Titan Travel, costs from £1,899 if you book before 31 December 2012. Sightseeing includes visits to local port producers with a chance to sample Portugal’s most appreciated export. Departures between March and November 2013 and the price includes Titan’s VIP Home Departure Service, direct return flights from London to Porto, full board on the new Queen Isabel with complimentary fine wine, beer and soft drinks with dinner, shore excursions with English-speaking guides and a Captain’s dinner.
Titan Travel: 0800-988 5867, www.titantravel.co.uk
Egypt offers brilliant sightseeing – tombs, temples, treasures – and the best way to see it is on a Nile cruise. The classic seven-night itinerary that sails from Luxor to Aswan and back, the Long Cruise, from Cairo to Aswan 700km south, has returned after 18 years. Discover Egypt offers sevennight cruises, from £712 per person, on boats including Viking Princess and Royal Viking. Abercrombie & Kent has a number of boats, including the boutique Sun Boat III, and again, offers both durations: 10-night-long cruises from £2,450 per person, next year.
Discover Egypt: 0844-880 0462, www.discoveregypt.co.uk
Abercrombie & Kent: 0845-485 1143, www.abercrombiekent.co.uk
For something equally adventurous, how about sailing the Mekong? Some stretches of the river that flow through the countryside of Laos were formerly inaccessible and are still a bit wild and woolly, yet the reward is extraordinary sightseeing and new experiences. All Leisure Holidays has recently launched a programme of holidays, including the 10-night Mekong, Cambodia & Laos trip, from £2,499 per person. This includes time spent in Siem Reap to see the famous temples of Angkor, a stay in Luang Prabang, a fascinating and beautiful city in Laos, and five nights aboard the boutique river ship Mekong Sun, with full board. Trips during the cruise include the Pak Ou Caves, full of small shrines with Buddha statues, the temples of Luang Prabang, and sparkling waterfalls. But you do need to be able-bodied to clamber in and out of the boat and up riverbanks.
All Leisure Holidays: 0844-880 0985, www.cruisemekong.co.uk
And speaking of the exotic, Orient- Express is launching a new luxury river cruiser on the Ayeyarwady River in Burma (Myanmar). Called Orcaella after the local dolphins, the 50-guest ship will offer seven and 11-night itineraries from £3,270 per person, including domestic flights, all transfers, meals and excursions, from next July, with plenty of leisurely cruising. Sightseeing will include exploring caves housing 492 Buddha chambers carved into the hillside, watching the sunset over the Bagan plain, dotted with thousands of historic temples and, for golfers, a chance to enjoy nine holes at an old colonial course.
Orient-Express: 0845-217 0799, www.orient-express.com
Book aheadNOW VOYAGER
Voyages of Discovery’s new 540-passenger ship, MV Voyager, sets sail on her maiden voyage on 4 December 2012. Voyage To The Caribbean, an 18-day cruise from £999 per person, leaves from Portsmouth and features St Kitts, Antigua, Martinique and Barbados. 0844-822 0802, www.voyagesofdiscovery.co.uk
Hebridean Island Cruises has teamed up with The Royal Scotsman train to offer guests the ultimate tours of Scotland. The seven-night Hebridean Autumn cruise costs from £3,110 per person, to which you can add on The Western Journey, an additional three nights aboard The Royal Scotsman, plus a night in a hotel; price (including chauffeur-driven transfers) from £8,025 per person. 01756-704700, www.hebridean.co.uk
WHALE OF A TIME
Compagnie du Ponant’s new ship Le Soléal offers an eight-night Arctic cruise, from £4,258 per person, departing 16 September 2013, from Anadyr in Russia. It includes the sacred island of Yttygran with its Alley of Whales. Price includes flights from Paris to Anadyr. 0800-980 4027, en.ponant.com
HAVE YOUR CAKE
Master Pâtissier and Cake Boy legend Eric Lanlard is on board two P&O Cruises for 2013, to give passengers an insight into his intricate design and detail of cakes, patisserie and desserts: a 14-night Western Mediterranean cruise on board Azura in April, from £1,069 per person; and a 28-night Caribbean cruise on the Adonia in November, from £2,439. 0843-374 0111, www.pocruises.com
Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines is offering four ‘all-inclusive’ fly cruises on Braemar next year – this means that house wines and spirits, beers and soft drinks will be included in the price. These include a sevennight Canary Islands Discovery cruise, departing on 17 February, from £799 per person. 01473-746175, www.fredolsencruises.com
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