The best river cruises for taking in exotic city sights, from the Mekong to Moscow

  • There are cruises from Vietnam to Cambodia and Budapest to Bucharest 
  • You can explore sights such as the pagodas and palaces in Phnom Penh
  • A Rhine river cruise with stops at Christmas markets is a magical trip

Bumping along in an ox cart to a rural pagoda, boarding a sampan to visit a floating village and sitting in a bicycle rickshaw being pedalled through the swarms of motor scooters in Saigon were just some of the ways I got around onshore when I took a cruise up the Mekong.

The itinerary included two days in Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, where the white and gold Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda strike a contrast with the Tuol Sleng Genocide museum, a former school used as an interrogation centre during the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror.

The trip started with a stay in Ho Chi Minh City and ended with three days in Siem Reap. 

A Mekong River Cruise will allow you to explore Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam before you begin your journey

A Mekong River Cruise will allow you to explore Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam before you begin your journey

Prices for a 15-day Vietnam And Cambodia Highlights cruise start from £4,495pp, based on the departure on November 17, 2017, including transfers, return flights, excursions and food and drink on board. 

For more information visit aptouring.co.uk/mekong or call 0800 046 3002.

For a holiday closer to home, here are ideas for four great river cruises in Europe.

Eastern Europe 

A river cruise down the Danube, beginning in Budapest (above) and finishing in Bucharest will let you explore some of the best stops in eastern Europe

A river cruise down the Danube, beginning in Budapest (above) and finishing in Bucharest will let you explore some of the best stops in eastern Europe

Explore Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania on an Enchantment Of Eastern Europe cruise on the far reaches of the Danube with Emerald Waterways (emeraldwaterways.co.uk, 0808 115 6269). 

On the ten- day journey between Budapest and Bucharest you’ll sail through the Iron Gates Gorge, winding between the Carpathian and Balkan mountains.

Russia 

Meet a cosmonaut in Moscow, go to the ballet in a prince’s palace in St Petersburg, visit an elaborate wooden church built without a single nail and try vodka-tasting on board. 

These are just some of the highlights of an all-inclusive, luxury 15-day Jewels Of Russia cruise with Scenic (scenic.co.uk, 0808 102 0155).

Portugal 

Oporto (above) guards the entrance of the Duoro Valley and a cruise up the river will feature excursions to some of the renowned port houses

Oporto (above) guards the entrance of the Duoro Valley and a cruise up the river will feature excursions to some of the renowned port houses

See the terraces of vineyards on the banks of the Douro, then taste their produce at rustic wineries and port wine lodges. 

Sailing for a week round trip from Oporto, excursions ashore will take you to Mateus Palace and the medieval village of Castelo Rodrigo. 

The ten-day Portugal’s River Of Gold holiday with Viking (vikingrivercruises.co.uk, 0800 319 6660) starts with a two-night stay in Lisbon.

Germany 

Pick up decorations, gingerbread, wooden toys and presents on a seven-day Christmas markets cruise on the Rhine through Germany. 

You can shop, hear carols and drink gluhwein on seven-day, no-fly trips visiting Cologne, Koblenz, Rudesheim and Bonn departing in November and December with Shearings (shearings.com, 0844 209 7143). 

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