10 Themed River Cruises to Take in 2016

by Lisa Cheng

10 Themed River Cruises to Take in 2016

by Lisa Cheng

River cruises that focus on a special theme are a great way to really delve into your passions, and the small size of the ships means you'll be in the company of other enthusiasts. From history and art to hiking and golf, these 10 river cruises are top picks for 2016.

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Uniworld's River Beatrice in Budapest / Uniworld River Cruises
Jim Beam Distillery
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1. Bourbon Cruise

Line: American Queen Steamboat Company

Bourbon hails from the foothills of Kentucky and the Ohio River, and this cruise is pure Americana. The spirit takes center stage with bourbon-enhanced dinner menus, a cooking-with-bourbon class, and onshore visits to the Maker’s Mark, Wild Turkey, and Jim Beam distilleries. Back onboard, a jug band will play and bourbon historian Michael Veach and Buffalo Trace’s Donn Flinn will lecture on all things bourbon-related.

Dates: July 10-18, 2016, sailing from St. Louis to Cincinnati

Line: American Queen Steamboat Company

Bourbon hails from the foothills of Kentucky and the Ohio River, and this cruise is pure Americana. The spirit takes center stage with bourbon-enhanced dinner menus, a cooking-with-bourbon class, and onshore visits to the Maker’s Mark, Wild Turkey, and Jim Beam distilleries. Back onboard, a jug band will play and bourbon historian Michael Veach and Buffalo Trace’s Donn Flinn will lecture on all things bourbon-related.

Dates: July 10-18, 2016, sailing from St. Louis to Cincinnati

Vienna's Spanish Riding School
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2. Monarch Collection Cruises

Line: Uniworld

This new collection spotlights Europe’s royalty and aristocracy, and each cruise component feels like it’s graced with grandeur. Expect plenty of palaces and castles on the agenda; examples include a cocktail reception at Austria’s Artstetten Castle and a tour of Vienna’s Royal Lipizzaner Stables and Spanish Riding School.

Dates: June through August, 2016 on select European Jewels and Enchanting Danube sailings

Line: Uniworld

This new collection spotlights Europe’s royalty and aristocracy, and each cruise component feels like it’s graced with grandeur. Expect plenty of palaces and castles on the agenda; examples include a cocktail reception at Austria’s Artstetten Castle and a tour of Vienna’s Royal Lipizzaner Stables and Spanish Riding School.

Dates: June through August, 2016 on select European Jewels and Enchanting Danube sailings

Vineyard in Saint-Emilion
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3. Hiking Cruises

Line: CroisiEurope

These cruises are geared toward active travelers who aren't content with slow-paced groups or small onboard fitness centers. Bring your walking shoes for guided treks through the slopes, valleys, marshlands, and vineyards of southwest France — Médoc, Blaye, and Bourg. The cruises also include a visit to the town of Saint-Émilion, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Dates: April 29-May 4, 2016 and September 11–16, 2016

Line: CroisiEurope

These cruises are geared toward active travelers who aren't content with slow-paced groups or small onboard fitness centers. Bring your walking shoes for guided treks through the slopes, valleys, marshlands, and vineyards of southwest France — Médoc, Blaye, and Bourg. The cruises also include a visit to the town of Saint-Émilion, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Dates: April 29-May 4, 2016 and September 11–16, 2016

Painting class
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4. Art Cruises

Line: AmaWaterways

Set in the regions that inspired the impressionist painters, these cruises in northern France help channel your inner artist. Onboard, you'll create your own masterpieces with guidance from an artist-in-residence (paints and canvases are provided). In Vernon, you’ll tour the pastel-colored houses that were a favorite subject of Courbet and Monet. And in Auvers-sur-Oise, you can step into the former home of Vincent van Gogh.

Dates: April 8, June 24, July 15, August 12, and October 14, 2016

Line: AmaWaterways

Set in the regions that inspired the impressionist painters, these cruises in northern France help channel your inner artist. Onboard, you'll create your own masterpieces with guidance from an artist-in-residence (paints and canvases are provided). In Vernon, you’ll tour the pastel-colored houses that were a favorite subject of Courbet and Monet. And in Auvers-sur-Oise, you can step into the former home of Vincent van Gogh.

Dates: April 8, June 24, July 15, August 12, and October 14, 2016

Beer tap
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5. Beer Cruises

Line: Avalon Waterways

Europe has countless age-old traditions, and the art of beer making is a delicious one. Book one of these itineraries for in-depth tours of historic breweries, town-wide pub crawls, food and beer pairings, and lectures on topics including brewing techniques.

