I’ll never forget where I learned to drink like a Cossack. It was on a river cruise. In Ukraine.
I’m a longtime fan of river voyages. They slice right through the heartland of a country or even a continent, with unique cultures waiting nearby on the river’s bank. ( Na konya, I learned, is a Cossack toast, meaning “on to the horse.” Would you learn that on a sea cruise? Probably not.)
So I’m not surprised that river cruises are now exploding in popularity. They’ve become the fastest-growing part of the cruise industry. In fact, in 2013 alone, some 14 new river ships are scheduled to debut.
Why so popular? Folks are looking for new travel experiences. River cruises fill the bill. Adds Christine Duffy, president and CEO of the Cruise Lines International Association, “Today’s river cruise industry is distinguished by innovative companies that are investing in exciting new ships and succeeding in reaching more diverse guests, including younger travelers, families, and avid cruisers looking for an entirely different experience.”
And the most popular continent for river cruising? Europe, by far, with its Danube, Rhine and Volga Rivers. Other continents also have their fair share of celebrated river cruises: Africa’s Nile, Asia’s Yangtze and North America’s Mississippi.
But there are other intriguing river voyages out there, lurking under the radar.
So, river-cruise devotees, here’s a cheat sheet on some of the lesser-known river trips, one per continent.
Yes, there are rivers on the frozen continent. But, I was told by Steve Wellmeir, director of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO), “I would not include Antarctica as a continent with viable river cruising prospects for tourists.” He adds, “Of course, there are always those wanting to be the first to do something in Antarctica, so nothing would surprise me.”
Indeed, as more folks discover the appeals of river cruising, who knows where the next itineraries will pop up?