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7 Top River Cruises for 2016

Enjoy slow-paced exploration in storybook settings across the globe on these inventive sailings.

U.S. News & World Report

7 Top River Cruises for 2016

Passau at sunset, Germany

Whether you want to sail along the romantic Rhine River or the meandering Mekong River, plan a river cruise to remember on these standout itineraries.(Getty Images)

Akin to floating hotels, river cruises offer one of the most leisurely ways to travel. As you weave through intimate waterways punctuated by UNESCO World Heritage Sites, castles, storied palaces and majestic landscapes, you can enjoy relaxed exploration and celebrated surroundings. Beyond the unhurried pace, river cruising offers one of the most immersive ways to experience new destinations. Every port offers local guides to lead you to lesser-visited destinations that many mainstream ships can't reach. And not only are the shore excursions authentic and relaxed, so are the onboard environments.  

With fewer guests and spacious staterooms, riverboats offer more personalized experiences than traditional ocean liners. Plus, the all-inclusive price of your cruise factors in lodging, gratuity, onboard dining, shore excursions and more, eliminating extra fees. So, pack your bags and embark on one of these memorable sailings in 2016.

Fascinating Vietnam, Cambodia & the Mekong River

Slightly smaller than the Yangtze River but just as historically important, the Mekong River runs through some of Southeast Asia's most famous countries, like Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam. As you sail along Avalon Waterways' Avalon Siem Reap ship, you can watch daily life unfold as you cruise by with enriching port excursions to local markets, fishing tours and silk factory visits. Launched in 2015, the new ship accommodates only 36 passengers, allowing for a more intimate and customized onboard experience. The eight-day itinerary starts in Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City and ends in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Waterways of the Tsars

A cruise on Russia's Svir and Volga rivers on a 13-day sailing aboard Viking River Cruises' Akun, Ingvar or Truvor ships, will take you to Moscow and St. Petersburg, allowing you to take in the fascinating sights of the Kremlin, St. Petersburg and opulent palaces and churches. Plus, during your voyage, you can learn about Russia's rich heritage and unique political culture as you sail to storied destinations in comfort. Best of all, while you're unwinding onboard, you'll have access to innovative features, like free Wi-Fi, flat-panel TVs and, in select staterooms, floor-to-ceiling glass doors.

Danube Dreams

The Danube, Europe's second-largest river, provides more than just easy cruising – it allows for stops at some of Europe's most famous ports, like Budapest, Munich, Prague and Vienna. Ships navigate to scenic old villages, busy cities and medieval fortresses, allowing for incredible scenery and immersive activities. And aboard AmaPanorama on AmaWaterways' 10-day eastbound Danube Dreams River Cruise itinerary from Prague to Budapest, you can enjoy new ship features, like suites appointed with two decks and wall-to-wall panoramic views. What's more, during your trip, you can enjoy tasting local wines from Austria's Wachau Valley and explore top sights like Vienna's iconic Opera House.

Amazon Adventure

The incredible biodiversity found along the Amazon River continues to make it one of the most popular routes for river cruise vacations. As you weave through the world's second-longest river, you'll be met with over a third of the world's animal species, including exotic birds, monkeys, dolphins and manatees. Plus, you'll catch sight of stunning trees and plant life, as well as quiet and quaint fishing villages. And on Abercrombie & Kent's nine-day Amazon Adventure itinerary, which is limited to only 18 guests, cruisers can enjoy an intimate onboard atmosphere, complete with well-appointed cabins that boast balconies and, in some staterooms, wrap-around panoramic windows.

The Golden Land

Touted as the longest river in Myanmar, the Irrawaddy River is the crown jewel of Myanmar's waterways. Forming in the Himalaya Glaciers, this scenic river, which is dotted with breathtaking natural landscapes, ancient temples and local seaside villages, also serves as a major commercial transport route. Connecting Myanmar's most famous cities of Mandalay and Yangon, this passage has become increasingly popular. And on Pandow River Cruises' 14-day Golden Land itinerary from Rangoon to Mandalay, guests have access to personalized service thanks to each ship's 2-to-1 passenger-to-crew ratio. Plus, the new suites on the Mekong Pandaw and Pandaw II ships offer spacious balconies, in-room espresso machines and large lounge areas.

The Rhine, Swiss Alps and Amsterdam

Originating in the breathtaking Swiss Alps and winding through Germany's fairytale villages and historic castles to Amsterdam's legendary canals, the Rhine River is one of the most picturesque rivers on the planet. Indulge in a springtime cruise to see thousands of bright tulips decorating the banks or enjoy excursions to Austrian Christmas markets during the winter. On Tauck River Cruises' 10-day southbound itinerary, which has a capacity of 130 guests and offers upscale accommodations appointed with marble floors and real hardwood, you'll travel in comfort as you take in art, architecture and storybook settings.

European Jewels

Glide through the continent's most compelling destinations, with imposing medieval castles, lush riverbank vineyards and ancient towns on three of the largest rivers: The Rhine, the Main and the Danube. From the Netherlands and Germany to France, Luxembourg and Hungary, the ever-changing scenery of Europe's mighty rivers will captivate you. And on Uniworld's 15-day sailing from Budapest to Amsterdam on the opulent Uniworld Maria Theresa, the gilded mirrors, jacquard printed wallpaper, antique vases and fine art are just as impressive as the picturesque landscapes.

About En Route

Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.

Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.

Edited by Liz Weiss.

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