//Cruise Guide 2018: Go with the flow

Cruise Guide 2018: Go with the flow

River cruises are growing in popularity and shedding their sedentary image. Jane Archer profiles four waterways popular with British holidaymakers

The Saône rises in France, meets the Rhône at Lyon and together they flow south, emptying into the Mediterranean near Arles. Most cruise lines offer one-week sailings between Lyon and Avignon or Arles. A few include a couple of nights on the Saône as well.

Why go?

History lovers can visit Roman amphitheatres and temples in Vienne and Arles, while 30 minutes outside Avignon the stunning Pont du Gard aqueduct – a Unesco World Heritage site built by the Romans in the first century AD – has three tiers of arches and stands nearly 50m high.

In Lyon, known as the gastronomic capital of France, foodies can tuck into Michelin- starred meals at top-rated restaurants or try local dishes in one of the many bouchon eateries that serve local dishes. Sightseers will love the white Basilica of Notre Dame that sits high above town, the Roman theatre next door and exploring the maze of narrow streets and alleys in the old town.

Lyon would be the highlight of the cruise – except there are so many others. In Avignon, tours visit the Popes’ Palace, where seven pontiffs lived in the 1300s; sleepy Viviers houses France’s smallest working cathedral; in medieval Cluny, there are outings to the remains of what was once the largest church in the world.

There is wine-tasting in Chateauneuf du Pape and Tain L’Hermitage, yummy choccies at Valrhona chocolate shop in Tournon and reminders of Van Gogh throughout Arles as storyboards highlight scenes from his famous paintings including The Café Terrace and The Yellow House.

River cruise lines:

Amadeus River Cruises, AmaWaterways, APT, Avalon Waterways, Emerald Waterways, Riviera Travel, Scenic, Tauck, TravelMarvel by APT, Uniworld River Cruises, Viking.

Sell to:

Experienced river cruisers, wine lovers, Van Gogh enthusiasts, foodies, history buffs, Francophiles.

Rhine

Katz Castle on the Rhine

Typical itineraries:

The Rhine rises in Switzerland and flows through France, Germany and the Netherlands, where it empties into the North Sea. Most itineraries are one- week sailings from Amsterdam to Basel – and vice-versa – but there are plenty of variations.

Some cruises start and end in Cologne, others combine the Rhine with the Moselle or Main Rivers, while two-week sailings on the Rhine, Main, Main- Danube Canal and Danube link Amsterdam and Budapest.

Seven-night tulip-themed cruises in the Netherlands and Belgium happen in spring and Christmas markets cruises in November and December.

Why go?

One of the big attractions is Amsterdam, where a canal cruise and the Rijksmuseum are on the must-do list. If time allows, suggest clients pre-book a slot to visit the Anne Frank House. It is easily done online, but they need to book early as it is very busy. Many itineraries include a night in the city, before sailing to Cologne,a city with a magnificent cathedral, chocolate museum and a beer called Kölsch. The Documentation Centre in a former Gestapo prison records the horrors of Nazi rule.

The Rhine Gorge is the most scenic part of the river, passing beneath more than 40 medieval castles and fortresses, as well as the Lorelei Rock, where legend has it a beautiful maiden threw herself to her death over a faithless lover.

Clients will cruise past steep vineyards, see a 450-year- old bible printed by Johannes Gutenberg, the father of the printing press, ride a cable car in Rüdesheim and explore Strasbourg, a fabulous city with canals, half-timbered houses and a grand cathedral with an ancient astronomical clock.

Highlights for those pairing the Rhine with the Moselle include the Reichsburg Castle in Cochem, the imposing Porta Nigra (Black Gate) in Trier and the house, also in Trier, where Karl Marx was born 200 years ago.

Tulip cruises visit Keukenhof Gardens, where more than seven million flower bulbs bloom each spring.

Cruise lines:

Amadeus River Cruises, AmaWaterways, APT, Avalon Waterways, Crystal River Cruises, Emerald Waterways, Fred River Cruises, Riviera Travel, Saga, Scenic, Shearings, The River Cruise Line, Tauck, Titan Travel, TravelMarvel by APT, U by Uniworld, Uniworld River Cruises, Viking.

Sell to:

First-time river cruisers, city- break clients, wine lovers, keen gardeners, history enthusiasts, art connoisseurs.

Danube

The Danube

Typical itineraries:

Most Danube cruises are one- week sailings from Budapest in Hungary to Passau or Vilshofen in Germany, or vice-versa. There are also seven-night cruises between Budapest and Nuremberg, also in Germany, and round-trip from Passau or Budapest.

Clients can also cruise the Lower Danube – a fascinating journey through Eastern Europe that takes in Hungary, Serbia, Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania and is becoming increasingly popular among those seeking new places to explore.

Why go?

Vienna is the jewel in the crown on the Danube, with grandiose palaces – the Hofburg in the centre of the city, from where the Habsburgs ruled Austria for 700 years, and Schönbrunn, their summer residence, as well as many ornate private residences – and monumental architecture.

But it has some stiff competition. While not as blue as Johann Strauss would have us believe, the Danube is one of the most attractive rivers in Europe, flowing past five capital cities and through the beautiful Wachau Valley in Austria and Iron Gate Gorge separating Serbia and Romania.

Budapest is memorable for its waterfront, which is beautiful by day but spectacular after dark; Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, has quirky statues and a pretty old town; back in Vienna, cruise lines stay late so passengers can attend Mozart and Strauss concerts in one of the dazzling palaces.

In Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, highlights include Sveti Sava, the world’s biggest Orthodox church, while tours in Bucharest visit the vast Palace of the Parliament built by former Romanian dictator Nicholas Ceausescu. Tours visit a few of its 3,000 opulent rooms.

Away from the capitals, clients can see where Mozart was born on trips to Salzburg, hear the largest cathedral organ in the world in Passau and climb to the rock fortress of Belogradchik in Bulgaria.

Cruise lines:

Amadeus River Cruises, AmaWaterways, APT, Avalon Waterways, Crystal River Cruises, Emerald Waterways, Fred River Cruises, Riviera Travel, Saga, Scenic, Shearings, The River Cruise Line, Tauck, Titan Travel, TravelMarvel by APT, U by Uniworld, Uniworld River Cruises, Viking.

Sell to:

First-time river cruisers, city- break clients, history enthusiasts, music lovers, foodies.