THE NEXT BIG RIVERS
Done Budapest to Amsterdam? There are more waterways to explore
RUSSIAN HISTORY AMAZES ... AND YOU SEE ELEMENTS OF EACH ERA IN THE CITIES YOU PASS
Travel statistics show Taipei to Hong Kong is the busiest international air route, France records the most tourist arrivals every year, the Great Smoky Mountains is America’s favourite national park, and Amsterdam to Budapest is the top river-cruising course.
Every year thousands of Australian holiday-makers complete the twoweek drift between the Dutch and Hungarian capitals with a 2017 Cruise Critic poll revealing the route tops the dream-destination list for 42 per cent of those planning an inland voyage.
But where to next for cruisers who have crossed the most popular rivercruising program from the travel todo list? TravelManagers’ Carly Heston says cruise companies are “moving with the times”, adding new destinations. The Elbe, southeastern France and Russia are attracting the attention of her customers looking for somewhere different.
Here’s a selection of alternative European itineraries to entice those who have the river-cruising bug.
FOCUS ON FRANCE
France is tops for country-specific journeys. The Cruise Critic survey found 30 per cent of those researching a European voyage are turning their attention to the bucolic waterways surrounding Paris.
Uniworld offers an eight-day encounter on the Seine that starts and finishes in Paris and travels to the Channel Coast so passengers can see Normandy’s D-Day beaches, Monet’s garden in Giverny, the Bayeux Tapestry, seafaring Honfleur, and medieval Rouen.
In France’s southwest corner, Viking invites guests to discover one of the world’s premier wine regions with eight-day excursion Chateaus, Rivers & Wine completing a loop from Bordeaux along the Gironde, Dordogne and Garonne rivers.
Viking managing director Michelle Black says the itinerary immerses guests in the culinary delights of the region with wine tasting, truffle hunting, a visit to a local market with the ship’s chef, a meal at Chateau Kirwan, and a lesson in blending cognac on the schedule.
From April 8 next year, travellers can talk all things food and wine with Escape national travel editor Jana Frawley and delicious. magazine editor-in-chief Kerrie McCallum on a 13-day culinary cruise through the south of France.
RIGHT TIME FOR THE RHONE
The Rhone is becoming a favourite with roaming Francophiles and Avalon Waterways is launching a new tour across the southeast corner of France in 2019. Created to freshen up river cruising by inviting guests to “explore in motion”, it includes canoe trips, bike tours and guided hikes.
“Active Discovery on the Rhone takes you from Arles to Lyon with the journey beginning at Port-SaintLouis for oyster tasting and a ride through Camargue Nature Park, home to more than 400 bird species including thousands of pink flamingoes,’’ says Avalon managing director Gai Tyrrell.
“Avignon, Viviers, and the twin cities of Tain-l’Hermitage and Tournon are checked off along the way. But the trip is far from linear with market tours, cooking classes, ghost tours, painting workshops and free time to explore independently – then the cruise doubles back to Arles for hiking in the Val d’Enfer.’’
BEHIND THE OLD IRON CURTAIN
While Australians are slowly turning their attention towards Russian rivers, the Brits are crazy about the waterways linking Moscow and St Petersburg with bookings up 70 per cent in 2018, according to Cruise Line Industry Association’s UK branch.
Scenic is one company navigating the Volga River between the country’s two most famous cities with Jewels of Russia, a two-week crossing that the company’s journey designer, Janelle Maher, says provides “incredible insights into an intriguing country”.
“Russia is not normally a country associated with river cruising but the mighty Volga, with its man-made locks and canals, is an amazing waterway connecting landlocked Moscow to the Baltic Sea,” she says. “Cruising the Volga takes you through the Golden Ring – the circle of cities around Moscow that are home to some of the most picturesque settlements in Russia and featuring those famous brightly coloured onion domes – and it’s a place to learn about Russian culture and its people.
“The history of Russia really amazes – from the tsars, through revolution and world wars, to Lenin and Stalin, then glasnost and the modern day – and you see elements of each era in the cities you pass.’’
POTTER ACROSS PORTUGAL
When it comes to hidden gems, Riviera Travel sales manager Thomas Morgan recommends Portugal where a small fleet of boutique boats takes a week in a roundtrip along Douro River from Porto to the Spanish border.