We often recommend the Rhine and Danube to first-time river cruisers. These rivers not only the most popular for river cruising, but also offer a large variety of itineraries between the two rivers and their tributaries. Those looking to try something different may decide to venture to the Seine or the Rhone rivers in France, or, if they wish to stay on this side of the pond, even the Mississippi River. However, there are an array of river cruise options “off the beaten path,” with itineraries in South America, Africa and Asia.
We have rounded up five river cruise itineraries for those looking to branch out from traditional river cruise itineraries.
Riviera River Cruises
The Douro, Porto And Salamanca River Cruise – 8 days roundtrip Porto
A Douro river itinerary is a good starting point for those looking to venture past the waterways of Central Europe. Starting in Porto, Riviera’s The Douro, Porto And Salamanca River Cruise highlights the beauty of Portugal and the Douro River Valley. Lined with vineyards and quaint towns, the Douro provides some of the most picturesque views on the rivers of Europe.
After starting in Porto, guests will venture toward the Spanish border to Castelo Rodrigo, a walled 12th-century village; then to Salamanca, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that houses Spain’s oldest university and two cathedrals. The Douro is known as a wine region. In Peso da Regua, guests will have a chance to visit a historic quinta, or estate, to learn about wine production and taste the wines of the region.
Countries visited: Portugal and Spain
Wonders Of Vietnam, Cambodia & The Mekong – 13 days from Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh City
From bustling and metropolitan Ho Chi Minh City to the serene and magnificent temples of Angkor Wat, Emerald provides travelers the opportunity to explore the Mekong Delta on its Wonders Of Vietnam, Cambodia & The Mekong itinerary.
Guests will spend three nights in Siem Reap before embarking on their journey in the town of Prek K’dam. The most notable excursion in the days leading up to the cruise is a visit to Angkor Wat, a famous temple complex. Once on board, guests will visit Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh. Throughout the journey, travelers will visit small villages where they will learn about the customs and traditions of the region. Excursion options include a scarf-weaving workshop, a visit to a bird sanctuary, a silk farm tour and more.
Countries visited: Vietnam and Cambodia
Secrets of Egypt & The Nile – 12 days roundtrip Cairo
AmaWaterways’ Secrets Of Egypt & The Nile itinerary includes three nights pre-cruise in Cairo and one night post-cruise. Guests will sail on board Ama’s purpose-built Nile river ship, AmaDahlia, which joined the company’s fleet in 2021.
After three nights in Cairo, guests will fly to Luxor to board AmaDahlia. Luxor, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was the capital of Pharaohs in Ancient Egypt. Guests will have the chance to visit temples and tombs in Luxor, including the tomb of Nefertari. As passengers sail down the Nile they will visit small villages and temples, viewing hieroglyphics, sphinxes and soaring columns along the way.
Countries visited: Egypt
Southern Africa – 9 days from Johannesburg to Victoria Falls
CroisiEurope’s Southern Africa itinerary includes a two nights in a hotel, a three-night stay at a lodge and three nights on board the 16-passenger African Dream.
At the lodge, guests will have the chance to safari in Chobe National Park. A visit to Impalila Island allows passengers to immerse themselves in local culture, enhanced by a nighttime visit from a local to share the traditions of the region. Once on board, there is ample opportunity for wildlife sightings as you cruise Lake Kariba. After disembarking the ship, guests will journey to Victoria Falls where they can take an optional helicopter tour.
Countries visited: South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe
From The Inca Empire To The Peruvian Amazon – 11 days roundtrip Lima
Avalon is one of the only major river cruise players to offer an Amazon river itinerary. From The Inca Empire To The Peruvian Amazon includes both hotel accommodations and accommodations on board a ship.
Arriving in Lima, guests will have a couple of days to explore Peru’s capital city including a visit to the Larco Museum, which showcases the history of the country. Travelers will continue onto Machu Picchu and then onto Cusco. The journey down the Amazon is comprised of a mixture of wildlife excursions and local demonstrations on board.
Countries visited: Peru