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Cruising isn't just limited to the high seas. River cruises will have you exploring some of the greatest inland destinations on earth.

Most of the time when when cruising is mentioned, pictures of huge ocean going vessels and tropical island destinations spring to mind. But there's another kind of cruising that retains all the best bits of a traditional cruise while adding a fresh new twist on the cruising experience: river cruises. While the sheer size of most cruise ships restrict them to coastal destinations only, river cruise vessels are specially designed to be able to glide along inland waterways, stopping in at 'landlocked' cities and towns along the way. The focus here is usually on the destinations as opposed to the cruise ship itself, in contrast to traditional cruise ships which can sometimes seem like a destination all of their own. Some of those destinations are surprisingly close to home, while others are waiting halfway across the globe. Take a look below to find out not only where river cruises could whisk you away to, but how these boutique cruise experiences differ from the cruises you're used to.

inland touring

The magic of the Murray River

You might think you know Australia pretty well, but seeing it from the deck of a paddlewheeler cruising down the Murray River will give you a whole new appreciation for this beautiful country. Captain Cook Cruises offers small scale cruises that focus on local experiences and destinations and in the Lucky Country it means gliding down Australia's most famous river on a vessel that brings to mind the golden days of river travel.

One important thing to remember about a Captain Cook Cruise on the Murray is that the ship is a lot smaller than its ocean going cousins you might be used to. This means that the more extravagant things you may associate with cruise lines, like waterslides, skydive simulators and so on, won't be found onboard a river cruise. Instead of these flashy features, cruisers will be treated to cultural and scenic shore excursions (all included in the fare), a cabin/stateroom with a river view and ensuite bathroom and free WiFi - then of course there's the open door policy of the wheelhouse, meaning that whenever the captain is free you can have a chat to him. This is cruising on more personal, intimate scale, perfect for those who can't stand the crowds of big ships. That's not to say that Captain Cook Cruises' paddlewheelers are devoid of facilities of course. Passengers can soak up some rays on the sundeck, browse the library, unwind in the spa or sauna and stay active at the gym.

murray river

At the end of the day though, river cruising is really all about the destinations. These are a handful of the places and experiences you could discover on your way down the Murray:
  • The upper river is known for its scenic delights - make sure you have your camera handy as the paddlewheeler glides through gorges with spectacular cliffs rising up on either side.
  • Indulge in a tour of the famous Barossa Valley. This is the perfect way to enjoy one of Australia's most well loved wine regions - no worries, no responsibilities.
  • Ngaut Ngaut Aboriginal Reserve will have you stepping back tens of thousands of years into the past as you get an incredible look at Aboriginal culture through one of the country's most important archeological sites.
  • The town of Murray Bridge sprung up around (surprise) the first bridge to span the Murray River, and is full of historic landmarks and attractions, perfect for those with a nose for 19th century Aussie heritage.
  • Staying the night at Craignook will give wildlife lovers the chance to get a glimpse of Australia's nocturnal critters prowling the riverbank. Hair-nosed wombats, longnecked tortoises and grey kangaroos are just a few of the animals you could spot if you're careful.

Australia isn't the only place to enjoy the unique benefits of river cruising of course. The waterways of Europe offer an amazing way to explore this continent, as you'll see below.

europe waterways: Venice

The rivers of the Old World

Europe is one of the world's most popular tourism destinations but unfortunately for traditional cruisers, many of the continent's most beautiful and historic cities lie inland, far beyond the reach of traditional cruise ships. With a river cruise however, you can get right amongst Europe's best and brightest destinations. Not only will you get to see some of the best sights on the continent, but you can do in luxury. Cruise Sale Finder has deals from four different European river cruise lines, each of them offering top quality experiences on the waterways and streets of Europe.

Scenic River Cruises is a five star option, the way to go when you feel like treating yourself to a deluxe all-inclusive river cruising experience. There's no need to bother with money while you're aboard because everything's included: meals, drinks, WiFi, 24-hour room service, shore excursions - the lot. While on the ship you can choose from several different gourmet dining establishments, take in the views on scenic terraces or relax in lounges with live music - there are also spas and fitness centres to take care of your onboard wellness.

danube gorge cruise

Evergreen River Cruises is Scenic's four star sister. While it's not quite as all-inclusive as Scenic (and so, a bit more affordable) Evergreen is still pretty swish. Meals, including the wine and beer served with them, are included in your cruise fare and are often themed to match the culture and cuisine of the places you're passing through. You can take a dip in the ship swimming pool during the day before this area is transformed into a cinema in the evening, and hit the gym or join the "Emerald Active" program if you're wanting to stay fit while you're away.

Viking River Cruises makes the most of its access to Europe's stunning destinations with a focus on immersion and cultural connection. Excursions into the continent's most beautiful cities are all part of your fare with Viking, while in between destinations you can relax in the clean, serene environment of Viking's Scandinavian inspired ships. Meals onboard feature fresh, local ingredients in keeping with the cruise line's dedication to "Destination-Focused Dining", treating passengers to varied flavours of Europe along their journey.

Uniworld River Cruises is without any doubt a luxury line. Like other river cruise lines, there's a distinct emphasis on experiencing the destinations along the way, but just as much care is put into the onboard experience on Uniworld's ships. Each ship's style is unique and distinctive, featuring antiques, artwork and bold colour schemes to add class and panache, attentive crew tend to cruisers' every need, and things like gourmet meals, shore excursions and drinks are all included in the fare.

When it comes to specific destinations, the places you end up visiting will depend entirely on which river your cruise is centred on. A Seine cruise will of course include Paris, along with Rouen, Les Andelys and Honfleur, a trip along the Rhine will have you exploring the exquisitely intriguing cities of Budapest, Vienna and Amsterdam among others, while embarking on the Rhône will see you gliding through the south of France, discovering some of the world's finest food and wine along the way.

Get onboard

Even if you consider yourself a tried and true oceanic cruiser, trying out a river cruise could start a love affair with an entirely different facet of cruising. What's certain is that river cruises will give you a chance to discover the surrounding country in a totally unique and very comfortable way.

If you're tempted by the idea of a river cruise, this is the perfect time to find out more. CLIA cruise month sales span over all sorts of different cruises, including an exciting range of  "mystery" river voyages in Europe. Have a quick look over these and the other deals on offer this week to see if anything grabs your eye - you could be gliding downriver sooner than you think!

Written By: Kristof Haines, Content Editor of Cruise Sale Finder

While I’m no cruise veteran, I do have a deep love for travel and fond memories of a certain Baltic cruise I went on many years ago… I think cruising is the ideal way to make sure there are no boring bits in your trip - why waste your holiday enduring arduous air journeys when you can cut through the waves in style and comfort?

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