Four of the best unusual river cruises
Learn how to paint on a cruise along the River Seine and do yoga at sunrise on the Ganges.
The Seine was the inspiration for so many impressionists, so where better for an art-themed river cruise? asks Colin Nicholson in The Times. Many firms have started offering themed cruises, but Uniworld’s art cruises are “particularly eye-catching”. Guests on these cruises aboard the SS Joie de Vivre are encouraged not simply to admire the views from their cabin, but to capture them in paintings too.
The ship sails from Paris and takes a “twisting journey” down the Seine to the coast of Normandy, travelling through a countryside of “gentle hills broken up by limestone cliffs”. Attractions along the way include historical sites from World War II and a cycle ride to Claude Monet’s gardens at Giverny and to admire ancient castles and beautiful churches. The Joie de Vivre is well equipped to cater for nature lovers and fitness fans, and some of its journeys also host an art professor who gives classes in the mornings. He takes amateur painters through his “easy watercolour technique”, starting with a still life with an appropriate theme – wine bottles when in France, tulips for Amsterdam. The food is great too: expect fresh oysters, foie gras, delicious scallops and veal, and the classic steak frites.
The seven-night Paris & Normandy cruise with Uniworld starts from £2,799 pp. See uniworld.com
Pay tribute to Mother Ganga
Discover the ancient architecture of India, its holy sites and local life on the banks of the Ganges aboard the Ganges Voyager II, says Rachel Roberts in Travel Weekly. The “elegant, colonial-style floating home” takes you from Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal, along an 80-mile stretch of the Ganges, which is not only a river, but also “the very essence of Indian life”.
The itinerary is far from “over-timetabled” – instead, passengers are every day offered one shore excursion where they get ferried to the river bank. Among the highlights is Kalna, “renowned for its 18th-century terracotta temples” and plaques depicting themes of Hindu epics alongside everyday life in the region. The river, revered by Hindus as “Mother Ganga” for its “life-supporting powers”, is a central part of everyday life. Its banks are littered with peaceful rural scenes of women in “jewel-bright saris” and men in dhotis, solitary fishermen, and workers in rice and tea fields.
Onboard the ship there is a focus on wellness. Healthy dishes are available, although “an iron will would be necessary to resist… the fragrant curries and Indian specialities”. Sunrise and sunset yoga sessions take place on the sundeck, and Ayurvedic massages are available at the Lotus Spa.
The 13-day India’s Golden Triangle & The Sacred Ganges land and cruise adventure by Uniworld is priced from £5,795. See uniworld.com
Take it easy and float down the Nile
Egypt’s tourist industry is enjoying a “resurgence” following the revolution of 2011 and shabbier boats have been scrapped for more luxurious options, says Wendy Gomersall in The Daily Telegraph. The MS Tulip has “modern, tasteful decor”, and all cabins have air-conditioning. There is a large sun deck for enjoying spectacular views of the Nile and there is a swimming pool and deck bar, a perfect spot to enjoy floating “past the biblical landscape of palm trees, white ibis in the reeds and rippling dunes”. Saunas and massages are also available. The cruise sails between Luxor and Aswan, taking in the Kom Ombo temple and the tombs of the Valley of the Kings, where “the colours of the wall paintings are still vibrant after thousands of years”.
Seven nights from £1,147pp; 020-7407 2111; discoveregypt.co.uk
A journey to the end of the world
The most enjoyable way to get to the “end of the world” is by cruise ship, says Dan Fellner in USA Today. Ushuaia is the world’s southernmost city, a “windy outpost” in the Andes mountain range, and it proudly bills itself as “fin del mundo”, the end of the world. The Argentinian city has become a “popular launching point for cruises to Antarctica, has a charming and easily walkable downtown, a fascinating history as a penal colony and the spectacular Tierra del Fuego National Park”.
The ship sets sail from the Pacific ocean port of San Antonio in Chile and takes passengers through “narrow straits and fjords… active volcanoes, glaciers, snow-capped mountains, fields full of colourful wildflowers” and passes historical shipwrecks on the way. Sailing past Ushuaia and towards Cape Horn, “where the Pacific and Atlantic oceans collide”, the ship docks at the Falkland Islands, where you can see penguins and other wildlife. The ship is elegant and comfortable, and passengers can enjoy regional cooking demonstrations, food and wine tastings and time at the ship’s spa.
A 14-day cruise starts from £1,599pp, excluding flights. See hollandamerica.com