While cruising down the Yangtze river in China, we realized that river cruising offers a different type of sailing vacation, than a traditional cruise out on the open seas. The waters are smooth, so no one onboard risks getting motion sickness. It’s also an interesting way to explore some of the world’s great cities, as it allows passengers, to soak up the culture and history of each region.
Imagine our delight in seeing the engineering marvel of the Three Gorges dam along the Yangtze and various ancient villages with groves of Mandarin oranges.
There are hundreds of river cruise ships with most sailing throughout Europe, Russia and China. Nowadays, there are some luxury cruises lines sailing down the Amazon, Mekong and Iriwaddy rivers in Asia.
Various cruise operators offer a more intimate and casual experience with smaller groups of passengers in a comfortable and convenient way to travel. Since rivers narrow in many areas, passengers have the opportunity to see villages, castles, and beautiful countryside up close.
Many ships offer fine dining with breakfast buffets, regionally inspired lunches and five-course dinners. Best of all, most river cruises are all inclusive with free wi-fi, meals, lectures, activities and shore excursions. Most ocean liners charge hefty prices for shore excursions. River cruise prices range from $250 to $600 per person, per day. However, many are listing some great discounts on selected journeys.
Here are three of the most popular river cruise lines that offer trips you will never forget.
The Viking River Cruises is one of the world’s leading river cruise lines. They have some of the newest ships and offers trips along the Rhine, romantic Danube and picturesque Seine. Guests will enjoy Vienna’s imperial architecture and baroque cathedrals while tasting authentic dishes and learning about local legends. They also offer one cruise from Shanghai to Beijing and another from St. Petersburg to Moscow. If passengers book before Dec. 16, 2011 for cruises sailing June 2012 to December 2012, they will earn an early booking discount up to 2-for-1 prices. (877)668-4546 or www.vikingrivercruises.com
Conde Nast’s Readers Choice award in 2011, for best river cruise line, went to Uniworld. Not only do their ships sail through the rivers of Europe, China and Russia, but also Egypt, Vietnam and Cambodia. Pay in full by March 31, 2012 and couples will receive up to $2000 off the Holiday Season Boutique River cruises. Also, on select 2012 departures, solo cruisers will have the single supplemental waived. The average ship capacity is 130 guests and offers complimentary European wine, beer and soft drinks along with meals. (800) 733-7820 or www.uniworld.com
Lindblad Expeditions offers a Peruvian cruise down the Amazon to see over 500 species of Peru’s birds, rare pink river dolphins and natives people. Another popular river cruise is the Pacific Northwest on the Columbia and Snake rivers. Cruise through the Columbia Gorge as a geologist shares the history of the area with passengers. Experience a change in elevation of nearly 700 feet while going through a series of eight locks, nine times the height of the Panama Canal. (800) EXPEDITION or www.expeditions.com.
Experience a different type of cruise that will leave you wanting to travel again along famous and bucolic river ways.
Published in Not Born Yesterday’s Dec. 2011 issue.