Dates: March 30, 2016 for 10-day Danube Dreams; April 12, 2016 for eight-day Essential Holland and Belgium; November 9, 2016 for 13-day Blue Danube Discovery

Line: Avalon Waterways

Europe has countless age-old traditions, and the art of beer making is a delicious one. Book one of these itineraries for in-depth tours of historic breweries, town-wide pub crawls, food and beer pairings, and lectures on topics including brewing techniques.

Dates: March 30, 2016 for 10-day Danube Dreams; April 12, 2016 for eight-day Essential Holland and Belgium; November 9, 2016 for 13-day Blue Danube Discovery

Crab miang on betel leaf on the Aqua Mekong
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6. Chef-Hosted Cruises

Line: Aqua Expeditions

These sailings through the Mekong Delta are a deep dive into Southeast Asia’s flavorful cuisine, led by Australian-born chef David Thompson, who helms a Michelin-starred Thai restaurant in London. The chef customizes market tours in Mekong villages like Tan Chau, and helps guests create dishes like crab miang on betel leaf.

Dates: Three-, four- and seven-night sailings in April and May 2016 from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam or Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Line: Aqua Expeditions

These sailings through the Mekong Delta are a deep dive into Southeast Asia’s flavorful cuisine, led by Australian-born chef David Thompson, who helms a Michelin-starred Thai restaurant in London. The chef customizes market tours in Mekong villages like Tan Chau, and helps guests create dishes like crab miang on betel leaf.

Dates: Three-, four- and seven-night sailings in April and May 2016 from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam or Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Musicians at Palavicini in Vienna
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7. Classical Music Cruises

Line: Tauck

This robust program for fans of classical music includes exploring the favorite haunts of composers and musicians including Mozart, Liszt, and Bartók, as well as exclusive performances — such as period instrument concerts, for example. The grand finale is an evening at Nelahozeves Castle, a Renaissance castle outside of Prague and the birthplace of Antonín Dvořák.

Dates: June 9, August 25, and October 6, 2016

Line: Tauck

This robust program for fans of classical music includes exploring the favorite haunts of composers and musicians including Mozart, Liszt, and Bartók, as well as exclusive performances — such as period instrument concerts, for example. The grand finale is an evening at Nelahozeves Castle, a Renaissance castle outside of Prague and the birthplace of Antonín Dvořák.

Dates: June 9, August 25, and October 6, 2016

The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam
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8. History Cruises

Line: Abercrombie & Kent

History buffs will appreciate this cruise that focuses on Europe’s role in World War II. After visiting sites including the Dutch Resistance Museum and the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, as well as Remagen, Germany (site of the bridgehead captured by the Allies in 1945), you'll see this critically important war within a larger context.

Dates: May 15-22, June 1-10, June 15-24, September 18-27, 2016, sailing from Amsterdam to Basel, Switzerland

Line: Abercrombie & Kent

History buffs will appreciate this cruise that focuses on Europe’s role in World War II. After visiting sites including the Dutch Resistance Museum and the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, as well as Remagen, Germany (site of the bridgehead captured by the Allies in 1945), you'll see this critically important war within a larger context.

Dates: May 15-22, June 1-10, June 15-24, September 18-27, 2016, sailing from Amsterdam to Basel, Switzerland

Basel Christmas Market
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9. Christmas Market Cruises

Line: Viking River Cruises

Europe's medieval towns look even more breathtakingly beautiful under a blanket of snow. These festive sailings offer a perfect way to celebrate the holidays: Onboard pastry chefs bake gingerbread cookies, while shore excursions include trips to Christmas markets that sell handcrafted ornaments, woolen mittens, “glühwein” (German mulled wine), and other regional specialties.

Dates: November through December 2016, various itineraries

Line: Viking River Cruises

Europe's medieval towns look even more breathtakingly beautiful under a blanket of snow. These festive sailings offer a perfect way to celebrate the holidays: Onboard pastry chefs bake gingerbread cookies, while shore excursions include trips to Christmas markets that sell handcrafted ornaments, woolen mittens, “glühwein” (German mulled wine), and other regional specialties.

Dates: November through December 2016, various itineraries

Golf Course
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10. Golf Cruise

Line: Avalon Waterways

Not only will you experience plenty of culture on this Danube itinerary, but you also can practice your golf swing at several courses en route. A golf pro will be on hand to help you improve your game and answer questions, so by the end of the cruise you may be closer to that hole-in-one.

Dates: August 20 - 28, 2016, sailing Vienna to Munich

Line: Avalon Waterways

Not only will you experience plenty of culture on this Danube itinerary, but you also can practice your golf swing at several courses en route. A golf pro will be on hand to help you improve your game and answer questions, so by the end of the cruise you may be closer to that hole-in-one.

Dates: August 20 - 28, 2016, sailing Vienna to Munich

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