Now You Can Go Rollin’ On The River In Style

You can add river cruises to the list of increasingly available options for adventure travelers. In 2015 alone, 27 companies will enter the business, according to the Cruise Line International Association, and many of them will be plying the waters in places—and in a style—previously unseen.

Among the hot new options this year: Floating along the Mekong River in Vietnam, the Chobe River in southern Africa (which takes passengers through Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa) and the Irrawaddy River in Myanmar. One luxury company, Vantage Travel, has beaten the competition already by being the first to offer a cruise in the untapped Indian market, with a cruise down the Ganges.

“River cruising gives you that comfortable style of travel from place to place,” said Bret Gordon, CEO of Tom Harper River Cruises, “but everyday you spend the entire day on land exploring, so it still feeds that learning and curiosity aspect.”

Comfort and style is definitely the order of the day for some of the river cruise ships. Uniworld, for instance, which is launching its own Ganges River tour next year, will be offering passengers aboard the Ganges Voyager II 56 suites complete with French balconies, rain showers and hand-painted murals—all for a mere $7,600-$7,900.

Cabin sizes in general are now much larger, averaging 170- to 200-square feet instead of the typical 100-square-foot of yesterday’s river cruise ships, and the ships are more intimate. River cruises in Southeast Asia often carry just 40 passengers, making the experience seem more like cruising on a private yacht than a commercial vessel.

River cruises also are becoming more like ocean going cruises, with modern amenities such as spas, saunas, gyms and five-star restaurants.

Uniworld and Tom Harper are just two of the companies entering the burgeoning river cruise market, joined in the past year by cruises offered by Abercrombie & Kent, Avalon Waterways, Emerald Cruises, Premier and Tauck.

“Today’s more informed traveler doesn’t think about going on a cruise with a midnight buffet and disco,” said Rick Kaplan of Premier River Cruises. “They are focused on an immersive experience, where they get to touch and feel the destination.”