River cruising is growing in popularity. In 2013, there was an increase of around 25 per cent in Australians taking to inland waterways. The reasons why are many, including it’s a ‘no-brainer’ holiday, such as ocean cruising, where you unpack only once and travel each day to a variety of fascinating destinations. There are also a growing number of river cruise ships on offer to suit all tastes and budgets. Here are our top five rivers on which to cruise.
The Murray River
Australia’s ‘mighty’ Murray is the third-longest navigable river in the world, stretching for almost 2520km, and flowing from a source in the New South Wales’ Snowy Mountains through to Victoria and South Australia into the Great South Ocean. It’s a river with a captivating history, providing water to over 1.5 million households, and is blessed with dramatic scenery, a unique character, plenty of heritage and history, and quaint townships along its fascinating banks.
The river valley is also home to animals and birds, including emus, koalas, western grey kangaroos, bearded dragon lizards, black swans, pelicans and dolphins towards the ocean end. Also lining the Murray’s river banks are river red gums, and in its waters live a variety of fish, including Murray cod, bream, perch and redfin.
The Amazon River
Everyone should put an Amazon River cruise on their bucket list. The world’s second longest river cuts through South America, passing through Brazil, Columbia and Peru, and its adjacent rainforest is home to a third of the world’s animal species, from three-toed sloths, scarlet macaws, and jaguars to caimans, anacondas and piranha. Two areas can be explored by cruise ships: one is in Brazil – usually to Manaus or Macapá from Florida, or the Caribbean – while the other is a newer option, often a round trip from Iquitos along the Peruvian Amazon. The latter also has the bonus of overland trips to additional sights, including Lima, Machu Picchu and Cusco.
The Rhine, Main and Danube rivers
This is an iconic itinerary, a cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest, along the Rhine, Main and Danube Rivers, cutting through Europe’s heartland. They are countries rich in history and culture, from Holland’s tulip fields and Germany’s fairytale castles, to Austria’s scenic Wachau Valley, Slovakia and Hungary.
The Rhine stretches from Amsterdam to Basel; it’s one of the longest and most important rivers in Europe, and is famous for the scenic Rhine Gorge. The Main is one of the Rhine’s tributaries, and the longest river lying entirely in Germany, while the Danube originates in the Black Forest of Germany and travels through four capital cities before spilling into the Black Sea in Romania and the Ukraine.
The Mississippi River
The mighty Mississippi evokes the history and grandeur of a bygone era, and is the fourth-largest river system and the second-longest river in the United States. It begins at Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota, and flows south through 10 states into the Gulf of Mexico.
The Mississippi is also the most historical cruising region of the United States, and even though it has seen hard times in recent years, you can’t keep a good river down. It has recovered from Hurricane Katrina and the GFC, and cruising is back, thanks to the establishment of some new cruise operators, and some new and revitalised ships.
The Mekong Delta
The Mekong Delta has grown in popularity as a cruising region, with more cruise travellers venturing to Vietnam and Cambodia to explore its fascinating landscape, culture and history. There are two distinct areas.
Cruises in the Lower Mekong are usually from Saigon to Siem Reap, carving through the heart of Cambodia and through southern Vietnam, with sights including floating villages, quaint towns and rice paddy fields stretching as far as the eye can see. In contrast, the Upper Mekong is all about misty mountains and the lush jungles of Laos and Thailand.
Both offer a wonderful opportunity to discover the unique cultures and way of life of diverse countries, all of which are linked by a single river.
To find out more about cruising or to find the cruise of your dreams within your budget, visit CruiseGuide.com.au.