American Queen Steamboat Company sails from Minneapolis to St. Louis–the classic American river cruise. This time of year is one of the best to sail along these waters for incredible fall foliage, past limestone river bluffs, and into historic American cities. Of course, no trip on the mighty Mississippi is complete without a trip to Hannibal, Missouri to retrace the footsteps of Mark Twain, before heading into St. Louis.
American Cruise Lines operates the Queen of the West, from Portland, Oregon to Lewiston, Idaho. This ship underwent a multi-million-dollar renovation in 2011 and sails on the Columbia and Willamette Rivers in the busy city of Portland, into Astoria–the oldest settlement west of the Rockies and the western end of the Lewis & Clark Trail–and onto Ranier with views of Mount Hood, Mount Adams, and Mount St. Helens. Along the way you’ll meet with working cowboys and visit the deepest canyon in North America.
When someone says “European river cruise,” you probably think of France. But one of the unsung destinations is Portugal. (Think sweet wine, Baroque palaces and ancient fishing villages.) Viking River Cruises sails from Porto, traveling east along the Douro River through terraced vineyard and two river locks. You’ll cross the border into Salamanca, Spain, and spend the night as the ship remains docked, and then west into Pinhão and Régua before heading back to Porto.
Viking and other cruise lines also sail from Moscow to St. Petersburg, connecting two classic cities. Spend a couple of days touring Moscow (you’ll dine and sleep on the ship), cruise the Moscow Canal, and head into ancient Russian cities and villages such as Uglich, Yaroslal and Kuzino. And yes, there is a vodka museum along the way.
Uniworld River Cruises sails rivers around the world, including the Yangtze River in China. This 11-day tour is by land and water, including three nights on the river and seven nights in hotels. Spend the first three days touring Beijing and then fly to Xi’an to where you’ll see famous Terracotta warriors and other ancient artifacts. Then fly to Chonquing and get on board the Yangtze River Cruise where you’ll sail through the famous Three Gorges and visit Shibaozhai and Yichang. From there, you’ll fly to Shanghai where you’ll spend the last two days of your tour before departing.
Uniworld also travels from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, into Kampong Chhnang, Cambodia, and onto Hanoi in a 15-day land-and-sea journey. That includes seven nights on the Mekong and seven nights in hotels, plus a traditional sampan cruise. Cruise the Mekong to Chau Doc, where you’ll see local markets, a fish farm and temples. Sail into Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and to the riverfront village of Kampong Chhnang, Cambodia. You’ll visit the world-famous Siem Reap for two days, and then fly into Hanoi for your final tour.
By Peter Greenberg for PeterGreenberg.com