The Aria glowing as the sun sets on the Amazon River

If a cruise ship doesn’t float your boat, consider a luxury river cruise offering the sophistication of a lavish floating hotel with the chance to explore some of the world’s most beguiling waterways. Whether you’re after scenery, culture or adventure, we pick the planet’s best river cruises.

Amazon, South America

Immerse yourself in the drama and beauty of the world’s largest river, the Amazon, on a South American river cruise with Aqua Expeditions. Departing from Iquitos, Peru, you sail down the wildlife-rich Amazon and its winding tributaries - the Yarapa, Yanallpa and Ucayali rivers, ending in the Pacaya Samiria Reserve.

River Cruise AmazonWake up to the stunning panoramic views on the Aria
Aqua Expeditions

The three-night voyage on board the 5-star Aqua Expedition encompasses extraordinary diversity from flooded forests and local villages to iguana-laden islands and untouched habitats. Three daily expeditions with trained guides offer an opportunity to see wildlife up close such as dusky pink dolphins, chattering monkeys, sleepy three-toed sloths, spine-chilling caimans, and vibrant-coloured macaws. For the bravest passengers, there’s even the chance to fish for piranhas.

The luxury vessel accommodates 32 guests, with 16 private suites to choose from and a Jacuzzi on the top deck. Each of the air-conditioned cabins offers panoramic windows to soak up jungle views from the comfort of your own room. Prices start from £1,726pp.

Rhine and Danube, Europe

River Cruise Danube Cruise along on board the River Beatrice in Budapest
Europe’s waterways offer a wealth of opportunity to discover some of the continent’s lesser known, enchanting historic cities. Avalon Waterways’s eight-day Romantic Rhine River Cruise departs from Amsterdam to Zurich. Highlights include Cologne’s cathedral, Koblenz’s cultural centre, Heidelberg’s castle, Strasbourg’s statues, Breisach’s Black Forest and Basel’s romantic bridges. On board the elegantly furnished Avalon Visionary featuring spacious suites, passengers have everything they need, from a hair salon and library to a rooftop whirlpool, and an outdoor viewing platform. Prices start from £1,735pp.

Alternatively, plough a course on the Danube with Uniworld which offers premium boutique-style accommodation on board its vessels. Expect exquisite furnishings, original artworks, world-class cuisine and top notch service on board River Beatrice on an eight-day sailing through Germany, Austria, and Hungary. Nine excursions take in the best each city has to offer from Budapest’s fairytale streets, one of the world’s most gorgeous libraries in Vienna, Salzburg’s Mirabellgarten as seen in The Sound of Music, and finally, a concert and walking tour in Passau. On board, passengers can unwind on private French-styled balconies with personal butlers at their beck and call. Prices start from £2,199pp.

Nile, Africa

River Cruise NileEgyptian structures along the Nile
Photodisc / Thinkstock

Explore one of the world’s most ancient civilisations on a Nile cruise. Egypt’s mystical temples, tombs, obelisks and pyramids unfurl on a veritable voyage of antiquity as you navigate one of the world’s most iconic waterways. Sonesta Cruise Collection’s Nile Goddess offers beautifully appointed rooms with full-sized bathtubs, poolside barbecues, spa treatments and sophisticated dining. Four-night itineraries from Luxor to Aswan include a visit the Valley of Kings, the spectacular temples of Karnak and Luxor, the majestic Temple of Philae and a felucca trip around Kitchener’s Island. At night, the ship comes alive for all ages with folkloric shows, belly dance performances, a discotheque and cocktail parties. Prices start from £236 per cabin per night (two sharing), including full board and excursions.

Yangtze, Asia

River Cruise YangtzeViews of the Yangtze River mountains
Creative Commons / Sullivan Ng

Sail the mighty Yangtze River for a glimpse of China’s most breathtaking scenery, the Three Gorges, a region of staggering natural beauty with over 3,000 years of cultural history. Gasp at views of soaring vertiginous peaks rising from secluded river banks as you sail on board the Yangzi Explorer on a five-night voyage departing from Yichang to Chongqing. Retreat to your luxury Jade or Mandarin suite featuring private sun decks and queen-sized, four poster beds. When you can tear yourself away from the views, enjoy morning tai chi classes or afternoon calligraphy demonstrations. Prices start from £890pp.

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