Best of 2016: Where to Go River Cruising Next
The Avalon Myanmar, Irrawaddy River
Canadians are some of the most avid river cruising advocates on the planet. So, where are we river cruising next?
The rivers of Europe and Asia are a floating feast of river cruise ships, particularly the Danube and the Rhine. In the quest to search out new and interesting itineraries for river cruising, we’ve discovered three lesser traveled waterways.
Here, we are seeing new ships and programs that bring the unique flavour of these destinations to the fore: wine, folk art and deep history are at the centre of these just off the beaten path and soon to be hot spots. Ships from such well-traveled river cruising companies as Avalon, Uniworld and AMA are taking the waters and forging new paths.
- The Irrawaddy (Northern Myanmar)
After the recent elections voting in what’s hoped to be a democratic government, Myanmar (Burma) and its people are optimistic. This makes for a positive, happy environment, with a welcoming attitude. The Irrawaddy, from Mandalay to Bagan is beginning to see quite a bit of river cruising traffic. But for those looking for off the beaten path – yes, even in Burma, there’s more of a road less traveled than that infamous road to Mandalay.
The Avalon Myanmar is currently the only river cruising ship that plies the northern-most point navigable on the Irrawaddy from Bhamo. She sails past towns and villages that are chock full of gold mining, pottery artisans, lacquer-ware handicrafts and incredible fish and fresh vegetables.
- The Po (Northern Italy, including Venice)
Travelling around Venice via water and its umpteen canals has always been the way to navigate this part of the world. Day sightseeing trips and scenic afternoon cruises are easily on offer. But, if you’re looking to go river cruising, and travel along the Po in your own floating hotel, overnight stays included, Uniworld is one of a few river cruise companies that offers this luxury.
Plus, the company’s Gems of Northern Italy program also has select sailings where you can bring the kids along, another rather unique offering in the river cruising category. The river itself isn’t the longest, but it is situated in a way that makes it an easy coach tour away from iconic places. Take Romeo and Juliet’s Verona and foodie-haven Bologna, plus Padua and Ferrara, for example. By sea and by land; a good combination for first-time cruisers and intrepid explorers.
- The Douro (Portugal)
The Douro river cuts through the heart of northern Portugal. It meanders from the Atlantic and continues on through the border of Spain, perfect for river cruising. AMA Waterways Enticing Douro sail includes a few days in Lisbon, and then up to the river for spectacular gorges, palaces, vineyards. And, of course, what this area of the world is best known for, Port wine. You can have a taste or two here – or buy a vintage to take home, as it’s the only place in the world where the drink is legally allowed to be designated Port (like Champagne, in France).
There’s a bit of a faith-based angle here, too. This is home to some of the most important pilgrimage routes and historic Middle-Ages world heritage UNESCO sites. And, with our falling loonie, Portugal is still among the best values in Europe.