From new ships in Burma to historic-style steamboats in the States and private visits in Venice to rumba on the Rhine
1. Luxury in Burma
Burma is the cruising hotspot of the moment and a new name on the Irrawaddy and Chindwin rivers this year is Sanctuary Retreats whose new luxury all-suite vessel, Sanctuary Ananda, is being built by two Burmese brothers in traditional teak style. Soak up the atmospheric padogas, palaces and temples of the Irrawaddy before sailing along the quieter Chindwin River through the jungle towards the Indian border past isolated villages and ancient settlements.
Details: A ten-night voyage along the Chindwin River on Sanctuary Ananda is offered by Abercrombie & Kent (0845 4851845,abercrombiekent.co.uk) on August 5, 2015. It costs from £3,875pp and includes flights, excursions and drinks
2. Chateaux on the Loire
Storybook castles and romantic chateaux make the perfect backdrop on this new programme of sailings along France’s longest river, the Loire, with CroisiEurope. The French family-run cruise line claims to be the first company to offer full voyages through the Loire Valley. From April 2015, it will run sailings on a novel paddle-wheel riverboat designed to cope with shallow waters as it cruises to the cultural heart of this region with stops at Angers, Ancenis and Saumur.
Details: A seven-night round-trip sailing from Nantes on April 14, 2015, costs from £1,280pp, cruise only (020-8328 1281,www.croisieurope.travel)
3. Rumba on the Rhine
Slip on your dancing shoes and get ready to chassé on a new “Strictly River Cruising” ballroom sailing with The River Cruise Line. Joining guests on this twinkle-toed voyage along the Rhine and Moselle rivers will be two professional dance teachers who will lead organised sessions, including an afternoon tea dance and evening ballroom dance. When they aren’t waltzing on water, guests can explore the beautiful Moselle Valley, famous for its wines, and atmospheric medieval towns such as Cochem and Bernkastel.
Details: A one-week sailing from Andernach to Koblenz on October 10 costs from £799pp, including coach travel and ferry crossings (0844 5446437, rivercruiseline.co.uk)
4. Knitting on the Danube
Casting off takes on a whole new meaning on this knitting cruise with AmaWaterways. It is being hosted by American aficionado Barry Klein, described as one of the world’s top knitters, who will lead classes on stitch patterns and knitting techniques along with forums on fashion trends. Enthusiasts can also pick up the latest developments in luxury yarns, share stitching techniques and swap knitting patterns as they cruise through the former Austro-Hungarian Empire stopping at Linz, Vienna and Bratislava.
Details: A one-week cruise from Vilshofen to Budapest on December 27, costs from £2,149pp. Flights, drinks with meals and excursions are included (0808 2235009, amawaterways.co.uk)
5. Amazing Amazon
Pink river dolphins, chattering monkeys, and the vivid hues of flocks of macaws give cruises along the Amazon a pioneering feel. Aqua Expeditions offers sailings along the Peruvian stretch of this legendary waterway on two luxury vessels, accommodating between 24 and 32 passengers. The Aria Amazon and newly-refurbished Aqua Amazon combine haute cuisine and opulent surroundings with jungle treks and wilderness outings.
Details: A 10-night package that comprises a seven-night sailing onAqua Amazon is offered by Bales Worldwide (0844 4881192,balesworldwide.co.uk) on September 12. It costs from £6,250pp and includes flights and two overnight hotel stays in Lima on the outbound and inbound journeys.
6. Private Prague
Soak up the sights and sounds of the Lobkowicz Palace in Prague on an Elbe sailing aboard one of Viking River Cruises’ new ‘longships’, 12 more of which enter service this year. Guests are promised unrivalled access to one of the Czech Republic’s most significant cultural sites on tours guided by a Lobkowicz family member to view artistic and musical treasures that include Beethoven’s handwritten manuscripts. A private concert in the palace’s Baroque concert hall is followed by lunch in the family’s original living quarters. Other stops on the sailing include Koblenz, Heidelberg and Würzburg.
Details: An 11-night voyage from Paris to Prague on November 13 costs from £3,295pp and includes flights, drinks with meal and free wi-fi (0800 3196660, vikingrivercruises.co.uk)
7. Venice to Verona
Relish the rich flavour of Italy on a voyage combining the Renaissance glories of Venice’s palazzos and piazzas, the romance of Verona, and the scholarly air of the medieval walled city of Padua. During this Uniworld cruise along the Po, passengers can join an exclusive after-hours evening tour of St Mark’s Basilica in Venice, or they can roll up their sleeves for a pasta-making workshop in the gastronomic gem of Bologna.
