Boutique cruise: explore exotic rivers from Amazon to Nile in luxury
When you are done with the Danube and the Seine no longer shines, it’s time to look further. The great rivers of the world sparkle and sparkle – and the allure is obvious.
A cruise along legendary rivers like the Amazon, the Nile, the Ganges or the Mekong gives glimpses that would be impossible from land. Many also offer a level of luxury that few land-based hotels can match. Here are eight of the most intriguing.
Opulent: the Victoria Memorial in Kolkata. Take in the city views on a ‘serene’ journey aboard the Ganges Voyager II
An extremely comfortable room inside the Ganges Voyager II
If India’s dilapidated roads and busy trains hit your overload button, head to the sacred Ganges River of India.
This trip is serene but doesn’t sidestep the intricacies of India – you visit rural villages and Mother Teresa’s home for orphaned children in Calcutta alongside temples, museums, and colonial mansions. You will also be able to see the bustle of New Delhi, Agra (for the Taj Mahal at sunset) and the magnificent Jaipur.
Ganges Voyager II is a bit dated but extremely comfortable and daily yoga is included.
To book: Twelve nights with Uniworld from £ 5,399 per person (uniworld.com).
THE SENDING NILE
Nour el Nil’s fleet of six dahabiyas exudes unusual luxury. In the photo, the fleet ‘Malouka’ boat
Nile cruise ships tend to bring the bling, but Nour el Nil’s fleet of six dahabiyas (two-masted sailboats) exudes unusual luxury.
Relax in a hammock or stretch out on floor cushions as Egyptian river life winds its way. The only noise is the wind in the sails and the clinking of ice in your glass.
This trip includes sites inaccessible to large ships, such as the temple of Nekhbet in El Kab and that of Horemheb in Gebel el-Silsila (alongside Esna, Edfu and Kom Ombo, more famous but still magical).
Back on board, the suites have a touch of French country chic, while the food is authentically Egyptian, from freshly caught Nile perch to the ultimate falafel.
Relax in a hammock or stretch out on floor cushions as Egyptian river life winds its way down from Nour el Nile down the Nile
In the photo, one of the rooms on board the “Adelaide”. The suites have a touch of French country chic
In the photo, the bathroom on board the boat ‘El Nil’. Five nights with Nour el Nil cost from £ 1,070 per person
A Nile cruise is always special, but this one is in a different league.
To book: Five nights with Nour el Nil from £ 1,070 per person. Dahabiyas are also available for hire (nourelnil.com).
WEST AFRICAN WONDERS
Navigate through four nature reserves teeming with wildlife (including the Sine Saloum Delta, a Unesco Biosphere Reserve) along the waterways of Senegal and The Gambia.
Harmony G is an elegant yacht that can accommodate only 44 people. The inevitable downside of a yacht over a bespoke cruiser is that the cabins are comfortable – but who cares when you’ll be spending the most time on the sun deck?
You transfer into pirogues (long canoes) with a naturalist guide to spot everything from baboons to bush babies, warthogs to swamp mongoose. And suffice it to say, bird watchers will be ecstatic.
To book: Seven nights with Variety Cruises from £ 1,133 per person (varietycruises.com).
ROYAL OF RUSSIA
Moscow and St. Petersburg – two cities linked by rivers, several canals and two massive lakes glistening across western Russia.
Join the points with this cruise, which shows life beyond tourist hotspots of cultural megaliths.
Sometimes you walk past a dense forest; every now and then a church tower will come out of the water.
Besides city tours, you explore Yaroslavl (the “Florence of Russia” known for its art), the reconstructed village of Mandrogi and historic Uglich – a beautiful city with a bloody past. The MS Rublev is an older ship, a bit dated, but she is comfortable and spacious.
To book: Nine nights with Titan from £ 1,899 per person (titantravel.co.uk).
Sit back and relax on a nine-night cruise on the Zambezi Queen (pictured), an eco-friendly luxury houseboat
Passengers can watch The Zambezi Queen’s ultimate animal show, which crosses Botswana (pictured), South Africa and Zimbabwe
Lions basking in the sun; leopards basking in the trees, elephants and water buffalo drinking by the water’s edge – you don’t even have to move from your bed to watch this ultimate wildlife spectacle across Botswana, Africa South and Zimbabwe.
The Zambezi Queen is an eco-friendly luxury houseboat with 14 suites. The indoor dining room, lounge, and bar are air-conditioned (but still have floor-to-ceiling windows so you don’t miss a single hippo or fish eagle). Or jump into the plunge pool on the outdoor patio.
To book: Nine nights with Ama Waterways from £ 9,457 per person (amawaterways.co.uk).
PARROTS IN PERU
All of Aqua Expeditions’ ships are retro-chic, beautiful, but the new Aqua Nera raises the bar.
Twenty suites exude laid-back luxury as one of Peru’s best chefs, Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, creates delicious meals from Amazonian produce. There is a client / staff relationship on board and naturalist guides take you every day to the heart of the Peruvian Amazon.
Get up close with monkeys and macaws, parrots and piranhas (OK, not too close) in the lush rainforest. Take the time to relax in the spa or watch a movie in the private screening room.
To book: Three-night cruise starts at around £ 3,475 per person (aquaexpeditions.com).
Sanctuary Retreats Yangtze Travel Suites are cool, quiet and extremely comfortable
Guests eat a la carte (Chinese or continental) in the dining room at the Sanctuary Yangzi Explorer, pictured
The Yangtze is a lush winding river renowned for its breathtaking gorges. This cruise mixes the old and the new, often in surprising ways.
The river is home to a high-tech underwater museum to view ancient rock carvings, while the Three Gorges Dam is a concentrate of savage elemental power with pristine human technology.
On board, learn about ancient Chinese medicine and practice tai’chi on deck (or just lay down for an acupressure massage).
The suites are cool, calm and extremely comfortable; you eat à la carte (Chinese or continental) and can learn to cook dumplings and other local specialties.
To book: Four nights with Sanctuary Retreats from around £ 960 per person (sanctuaryretreats.com).
With 34 suites and butler service, Scenic Spirit (pictured above) feels like a floating hotel
Most travelers only dive at Angkor Wat, but it’s worth the effort to meander along the mighty Mekong River that winds from Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap via Cambodia and Vietnam.
This cruise helps you understand the culture, folklore, history, and wildlife of this beautiful part of the world. Not to mention the food – you visit Phnom Penh’s markets and learn to cook Khmer dishes.
Scenic Spirit really feels like a floating boutique hotel, with 34 suites (all with butler service). The sun terrace is superb with a palm-fringed swimming pool, an outdoor cinema and a hammam.
To book: Nine nights with Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours from £ 4,650 per person (scenic.co.uk).