A rendering of one of Crystal’s forthcoming river yachts, which will feature excursions such as “flightseeing” tours on helicopters.
They may not be evolving into all-out expedition cruises, but just like their oceangoing cousins, river cruises are being infused with a greater sense of adventure.
From more demanding activities in Europe, to more exotic destinations farther afield, it appears that river cruisers are ready to be taken a bit further out of their comfort zone.
In Europe, combining biking tours with river cruise itineraries has been gaining in popularity for several years. But now river cruise lines are taking the off-boat activities a step further and incorporating more innovative ways to see and experience the people and places that line the banks.
For example, Avalon Waterways has added a nine-day Active Discovery on the Danube cruise that will give cruisers the opportunity to bike, hike and canoe along the river. It will also include options to explore an ice cave, take an archery lesson, descend into an underground salt mine or ascend a mountain on a guided climb.
When Crystal Cruises unveils its first river cruise vessel, the Crystal Mozart, on the Danube this July, the itineraries will be chock full of adventurous extras for an added price. Standard sightseeing excursions as well as plenty of included hiking and e-biking tours will be complimentary, but those in need of a bit more of an adrenaline rush can splurge for helicopter and small-plane “flightseeing” tours or opt for river rafting experiences.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection recently expanded a partnership with Butterfield & Robinson to add several biking cruises along the Danube this year and next. Uniworld also has a kayaking excursion on the Gardon River on its Burgundy and Provence itinerary.
Similarly, AmaWaterways has a partnership for more active river cruises with hike-and-bike specialist Backroads.
For those seeking even more adventure, there continues to be more options for river cruising in exotic destinations.
For example, French river cruise company CroisiEurope this spring said it is building a river vessel that will sail the Chobe and Zambezi rivers in southern Africa in 2017. The 16-passenger boat will operate six-day cruises on the Chobe and Zambezi, which wind through and along several countries, including Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia, followed by a four-day land tour that includes safaris and a day at Victoria Falls.
Pandaw River Expeditions has been continuously pushing river cruise boundaries in Southeast Asia, where earlier this year the company introduced an itinerary on the Kapuas River system in western Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo.
The seven-day Into the True Heart of Borneo expedition is being offered on the company’s 32-passenger Katha Pandaw. It will sail more than 300 miles along the upper part of the Kapuas, and will traverse the Danau Sentarum system of lakes, a national park that connects to the river.
The Borneo rain forest is home to numerous species of flowering plants and animals, including the Bornean orangutan, the Bornean elephant, the Eastern Sumatran rhinoceros, the Bornean clouded leopard and the Dayak fruit bat.
Pandaw is also building a ship for the upper Mekong River, the 28-passenger Yunnan, which is set to launch in September with a 14-night itinerary from Vientiane in Laos to Jinghong in China, a product that Pandaw introduced last year on the Laos Pandaw.