Cruising has been shaking off its blue rinse brigade image over recent years, but if you're not quite ready for a full-blown ocean-going holiday, river cruising is getting more popular than ever.
So if you've never considered anything more adventurous than a day cruise on the Thames or Seine, it's time to look further afield with cruises taking you everywhere from the Amazon, Yangtze, Chobe and Nile to the Volga in Russia.
The Perfect 10: River Cruises
Four expert naturalists accompany the guests on small boating expeditions every day as you explore more remote areas of the river, discovering the brightly-coloured birds and elusive pink dolphins as you travel up the Pacaya-Samiria reserve. Prices start from around £1500 for a three night itinerary, based on two sharing.
Also taking in the Golden Ring cities of Uglich and Yaroslavl, the trip also includes dinner at the home of a local Russian family, so you can really discover more about local culture and life in Russia today. There's also trips to the Kremlin and Red Square in Moscow, as well as the Hermitage and the ballet in St Petersburg. Prices start from £2,199, cruise-only, for 12 days.
Now The Adventure Company has a new luxury felucca, with 12 beds on deck and portable toilet and shower, giving you the relaxed feel without having to completely slum it. The 10-day trip visits Cairo, Luxor and Aswan as well as the temples of Kom Ombo and Edfu, with the chance to eat with a local Nubian family or try a hot air balloon ride over Luxor. Prices start from £1,429 including flights.
The trip includes the iconic Göta Canal, which stretches 190km and includes 66 locks, as well as Sweden's first town, the Viking community of Birka, plus the 13th century town of Söderköping and the 12th century convent of Vreta. The Göta Canal Steamship Company offers the four-day 'From Coast to Coast' cruise between April 30 and September 10, 2011, priced from around £820 per person, based on two sharing if you book before March 1, 2011. Or Simply Sweden offers a six-day package during the same dates from £1,365 per person, based on two sharing, including flights.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection is launching a new cruise in 2011, The Treasures of Prague, the Rhine and Main, priced from £2,275 per person, including flights, all meals on board and wine, as well as a wine tasting and other shore excursions.
But there's no reason to rough it, with 14 luxurious suites, a menu from one of South Africa's top chefs, as well as a jet propulsion system to avoid damaging the river bed, plus solar panels and low emission power systems to let you hear the sounds of the bush, without disturbing the animals and their habitat. Prices start from around £600 for a two night itinerary, including transfers, meals and trips. Book with Classic Collection.
You'll also be passing through one of France's main wine-producing regions, so tasting will be easy. Prices start at around £1,370, excluding flights.
Archers Direct Cruises includes the 14-night Wonders of China & the Mighty Yangtze trip, with a four night cruise along the river, as well as Shanghai, Wuhan, Xian and Beijing. Prices start from £1,805, including flights.
As well as cruising through the Iron Gates, an 80 mile long stretch of scenic gorges, there's city tours, wine tasting and a stop in the Croatian town of Osijek as part of the trip with Elegant River Cruises. Prices start from £3,849, including flights, 14 nights full board and shore excursions.
The 10 passenger Shannon Princess II is the largest hotel barge on the river. Prices for 2010 started at around £2,290. Visit www.hotelbarges.co.uk for more information on prices and dates for 2011.
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