8 of the world's most relaxing river cruise holidays

With calm waters, intoxicating culture and fabulous views from the comfort of your cabin, these river cruise holidays are are second to none...

1. A far-flung retreat in Burma

Can there be anything more spectacular than a candlelit dinner under the stars after watching the sun set over Bagan's thousands of temples? Hop on Sanctuary Retreats' eight-night Irrawaddy cruise from Mandalay to Yangon to experience the serenity and beauty for yourself.

This cruise has it all - giant Buddhas, golden pagodas, bustling markets, serene vistas and a chance to sail on one of the swankiest vessels on the Irrawaddy. The Sanctuary Ananda has all-balcony suites and 44 crew to pamper just 42 passengers.

2. Cruise Portugal's Douro River with Mary Berry

Mary Berry is one of our favourite foodie stars – and now we’re giving you an exclusive opportunity to meet her on our exclusive Woman & Home8-day cruise down the Dourothrough Portugal and Spain.Mary will join you for two days on theEmerald Radiance, a luxury ship custom-built to navigate the Douro. Your wonderful itinerary, which starts and ends in the ancient city of Porto, includes the chance to visit some of the region’s best Port-producing wineries.

Enjoy a talk, Q&A and book signing with Mary Berry, plus she’ll join you for a fabulous afternoon tea. Ask the “Queen of Cakes” her baking secrets, and enjoy a four-course gala dinner hosted by Mary on your final evening – a stunning end to this once-in-a-lifetime holiday.See the details

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3. Art and adventure on the Seine, France

Ever wondered why Impressionist painters were so-named? Or why Van Gogh cut off his ear? All is revealed on Avalon Waterways' eight-day art-themed Paris to Normandy cruise on the Seine, departing the French capital on July 28 2018.

(Image credit: Alamy Stock Photo)

There will be tours to Giverny to see Monet's famous lily pond, and to Honfleur where the Impressionists loved to paint. In Auvers-sur-Oise, guides will show you where Van Gogh lived, painted and died. You can even see some of his drawings on a trip to the Louvre on your final day back in Paris.

4. A fabulous festive cruise on the River Rhine

It wouldn't be Christmas without a pretty festive market or two! A few days of bratwurst, mulled wine and gingerbread will cure those winter woes. Europe has Christmas markets aplenty, but Germany's are the original and best – so which Christkindlesmarkt to choose?

(Image credit: Alamy Stock Photo)

On our Fabulous Festive Cruise, you'll visit all of Germany's best Christmas markets! Over 5 spectacular days in December 2018, you'll visit themarkets in Cologne, Bonn, Koblenz, Rüdesheim and Mainz – with plenty of gluhwein along the way. On board the cosy MS Serenity river cruise ship, you'll also enjoy wine tasting workshops, gala dinners, and a festive baking masterclass with Great BritishBake Off winner Jo Wheatley. All for just £695! See the details

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5. In the footsteps of Elvis, USA

Strap on your blue suede shoes because the American Queen Steamboat Company is paying homage to the kings of rock ‘n' roll and the blues on a music-themed cruise along the Mississippi on American Queen, the most opulent paddlewheel to sail the Big Muddy.

(Image credit: Alamy Stock Photo)

The nine-night voyage starts in Memphis, home of Elvis's Graceland Mansion, and Sun Studios, where the King cut his first record. It then segues into the blues with a trip to the legendary Club Ebony in Indianola where BB King played, and ends with all that jazz in New Orleans.

6. Explore the flavours of Bordeaux with Raymond Blanc

World-renowned chef Raymond Blanc is the star of our new foodie cruise through Bordeaux, which departs this August. He'll join the 11-day cruise for two days of gastronomic delights, entertainingguests with an exclusive talk, a cooking demonstration, and a lavish gala dinner.

"There are few greater pleasures than drifting quietly along the rivers and canals, perhaps with a nice glass of wine in your hand," says Raymond. "I look forward to meeting you on board and toasting together to beautiful Bordeaux."

He'll also be joined by wine expert Susy Atkins, who'll introduce all of the region's best wines. Drinking world-class wines in sunny vineyards, under a cloudless sky with excellent company... now that sounds like our idea of heaven. See the details

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7. A foodie feast in Vietnam & Cambodia

A feast for the eyes and tastebuds awaits as chef Luke Nguyen, a regular guest on MasterChef Australia, adds a touch of celebrity to a 15-day Vietnam and Cambodia Highlights cruise on the Mekong River from Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap with APT.

(Image credit: Alamy Stock Photo)

Trips ashore include everything from the UNESCO-listed temples of Angkor Wat and tuk-tuk sightseeing in Phnom Penh to a rickshaw ride in Tan Chau. Back on board, Chef Nguyen will be cooking up a treat one evening and hosting talks about Vietnamese culture and cuisine.

8. Yoga and hiking on the Douro

Start the day the yoga way on a one-week Secrets of the Douro river cruise in Northern Portugal with Emerald Waterways. Lessons on the sun deck will ensure you are fighting fit for a packed programme of guided walks around the UNESCO-listed cities of Porto (where the cruise starts and ends) and Salamanca in Spain, as well as canoeing trips and hiking tours through the vineyards that line the Douro valley.

(Image credit: Alamy Stock Photo)

If it all sounds too active, kick back and enjoy the views while imbibing a glass or two of the region's famous fortified wine.


All images from Alamy