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Gone are the days of river cruising being merely a summertime escape. There are plenty of fascinating itineraries sailing before May on the rivers of North and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa. Additionally, several cruise operators have reported increased interest in river cruises and cruise tours that run longer than a week — especially in the winter and early spring, when much of North America is focused on snow shovels.
We’ve rounded up an assortment of longer cruises that can entice your clients onto the water in early 2016.
AmaWaterwaysAmaWaterways’ 16-day Hidden Wonders of Myanmar sails in January, February and April. Guests spend a hotel night in Yangon before the cruise and then depart to explore the town of Da Nyu Phyu on a trishaw; take a walking tour of Pyay, Myanmar’s former capital and home to more than 80 gilded pagodas; and see the mud volcanoes in Minbu, the mythical home of fire-breathing dragons. Passengers visit the magnificent archaeological plain of Bagan, participate in a candle-lighting ceremony blessed by local monks and shop the handicrafts of Nyaung U Market. In Mandalay, clients encounter the gold-leaf-covered Mahamuni Buddha and see the elaborate wood carvings of the Shwenandaw monastery.
Avalon WaterwaysAvalon Waterways’ 21-day Budapest to London itinerary includes a cruise between Budapest, Hungary, and Amsterdam, where travelers visit Gottweig Abbey, a Benedictine monastery in Austria; enjoy a wine tasting in Durnstein, Austria; grab a bite at Germany’s oldest restaurant; and partake in a beer tasting in Regensburg, Germany. After exploring Amsterdam by canal, passengers board a high-speed train to spend three nights in Paris and cruise along the Seine, then move on to London for three nights of sightseeing and exploring.
Celebrity CruisesFor the first time, Celebrity Cruises has combined two bucket-list destinations, with a river cruise in the Amazon and a cruise to Antarctica. The 14-night trip departs Feb. 14 from Buenos Aires, Argentina, and flies from Lima to Iquitos in Peru to board Aqua Expeditions’ Aria Amazon. Guests explore the rainforest in skiffs, take jungle walks and visit Amazonian villages. Aqua Expeditions’ executive chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, whose restaurant Malabar ranks high in Lima, builds menus using local fish and produce. Following the four-night river cruise and two nights at the four-star Buenos Aires Grand Hotel, passengers board Celebrity Infinity for an Antarctica sailing.
Lindblad ExpeditionsLindblad Expeditions takes guests along the upper Amazon River on a 10-day journey onboard the 28-guest Delfin II, starting Jan. 9 from Iquitos. Naturalists guide travelers as they view the amazing animals and surreal plant life of the Amazon, and guests dine on Peruvian specialties and visit local villages to learn about their culture and lore.
Scenic CruisesScenic Cruises’ Grand Indochina and Luxury Mekong River Cruise is a 27-day itinerary departing in April that includes a two-night cruise on Halong Bay and a seven-night sailing from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, to Siem Reap, Cambodia. Passengers travel by a variety of means — from aircraft, a “sampan” (a flat, wooden boat) and a cruise ship to a “tuk-tuk” (a three-wheeled, motorized vehicle) and an oxcart — to explore local culture.
Activities include watching a shadow-puppet show and masked dancers, enjoying high tea at the legendary Raffles, taking a dinner cruise on the Saigon River, partaking in a street food tour in Hoi An and visiting merchant families and Vietnam veterans. Guests also participate in a traditional Baci ceremony and receive a blessing at an ancient hilltop pagoda and monastery. Passengers will stay three nights in Cambodia’s Siem Reap and Angkor Wat, as well as three nights in Luang Prabang, Laos.
TauckBeginning April 7, Tauck will sail a 16-day China, the Yangtze River & Hong Kong itinerary, combining prized UNESCO World Heritage sites such the Forbidden City, the Great Wall and the Terracotta Army with a three-day cruise on the Yangtze through the magical Three Gorges. Tauck offer insider experiences, such as exploration of Beijing's traditional alleyways and a visit with a local family.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise CollectionUniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection’s 22-day Ultimate France tour, which travels from Paris to Avignon, departs March 20. Guests are whisked from one French river to the next by high-speed train to explore sites such as Giverny, where artist Claude Monet lived; the beaches of Normandy; the historic sights of Paris; Bordeaux and its famous wines; and Lyon, for a gourmet tour.
Viking River CruisesViking River Cruises’ 10-day Tulips and Windmills cruise visits the gorgeous tulip fields of Holland in the spring, along with the beautifully preserved medieval cities of Belgium. Guests sail between Amsterdam and Belgium’s historic Antwerp, enjoying the ingenious windmills in Kinderdijk, the Netherlands; elegant Ghent, Belgium; and Bruges, Belgium. The sailings, which take in five UNESCO World Heritage sites, begin at the end of March.