On a Viking River cruise, seeing Budapest sparkle at night is real magic — Photo courtesy of Anne Chalfant
There's been a major run to rivers lately. Everyone's hopping on a river ship. Here are 10 ways to love your river.
1) Europe's Hidden Gems
Veteran travelers can see Europe as never before. The Europe rarely seen by tourists – charming smaller cities and pretty countryside – is found along rivers. AmaWaterways, Avalon Waterways, Viking River Cruises, Tauck and Uniworld River Cruises all sail Europe's rivers. Sailing European rivers includes the enchantment of villages and countryside along the way — Photo courtesy of Anne Chalfant
2) Iconic European Cities
A river cruise is ideal for a first European visit. With none of the hassles that go with land travel, passengers have every day to explore. A cruise might take in Prague and Paris. Or perhaps Rome and Venice. It's all easy, and the ship offers tours. Since late-evening sailing is common, there's also plenty of time for exploring on one's own. The new long ships touring European waterways are easy travel for European newcomers — Photo courtesy of Anne Chalfant
3) American Idyll
The rhythms of American history drive paddle wheelers along the Mississippi. The Queen of the Mississippi is a 2012 launch by American Cruise Lines sailing the mighty river. American Empress is a 2014-refurbished ship from American Queen Steamboat Company. Both are alive with old-timey spirit including sumptuous 19th century decor and big bands to stir nighttime dance parties.
The ships sail America's heartlands and America's heartbreaks, stopping at Civil War battlefields. All-American music stops can't be missed; Nashville, Memphis and New Orleans are on itineraries.
4) Europe's Christmas markets
European Christmas markets guarantee a snap of cold air scented with gingerbread sold at outdoor market stalls. A little gluhwein (mulled wine) lifts spirits. Avalon Waterways, Uniworld and Viking River Cruises all visit Christmas markets in cities such as Prague and Budapest, as well as German cities of Nuremberg, Passau and Heidelberg.Nuremberg's Christmas Market, one of the largest, fills the town square — Photo courtesy of Uniworld Boutique River Cruises
5) Tulip Mania
Tulips take the spring stage at Keukenhof Gardens in the Netherlands, with millions of bulbs exploding floral fireworks. AmaWaterways and Viking River Cruises offer spring tulip cruises embarking from Amsterdam. Catching the tulip blooms in Keukenhof gardens in the Netherlands is part of Viking River Cruises sail from Amsterdam to Antwerp — Photo courtesy of Anne Chalfant
6) Russian Discovery
There's no inexpensive way to visit both Moscow and St. Petersburg, but a river cruise offers efficiency. Viking River Cruises, AmaWaterways and Grand Circle Cruises all bookend several days in both Moscow and St. Petersburg, with the sail on the Volga River in between. Guided tours fill out the non-sailing days in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
7) Amazon Adventure
The Amazon River has rock star magnetism of late, with both sea and river cruises setting their sights on this very long river. Some river cruises sail from Brazil's Rio de Janeiro more than 1,000 miles to Manaus.
The new, daring Amazon sail is via small luxury ship up Peru's less-explored Upper Amazon. New shallow draft ships such as Delfin I, Aria and Aqua carry small numbers of passengers. Piranha-fishing and night expeditions are included. Avalon Waterways and AdventureSmith Explorations point the way to the sails on Peru's Upper Amazon. Viewing the Amazon from the deck of the MV Aqua keeps the mojito within reach and the pirahna a nice distance away — Photo courtesy of AdventureSmith Explorations
8) Pharaohs of the Nile
The Nile's antiquities are staggering, from the Pyramids at Giza to the Valley of Kings, and on to Luxor and Karnak. Sanctuary Retreats, a luxury travel company with substantial North African experience, sails four luxury Nile ships. The reception area on Sunboat IV, one of Sanctuary Retreat's Nile-cruising ships, hints at the luxury throughout — Photo courtesy of Sanctuary Retreats
9) Mekong Medleys
Vietnam and Cambodia cruises on the Mekong River are an efficient way to see both countries; some land travel is included. AmaWaterways, Avalon Waterways, Uniworld River Cruises and Viking River Cruises all offer Mekong journeys.
10) Wine Trails in Europe
Wine country is a natural for a river sail. Austria's Wachau Valley on the Danube River and Germany's wine regions along the Rhine River are gorgeous. AMAWaterways offers fall wine cruises on the Danube, the Rhine and also the Seine in France.