“Going on a cruise” can conjure visions of enormous ocean liners and innumerable days at sea. But there is a more intimate, luxurious, and elegant way to traverse Europe’s great waterways. Perfect for those who prefer to mix land travel with a little time on the water, our new partnership with Uniworld boutique river cruises offers travelers the best of both worlds with a series of special itineraries. Explore the cultural, historical and gastronomic sites on land with Insight Vacations before taking to the Rhine, Douro or Danube with Uniworld, and experience a different side some of the world’s most celebrated destinations. In honor of these brand new escorted journeys, we’ve selected a few of our favorite European river cruises to try this summer.
Gems of Italy & The River Po
Cutting across Northern Italy, the Po River possesses over 140 tributaries, mostly in the Western Alps. Some of its pit stops include Padua, where the ancient arcades and porticos lead to the Palazzo della Ragione, the city’s historic center, and Ferrara, one of Italy’s best kept secrets and an artistic hub for the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Titian and Petrarch. Finishing off in Venice, there’s a chance to visit the places less frequented by tourists such as Chioggia, a colorful fishing village on the Venice Lagoon where you’ll find some of the region’s best fish markets, or to get your own hands dirty and head to a casoni (fisherman’s hut) to learn the art of mussel harvesting. Finally, after scooting around the glories of the lesser-known islands and lidos, in Venice proper there’s the Accademia, where an art historian will guide you around the works of Bellini, Bellotto and Longhi, to name but a few.
Switzerland & The Rhine
Beginning in Switzerland and emptying itself out into the North Sea, the Rhine covers a cool 764 miles in the process. This tour begins in Geneva, where you’ll explore the city’s best-known sites, including the Jet D’Eau and the Reformation Monument, before setting off for the scenic Alpine towns of Montreux and Zermatt, where the mighty Matterhorn provides some impressive vistas. Then it’s on to Italy’s celebrated Lake Maggiore and the city of Lugano, before winding your way over to St. Moritz, the ice-capped Grison Mountains and Lake Lucerne. Further down river there’s Strasbourg with its UNESCO-designated city center and Speyer, which possesses the largest Romanesque cathedral in Europe, as well as the continent’s oldest mikvah, a Jewish ritual bath. At Rüdesheim explore the famous Drosselgasse (a narrow lane lined with taverns), where you can get a few drinks in before the real work commences: wine tasting in a historic castle. Then it’s on to Cologne via Koblenz and miles of fortifications, where the giant cathedral is believed to hold relics of the Bible’s fabled Three Kings.
Bohemia & The Danube
At 1,780 miles, the Danube is the longest river in the EU and would be in Europe too if it weren’t for the Volga. Start by exploring the 13th century castle at Český Krumlov and the historic city of Prague, before journeying to Auschwitz for a guided visit of the moving memorial and museum. After a tour of the 600-year old Wieliczka subterranean salt mines near Kraków, continue along the river’s winding course and visit the Vienna State Opera, the Melk Abbey in the verdant Wachau Valley, and hop on a bicycle to cycle along the river at Passau, where the Danube, Inn and Ilz rivers meet. After an atmospheric ride into the Bavarian forest in a horse-drawn wagon and a tour of Regensburg, one of the best-preserved medieval towns in Europe, you’ll finally arrive in Nuremberg, where a whole host of WWII sites await.
Portugal & The Douro
Portugal is more famous as the springboard of explorers heading west rather than as the terminus of one of Iberia’s longest waterways. But the Douro offers many delights of its own. Begin in the buzzing city of Lisbon to explore historical sights such as the Jerónimos Monastery and Belem Tower before heading off to the sunny southern coast to experience the best of the Algarve, and enjoy its famous fresh seafood. After stopping off in the walled cities of Évora and Óbidos, escape into nature in the tranquility of wine country and explore the vineyards that hug the banks of the river. At Porto, board a boutique cruise that blends the Douro’s almond tree-strewn course with natural and cultural beauties, including the prestigious Quinta do Seixo estate, where you’ll sample some of Portugal’s best port. Saúde!
More information about Insight Vacations’ luxury vacations and all-inclusive boutique river cruises with Uniworld can be found at www.insightvacations.com