From Cairo to Colombia, waterway tours run from the exotic to the traditional and we’ve found the river cruise trends for 2024. 

Luxurious new ships, exotic rivers, foodie tours, temples, tombs, and a Golden Triangle: river cruising is heading for one of its biggest years.

The Douro in Northern Portugal is growing in popularity, the Nile. Despite problems in the Middle East it continues to be a centre of interest. Lines such as AmaWaterways are opening up new areas such as Colombia. 

Panoramic view of Oporto city and Ribeira over the Douro river from Vila Nova de Gaia.
Panoramic view of Oporto city and Ribeira over the Douro river from Vila Nova de Gaia.

The new ships for 2024

On the Douro, Avalon Waterways’ new Avalon Alegria launches in March. It holds 102 passengers, has suites with floor-to-ceiling and wall-to-wall glass doors facing the river. The beds are angled to look out to the water so you wake to fabulous views (think rolling vineyards and deep gorges). 

Five months later, APT Travelmarvel makes its Douro debut with new ship Estrela. It holds 120 passengers, has cabins with French balconies and claims the largest swimming pool of any ship on the river. That’s a definite bonus in high summer, when it gets quite steamy in the Douro valley. 

Come November, AmaWaterways will make history by offering the first cruises on the Magdalena River in Colombia. The seven-night sailings, on the new 60-passenger river ship AmaMagdalena, are from Cartagena to Barranquilla or vice-versa. It promises everything from nature and wildlife to music, culture, and UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The amazing Horus Temple in Egypt.
Horus Temple in Egypt.

While the Middle East powderkeg has caused many cancellations. Both AmaWaterways and Viking have new ships on the Nile, respectively the AmaLilia and Viking Hathor, launching in March and August.  

Each ship holds just 82 passengers and has cabins and suites with private balconies and sundeck pools. However, where AmaWaterways has given the décor a decidedly Egyptian flavour, Viking has stayed with its trademark Scandinavian light-wood look.

Both will sail seven-night cruises round-trip from Luxor. They will offer included tours of ancient Egyptian temples and tombs. They will also offer pre-and post-hotel stays in Cairo with trips to the pyramids and Egyptian Museum to see King Tutankhamun’s treasures. 

But we can’t talk rivers without mentioning the Rhine. Uniworld River Cruises launches SS Victoria in March. Fans of the defunct Crystal Cruises (not to be confused with the resurrected Crystal) will recognise the vessel as Crystal Bach. It holds 110 passengers, has stylish suites, a pop-up top-deck bar and indoor pool. It is sailing tulip-themed cruises in the Netherlands and Belgium in spring. Then in summer, sailings pairing the Rhine and Moselle Rivers. 

The Viking Osiris sailing on the Nile River in Egypt
Viking Osiris ship on the Nile River near Luxor, Egypt.

River cruising has changed beyond recognition in the past decade. Lines have upped the action, supercharged excursions, extended the season and built in great pre-and post-cruise stays so guests get more from their holiday. 

For action, look no further than Emerald Cruises, Avalon Waterways and AmaWaterways. All have new itineraries for 2024 that will have guests out hiking and cycling. On AmaWaterways’ new Flavors of Burgundy cruise on the Saône River in France, you’ll cycle 33 kilometres one day and before there’s time to recover, do the same again the next. Go on Emerald’s Rhine Castles and Moselle Vineyards cruises, and you’ll even be out there canoeing. 

Visit the Taj Mahal in Agra, India.

As for supercharged excursions, how about a street food safari by jeep in Ho Chi Minh City. Or how about stepping into art – literally – at the Fabrique des Lumières in Amsterdam. Or how about a round of golf in Porto? They are new on Scenic’s cruises on the Mekong, Dutch and Belgian waterways, and Douro respectively. Fancy beer tasting in cellars beneath Nuremberg or learning to cook like a Slovakian? You can do both on Scenic’s new 10-day Danube in Depth cruises. 

Tauck, meanwhile, is treating guests to an evening out at Slot Loevestein, a medieval castle in the Netherlands that once served as a prison. This will be on a new cruise around the waterways of the Netherlands and Belgium. 

Among new cruise-and-stay options, Tauck adds Cannes and Geneva to either end of a new La Belle Vie cruise on the Rhône. While Emerald bolts two nights in Budapest onto its Danube Explorer. This allows more time in the Hungarian capital (don’t miss the Gellert Spa and a steaming hot “chimney” – dough cooked in a spiral and rolled in sugar). 

AmaWaterways can add the beautiful walled town of Cartagena to its new Magdalena River cruises or how about luxuriating on the Maharajas’ Express in India? Uniworld has a new holiday that pairs six nights on the train travelling around the glorious Golden Triangle with seven-night cruises on the Ganges. Exotic doesn’t even go there.

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