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7 of the Most Breathtaking River Cruises Around the World

From spotting wildlife on an African safari cruise to traveling down the Mekong in Cambodia, these river cruises are bucket list-worthy vacations.

Amazon river cruisevia delfinamazoncruises.com

Exploring the Amazon

With floor-to-ceiling windows in your cabin, you won’t miss a thing as you cruise down the Amazon on a Delfin River Cruise. Its Delfin II is a river cruise that’s perfect for families thanks to its 14 large guest suites, four of which can be interconnected to accommodate multigenerational travel. (Children seven-years-old and up are welcome on the ship.) The three or four-night itineraries take you deep into the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, one of the world’s largest protected flooded forests. Experienced naturalist guides teach passengers about the immense biodiversity of the area via excursions and activities that include swimming with pink river dolphins, fishing for piranhas, bird watching, rainforest hikes, feeding manatees, and more. For a truly unique adventure, take a nighttime safari to experience the intense sounds of the jungle at night and watch beautiful star patterns stretching across the sky. Read on to learn more about 15 unexplained mysteries of the Amazon.

Africa Zambezi queen AMA waterwaysvia amawaterways.com

A river safari in Africa

Float down Botswana’s Chobe River on AmaWaterways Zambezi Queen for a river safari. This intimate ship—there are only 28 passengers—is designed specifically for wildlife viewing and passengers may spot lions, leopards, zebras, hippos, elephants, giraffes, and other more. Sit on your balcony while sipping a glass of wine as the giant sherbet-colored African sun sets and the animals come to life at dusk. There’s a plunge pool aboard the ship, where you can relax while enjoying unobstructed views of the bush. Before embarking on the four-night Chobe River wildlife cruise, you’ll spend two nights in Capetown, South Africa and after you’ll head to Victoria Falls in Zambia for another two.

viking river cruisesvia vikingrivercruises.com

The romance of the Danube River

Hop aboard Viking River Cruises Danube Waltz itinerary for a leisurely river cruise from Passau, Germany to Budapest, Hungary. You’ll make stops along the Wachu Valley, a UNESCO world heritage site, including Vienna, Austria, while also getting a glimpse into the lesser-known Central European cities, including Krems, Austria, and Bratislava, Slovakia. Cruising at a leisurely speed of 18 miles, the longship passes through vineyards, villages, monasteries, and castles during the eight-day tour. Excursions include the thermal baths in Budapest, a visit to Gottweig Abbey in Krems, and a Mozart and Strauss Concert in Vienna. Find out 11 cheaper, under-the-radar alternatives to Europe’s best-known cities.

croisi europe river cruisesvia croisieuroperivercruises.com

Experience Angkor Wat and other temples in Cambodia

The Kingdom of Cambodia is an empire of temples including the world-famous Angkor Wat, a bucket list destination for many. The best way to see the country—and visit the amazing floating villages—for which it’s known, is by taking a river cruise, as the river is the lifeblood, heart, and soul of daily Cambodia life. CroisiEurope Cruises is a family-run French river boat company and its newest ship is the RV Indochina II. Intimate in size, with only 32 cabins and 64 passengers, all rooms have a private balcony, so you get to take in all the sights as you float down the river. While there are planned daily excursions at each port, including visits to castles, local farms, and pagodas, for many, the best part of the cruise, is simply sailing down the river and watching fisherman cast their nets each morning and gliding by the floating villages of which there are 172 where children are playing and women are doing the washing. A river cruise, especially on a small ship, allows you to see where the heart of the population lives and thrives, on the river. Not convinced? We think Angkor Wat is one of the 13 tourist traps in the world that doesn’t disappoint.

uniworld cruisevia uniworld.com

Food and wine in Bordeaux

Francophiles and foodies will delight in an eight-day food-and-wine themed river cruise on Uniworld’s Bordeaux, Vineyards & Châteaux river cruise on its 130-passenger the River Royale. Bordeaux is home to some of the most stunning architecture in Europe, including more preserved ancient buildings than any other French city after Paris. It’s also one of the best biking cities in Europe, and all Uniworld trips include complimentary bicycle rentals each day. The itinerary starts and ends in Bordeaux and includes stops in Paulliac, on the storied Medoc wine route, and St. Emilion, known for its wine-making tradition. Excursions include wine tasting on the Medoc peninsula; walking tours of Saint-Emilion’s beautiful cobble-stone streets and its 12th-century Saint-Emilion Monolithic Church, which is carved into a cliff, and biking the backstreets of Bordeaux. These 15 river cruises are Europe’s best-kept secrets.

 

adventures by disney cruisevia adventuresbydisney.com

Traveling down the Seine with Disney

The new 10-day, 9-night Seine river cruise vacation combines two days exploring Paris on land, followed by eight days of cruising through picturesque French destinations including Conflans, Vernon, and more. The popular Adventures by Disney river cruises offer unique excursions such as interactive culinary experiences, including a gourmet food tasting tour, regional wine and cheese sampling, and a hands-on macaron making demonstration. In addition to the guided tours of Paris icons, including Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, and the Louvre, there are active excursions available for the whole family, including biking, canoeing, and horseback riding. Other unique experiences include a visit to Monet’s House and Gardens in Giverny and castle tours and rich historical storytelling at a chateaux. Adventures by Disney guests can also add on an extension package at Disneyland Paris Resort to complete their vacation.

cruise chicagovia cruisechicago.com

Architectural tours on the Chicago River

The Windy City is renowned through the world for its amazing architecture and no visit to this Midwestern gem is complete without an architectural tour down the Chicago River. Chicago’s First Lady Cruises is the only cruise partnered with the Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF), to provide an in-depth 90-minute experience. Highly trained and passionate docents provide a detailed narrative of Chicago’s various architectural styles and the stories of the people who designed and built the city. See and hear the history of the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower), Wrigley Building, Navy Pier, Tribune Tower, the corncob towers of Marina City, and the Merchandise Mart, once the largest building in the world. Next, discover America’s most loved river cruises and small-ship journeys.

Judy Koutsky
Judy Koutsky is a New York-based writer and editor covering health, lifestyle and travel. Her award-winning articles have appeared in over 30 publications including RD.com, Conde Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, Oprah.com, Parents, Forbes.com, Shape, USA Today, Prevention, Good Housekeeping, Web MD and Scholastic. You can see her writing at JudyKoutsky.com or follow her on Instagram at @JudyKoutsky