Tuesday 10 July 2012

Rivers of Bliss: River Cruising on a Rocket

Uniworld European River Cruises
By Roderick Eime

Cruise Weekly readers don’t need to be told the benefits of a cruising holiday. Travelling for a week or more without the hassles of check-ins and -outs, packing and unpacking and the stress of tight connections are all avoided, plus you have the advantage of the scenery and attractions coming to you.

Australian cruise fans are well known for their love of the ocean voyage - maybe something to do with how our forebears arrived here? That enthusiasm for fun and enrichment afloat extends beyond the high seas to the tranquil inland waters of the world’s rivers and Aussies are river cruising like never before.

“Our river cruise bookings in Australia are currently 40 per cent above this time last year and 2012 has already eclipsed all other sales records in this market,'' said Stewart Williams, md Australasia for Avalon Waterways, to Angela Saurine in a report for news.com.au, “Australians are driving the agenda in river cruising right now.”

Leading the charge is home-grown hero, Glen Moroney, of Scenic Tours whose opulent, company-owned vessels are multiplying on the European waterways in particular. The latest, Scenic Crystal, was launched in May and has already featured on TV shows including Nine’s Getaway.

While the signature voyage for all major operators is clearly Amsterdam to Budapest along the Danube, Scenic Tours have also launched the first new registration for Russian rivers in over 25 years with their totally refurbished, 112-guest Scenic Tsar, which will ply the Volga between St. Petersburg and Moscow.

Down south in the Ukraine, Viking Cruises offer the River Dnieper that leads to the Black Sea from Kiev, via Sevastopol and Yalta.

So you’ve ticked off Danube and Rhine, what other rivers make up the inland cruising ‘world tour?

Amazon with Aqua Expeditions
Amazon: Operating out of Iquitos in Peru, Aqua Expeditions and Delfin are slugging it out on the Upper Amazon with itineraries of up to a week.

Nile: Some mixed advice about this iconic waterway in light of unrest in Egypt. Proceed with caution.

upper Mekong
Mekong: Another destination on a rocket with new vessels appearing annually. The (lower) itinerary runs between the Delta and Siem Reap, but often supplemented by road transfers in the low water months. Cruiseco launch their new Adventurer in late October following other newbuilds from Pandaw and Heritage Cruise Line.

Murray River with Captain Cook Cruises
Murray: Let’s not forget our own historic river which will feature Captain Cook Cruises’ PS Murray Princess running a second 7-night Mannum to Renmark itinerary to take advantage of perfect river conditions.

Ganges and Brahmaputra:
These Indian rivers are a whole world away from the crush of normal tourism on the sub-continent; basic but authentic. Ask Active Travel.

Irrawaddy with Pandaw
Irrawaddy and Chindwin: All eyes are on Burma these days and tourism is finally taking off with quality itineraries from experienced operators, Pandaw and Orient Express. Myanmar is now!

Victoria Cruises Yangtze
Yangtze: China’s massive Yangtze is more navigable since the massive Three Gorges Dam. See Uniworld and Helen Wongs Tours.

Congo, Chobe and Zambezi: If you’re looking for something a bit edgy, sub-Saharan African rivers are beginning to feature with the recent (2009) addition of AmaWaterway’s boutique Zambezi Queen.

Did you miss it? Cruise Weekly’s annual river cruise guide was published in June, but you can still get it here

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