Details: A seven-night round-trip cruise from Venice on June 22 is offered by Titan Travel (0800 9885823, titantravel.co.uk). It costs from £2,439pp and includes flights, gratuities, drinks and shore excursions, plus its door-to-door airport pick-up service
8. Steamboat in the States
Cruise America’s historic heartlands of the Deep South in style aboard the gracious American Queen paddlewheel steamboat. This grande dame is a main attraction with its Mark Twain-inspired ambience and grand period furnishings reflecting the 19th-century glory days of the steamboat era. As for Old Man River himself, the famous Mississippi will take you past spectacular plantations crowned with beautiful antebellum homes to quaint towns such as St Francisville in Louisiana and historic centres including Vicksburg and the musical hub of Helena in Arkansas.
Details: An eight-night package comprising a one-week sailing from New Orleans to Memphis is offered on November 14 by Fred River Cruises (0808 1636247, fredrivercruises.co.uk). It costs from £2,496pp and includes flights and an overnight hotel stay
9. Flavours of Bordeaux
This wine-tasting cruise with Noble Caledonia promises to bring out the full flavour of one of the world’s premier viticulture regions. Its route along the Garonne and Gironde rivers showcases the pretty countryside dotted with vineyards and the majestic chateaux of the vast historic wine estates, where there are many opportunities to sample the likes of Mouton Rothschild and Saint-Estèphe. Medieval stone villages and towns, troglodyte dwellings and monuments provide interesting diversions along the way.
Details: A one-week round-trip sailing from Bordeaux on October 9 costs from £1,695pp and includes air or rail travel, shore excursions and gratuities (020-7752 0000, noble-caledonia.co.uk)
10. Indian odyssey
Sail into the beating heart of India and succumb to its intoxicating spirit on this voyage along the sub-continent’s most sacred river, the Ganges. This isn’t just a cruise, it’s a cultural experience that envelopes passengers in the everyday life of Indians who worship its holy waters. The unfolding panorama along the riverbanks reveals Mughal tombs and forts, ancient cave temples and religious monuments, while spectacular night-time fire dances illuminate the holy city of Varanasi.
Details: An 11-night package, comprising one week sailing and two overnight stays in Delhi pre and post-cruise, is offered by Steppes Travel (0843 636 8321, steppestravel.co.uk). It departs on September 11 and costs from £1,945pp, including flights and excursions
11. Rhine by bike
Pedal power rules on this cycling-themed sailing with Amadeus by Luftner Cruises where energetic passengers can take off on two wheels to explore the passing tableau of open countryside and atmospheric towns. This so-called “bike-cruise” contains a number of guided cycle tours to attractions en route, with picnic lunches included. From Speyer take a full-day 30-mile ride to Heidelberg and beyond; while in Cochem a 15-mile ride leads to the vineyards of Moselle for a wine-tasting.
Details: A one-week cruise from Basel to Amsterdam on October 9 is offered by Luxus Travel (02380 003303, luxus.travel) and costs from £1,765pp, including flights
12. African safari voyage
Abundant wildlife and natural wonders await on this cruise aboard the Zambezi Queen riverboat on the Chobe River. During its sailing through the Chobe National Park, game drives and safari boat trips promise unforgettable encounters with elephants, leopards, lions and buffalo. Enjoy memorable meals ashore on a private picnic and a traditional African dinner under the stars.
Details: An 11-night package is offered by The Luxury Cruise Company from WEXAS (020-7838 5991,theluxurycruisecompany.com). It comprises a three-night hotel stay in Cape Town with breakfast, a four-night sailing on the Zambezi Queen, and two nights’ bed and breakfast at Victoria Falls, and departs on November 7. It costs from £5,999pp and includes all flights
13. Seine and Normany beaches
Meander through northern France on a voyage along the Seine that stirs up recollections of wartime heroics on Normandy’s beaches and the artistic glories inspired by Claude Monet’s tranquil gardens of Giverny. This sailing with Avalon Waterways is aboard its plush new all-suite ship Avalon Tapestry II which launches next year.
Details: A one-week round-trip cruise from Paris on March 28, 2015, costs from £1,355pp and includes flights or Eurostar travel, drinks with dinner, sightseeing, gratuities and door to door home pick-up service (0800 6681803, avaloncruises.co.uk)
14. Mekong highlights
Delve into the exotic sights and sounds of Indochina, with its evocative French undertones and complex Khmer and Angkor cultures that have left a legacy of architectural treasures, including the awe-inspiring Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia. On this voyage with Pandaw River Cruises through Vietnam and Cambodia, enjoy the ever-changing riverside views of crocodile farms, floating markets, monasteries and palaces.
