There is a growing demand among well-travelled Australian river cruisers for more bucket-list, personalised private excursions.

Rather than sign up for traditional, microphone-in-the-ear group coach excursions, they prefer to go on exclusive and more customised private tours focusing on food, wine and culture.

European Waterways, which operate luxury barges, said that demand for experiential excursions is at an all-time high, prompting the company to expand its 2019 itineraries to include guided tours by local dignitaries such as counts, baronesses and even members of the French military.

Château de Fontainebleau
Château de Fontainebleau

In France, the company is offering a private tour of the French military stables of the Chateau de Fountainbleau, a 1,500-room architectural institution which was the opulent country-house for French monarchs from Louis Vll to Napoleon lll.

Another tour is a stroll around the Chateau de Commarin, accompanied by blue-blooded dignitaries including Count Bertrand de Vogue, the 26th generation of the de Vogue family who has lived there since the 13th century.

Guests can also choose to go on a champagne tasting and gastronomic lunch with the Baroness at the historic Chateau de Ricey-Bas, a stately mansion in Les Riceys.

For its classic Italian river cruise, European Waterways has a unique dining experience at the Venetian Villa Ca’Zen in the heart of the Po Delta nature reserve where English poet Lord Byron wrote some of his celebrated works during his tempestuous affair with the Contessa Teresa Gamba.

For the popular sailing between Bucharest and Budapest, Uniworld takes groups of 10 to lunch in a village with families in home where they had to abandon for more than seven years during the Balkan war in the 1990s.

Avalon has personalised and active discovery tours which are tailor-made for guests.
Crystal River Cruises introduced more options for guests to customise their excursions or join smaller, more intimate groups on select tours. Crystal said that personalised travel experiences are a growing trend among river guests.