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.
The Perfect 10: River Cruises
Once upon a time, heading to the Amazon meant disappearing into the wilderness to rough it in the jungle. Now, thankfully, you can explore this unique river and rainforest in a bit more style. Aqua Expeditions is determined to show that you can head off the beaten track in luxury, while still staying eco-friendly, as it cruises along the Peruvian stretch of the river. With 12 air-conditioned cabins, each with panoramic windows and king-size beds, the M/V Aqua also has an award-winning chef behind its onboard restaurant.
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.
There can be few better ways to travel through the heart of Russia, visiting both Moscow and St Petersburg, as well as Europe's two largest lakes. AWA Waterways' Russian Waterways cruise, on board the new MS AMAKatarina, is launching in Spring 2011, and promising to be the most luxurious vessel on the Volga-Baltic Waterway.
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.
Feluccas have travelled the length of the Nile for millennia, and the experience of sailing along one of the world's longest rivers to some of the country's ancient temples is hard to beat. Traditionally feluccas have been distinctly no mod cons – fine if you're backpacking perhaps, but washing in the Nile soon loses its allure.
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.
It's not just the islands around the coast that you can enjoy on a Swedish cruise – travelling the waterways between Stockholm and Gothenburg has been a favourite with Swedes for years. With historic ships plying the routes during the summer, you feel like you're stepping back in time with the traditional hardwood cabins. One dates back as far as 1874 making it the world's oldest registered passenger carrying ship with overnight accommodation.
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.
One of the most beautiful stretches of river in the world, the Rhine has fairytale German castles, sheer cliffs and the blue Rhine running through it. So if you can't get enough of medieval chivalry and stunning countryside, try a cruise which carries on along the Main past Nuremberg's Kaiserburg Castle as well as a few days in Prague at the end.
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.
What's better than an African safari? A safari in your own private suite on a luxury riverboat... The Zambezi Queen, which launched last year, travels along the Chobe river which divides Botswana's Chobe National Park from Namibia's Caprivi Strip. Its banks are home to one of the densest populations of wildlife in Africa, including elephants, lions, leopards, buffalo and antelope, as well as hippos and crocodiles in the waters alongside.
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.
If you'd prefer to be travelling from great meal to stunning vineyard than just gazing at the scenery, travelling along the Rhone is the ultimate gourmet cruise. Avalon Waterways travels north from Arles in Provence to Chalon-sur- Saône, stopping at France's gastronomic capital in Lyon, as well as Avignon, and the beautiful towns of Viviers and medieval Tournon.
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.
No trip to China is complete without a cruise along the Yangtze, being awed by the Three Gorges and controversial Three Gorges Dam, as well as the beautiful Lesser Three Gorges and a stop at ghost city Fengdu. Although you can arrange your own cruises, it's far easier to visit China as part of an organised tour.
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.
Why limit yourself to one capital city when you could visit a whole string of them in seven countries? Travelling along the Danube from Bucharest and stopping at Belgrade, Budapest, Bratislava and Vienna, as well as three days in Istanbul, the 15-day Imperial Capitals of Europe cruise takes you through hundreds of years of history.
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.
You needn't travel to the ends of the earth for a quick cruise – winding through the green fields of Ireland, the Shannon passes centuries-old Celtic monasteries, as well as lakes and rivers, while you can also stop in Galway and Killaloe.
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.