Done Bu­dapest to Am­s­ter­dam? There are more wa­ter­ways to ex­plore

Sunday Herald Sun - Escape - - CRUISING EUROPE - SARAH NI­CHOL­SON


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.


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.


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.’’


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.’’


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.

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