The World’s Most Unusual River Cruises -

The World’s Most Unusual River Cruises

News May 28, 2024

The world of river cruising is undergoing transformation. As more travelers discover the convenience, affordability, and tranquility of voyaging along scenic waterways, shipyards around the globe are producing a fleet of new vessels to keep up with the rising demand. While this is mostly positive, it also means that many of the popular routes are becoming increasingly busy.

Fortunately, there's an upside: numerous cruise lines are now broadening their horizons, venturing to lesser-known rivers in less-visited areas, and crafting captivating, adventurous itineraries that go well beyond the usual attractions.

If you've already explored the standard destinations and are eager to embark on new adventures, the following cruises might be exactly what you're looking for.

The Gambia - West Africa

Discover the rhythm of life in The Gambia on a river cruise

Navigating 250 miles up a West African river on a luxurious megayacht is an unparalleled experience. Islands made of clamshells and ancient stone burial grounds are among the fascinating sights in The Gambia. Small, seldom-visited villages along the riverbanks offer a glimpse into everyday life, while canoe trips into the side rivers bring you close to the abundant wildlife. Variety Cruises offers the 10-day Rivers of West Africa cruise from £3,167 per person, including flights, transfers, and two nights in Dakar. Destinations include Dakar, Banjui, Kantaur, Gambia River National Park, Kaur, Tendaba, and Jannanbureh, departing on January 16, 2025.

7-night cruise on the Gambia
Source: The Gambia Experience

Rio Napo - Ecuador

The Anakonda Napo River cruise visits the most biodiverse place on earth, Yasuní National Park

For those seeking an adventure in nature without sacrificing comfort, the Ecuadorian jungle might be the perfect destination. This cruise takes you to Yasuní National Park, the most biodiverse place on earth and a World Biosphere Reserve, home to nearly 600 bird species and 150 types of amphibians. Canoe excursions offer a spectacular display of macaws, parakeets, and parrots. Rainforest Cruises offers the eight-day Anakonda Napo River cruise from £5,195 per person, including domestic flights, transfers, night glamping in the jungle, WiFi, gratuities, and port charges. Stops include Quito, Coca, Providencia, El Retiro, Pañacocha, Turín, Tiputini, and Rocafuerte, departing on November 13, 2024.

Anakonda Napo River 
Source: Lost World Adventures

Chobe River - Southern Africa

Watch elephants come to drink as you drift down the Chobe River

This cruise provides a unique opportunity to see Africa’s “Big Five” from a private boat safari. As you drift along the Chobe River, you’ll likely encounter elephants, hippos, and crocodiles. Highlights include an exclusive picnic and safari inside Chobe National Park, a visit to Kruger National Park, and a two-night stay at the majestic Victoria Falls. Panache Cruises offers the 12-night Wildlife and the Falls cruise from £11,492 per person, including flights, some excursions, beer and wine with lunch and dinner, daily cocktail hour, and WiFi. Stops include Johannesburg, Chobe River, Chobe National Park, Victoria Falls, and Kruger National Park, departing on November 10, 2024.

Chobe River
Source: Botswana Safari Tour

Potomac River - United States

The 11-day American Revolution cruise takes in the 'Historic Triangle' of Virginia

This cruise explores the “Historic Triangle” of Williamsburg, Yorktown, and Jamestown on a round-trip from Washington DC. It offers a deep dive into the region’s historical significance and natural beauty, including must-see sites of the capital, George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon, Arlington National Cemetery, and Harriet Tubman’s Underground Railroad exhibit. You’ll also sail on an authentic “skipjack” through the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. American Cruise Lines offers the 11-day American Revolution cruise from £6,499 per person, including flights, transfers, a pre-cruise hotel stay in Washington, beer and wine with lunch and dinner, WiFi, gratuities, and port charges. Stops include Washington DC, Annapolis, St Michaels, Cambridge, Norfolk, Williamsburg/Yorktown, and Mount Vernon, departing on October 9, 2024.

Potomac River cruise
Source: The Wjharf

The Vltava - Czechia

Melnik is home to one of the most beautiful Renaissance castles in all of Bohemia

Often referred to as “The Czech National River,” the Vltava winds through Bohemia and Prague, offering a chance to explore cobbled streets, Prague Castle, and the magnificent Old Town Square with its Astronomical Clock. The journey continues to Stechovice, where you’ll visit the art nouveau-style Church of Saint John the Baptist, and then to Melnik for a tour of one of Bohemia’s most beautiful Renaissance castles, before gently floating into Dresden, the Florence of the Elbe. CroisiEurope offers the seven-day Prague, Dresden, and the Castles of Bohemia cruise from £1,414 per person, including return flights, all meals, drinks, and port fees. Stops include Prague, Stechovice, Melnik, and Dresden, departing on July 31, 2024.

The Vltava
Source: Wikipedia

Brahmaputra River - Tibet, India, and Bangladesh

The Full Brahmaputra cruise takes in Majuli Island – renowned for its colourful manuscript painting and masks

Sailing below the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, this cruise starts in Guwahati, India, where you can visit ancient Hindu temples. The journey includes stops at three National Parks to spot tigers and Indian Rhinoceroses. Look out for Brahmaputra River Dolphins on the way to Majuli Island, famous for its manuscript painting and masks, and explore the waterfalls and botanical gardens of Jeypore, showcasing India’s lush, natural side. Fred Holidays offers the 10-night Full Brahmaputra cruise from £4,321 per person, including international and internal flights, and transportation throughout. Stops include Guwahati, Silghat, Kaziranga, Majuli, Dibru Saikhowa, Jeypore, and Dibrugarh, departing on October 14, 2024.

Brahmaputra River
Source: Jasmine Holiday

The Magdalena - Colombia

The seven-day Wonders of Colombia cruise begins in Cartagena, one of South America's oldest cities

This cruise immerses you in Colombian culture, exploring colonial architecture in Cartagena, one of South America’s oldest cities, and the historic UNESCO World Heritage site of Mompox. The journey concludes in Barranquilla, known for its vibrant cultural scene. If a week isn’t enough, you can add a pre-cruise trip to Medellín and Cartagena, or a post-cruise excursion in Panama City.

The Magdalena - Colombia cruise
Source: Mundy Cruising


Oliver Hughes

Oliver has over 15 years of experience in travel journalism. He focuses on European travel, providing expert reviews of vacation rentals and cultural experiences across Europe.