Details: A 13-night trip is offered by Audley Travel (01993 838150,audleytravel.com). It comprises a one-week voyage on the Mekong Pandaw from Siem Reap to Saigon plus two nights in Siem Reap and two nights in Saigon on a B&B basis, and departs on July 9. It costs from £2,695pp and includes flights, gratuities and drinks
15. Danube for kids
Upscale cruise line Tauck has injected family fun into selected Danube sailings to capture the imagination of youngsters. In Slovakia, a knights’ tournament and medieval games at Devin Castle transports guests back to the Middle Ages, while the Vienna Prater amusement park in the Austrian capital promises a hair-raising collection of more than 250 rides and attractions. Gentler pursuits include bike rides along the Danube at Dürnstein and making marzipan faces in Passau.
Details: A one-week voyage from Budapest to Regensburg is offered by The Cruise Portfolio (020-7399 7673, cruiseportfolio.co.uk) on August 10. It costs from £2,954pp and includes flights, drinks and shore excursions
16. Imperial treasures of Russia
Russia’s turbulent history and the iconic attractions of Moscow and St Petersburg are showcased on this sailing aboard the AmaKatarinariverboat, which stays overnight in both cities. Aside from the grandeur of Red Square and the awe-inspiring Hermitage Museum, passengers can visit the Kremlin Armoury, one of Moscow’s oldest museums, visit a Russian family in their own home and attend a ballet performance at St Petersburg’s Hermitage Theatre.
Details: An 11-night sailing from Moscow to St Petersburg on August 6 is offered by Regent Holidays (020-7666 1244, regent-holidays.co.uk). It costs from £2,978pp and includes flights, drinks with dinner and excursions
17. Cruise through port country
Follow in the footsteps of royalty on this Douro sailing aboard theSpirit of Chartwell, which memorably took centre-stage as the royal barge during the Diamond Jubilee celebrations on the Thames. As it follows the winding River of Gold past the vineyards and quintas of Portugal’s famous port-producing region, visit medieval towns en route in an area brimming with history. Adding an extra insight will be lecturer and journalist Martin Symington, who was raised in Oporto.
Details: A one-week round-trip voyage from Oporto on October 18 is offered by Ace Cultural Tours (01223 841055,aceculturaltours.co.uk). It costs from £2,420pp and includes flights, drinks, shore excursions and gratuities
18. Oriental discovery
The dramatic limestone cliffs of the Three Gorges make this voyage along China’s Yangtze River a cruise to remember. Sailing through the misty mountains reveals beautiful scenery, ancient temples and atmospheric villages perched precariously on high. It is a peaceful contrast to China’s big-city attractions where, in the capital, travellers can opt for rickshaw rides through old Beijing, a home visit to a local family and an entertaining kung fu display.
Details: A 13-night package is offered by APT (0845 3041663,aptouring.co.uk). It comprises a four-night Yangtze cruise plus three nights in Beijing, two nights in Xian and three nights in Shanghai and departs on June 18. It costs from £3,395pp and includes flights, excursions, gratuities and home to airport transfers
19. Black Forest by bateau
Sail into a whimsical world of cuckoo clocks, castles and calorific creamy gateaux on this cruise-and-stay to Germany’s Black Forest with Saga Holidays. Spend the first few days cruising on the Rhine and Moselle rivers, through the dramatic Rhine Gorge, stopping at picturesque points including Koblenz and Rudesheim. Then spend three nights at the genteel Black Forest town of Nagold with its half-timbered houses and beautiful forest views.
Details: An eight-night package, comprising a five-night sailing from Cologne to Strasbourg and a three-night half-board stay in Nagold, departs on September 30 and costs from £1,099pp. This includes flights, travel insurance and drinks with meals. (0800 0462481, saga.co.uk/rivercruises)
20. New boats on the Danube
Take tea with a Slovakian family in their home in Bratislava on a more personal-style excursion offered on Danube cruises by new river cruise line Emerald Waterways. Established by upscale Australian river cruise company Scenic Tours, Emerald Waterways promises to bring a fresh perspective to river cruising with its two “Star-Ships” Emerald Sky and Emerald Star. The duo’s contemporary style and funky facilities, which include an indoor swimming pool that converts into a cinema and alfresco dining on deck, are designed to attract a younger river cruising set.
Details: A seven-night sailing from Nuremberg to Budapest on November 1 costs from £1,395pp and includes flights, shore excursions, drinks with meals and gratuities (0808 1020109,emeraldwaterways.co.uk)