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Places to See on a River Cruise
Danube River cruises sail into classic Old World cities like Budapest, which is divided by the river, and Vienna, where sightseeing excursions take in St. Stephen's Cathedral, the opera house and the broad, circular avenue known as the Ringstrasse.
On a Rhine River cruise, you'll be able to view numerous German castles from your ship. Among them are Castle Marksburg, perched above the town of Braubach near Koblenz, and Castle Katz in St. Goarshausen, which is near the Rock of Lorelei. Legend says that Lorelei sits high above the river and lures love-struck sailors to their deaths upon the rocks.
You can visit festive Christmas markets in towns along the Danube and Rhine on cruises that depart in late November and December. The markets are set up in front of cathedrals and city halls. Sausages sizzle on grills, carolers sing and vendors' booths are decorated with evergreen garlands and white lights.
Douro River trips sail through the wine-growing regions of Portugal. Itineraries typically spend time in the city of Porto, a longtime center for the port wine trade, and at the Baroque-style Mateus Palace and surrounding gardens in Vila Real. .
Saone River cruises meander through France's Burgundy region, where passengers can learn about the region's wine industry in Chalon-sur-Saone and see the Hospices of Beaune, a 15th-century hospital complex famous for its intricately detailed, colorful roofs.
The Rhone River runs through France's Provence region to the Mediterranean coast; Rhone cruises usually are combined with sailings of the Saone. Itineraries call at Lyon to see that city's Roman remains and Old Town, and at the walled city of Avignon for visits to its 14th-century papal palace.
Seine River voyages start with sightseeing in Paris and travel west to visit Giverny (the home and gardens of artist Claude Monet), D-Day landing sites in Normandy and the Normandy American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer. .
In spring, the tulip fields of Holland erupt in an explosion of color. You can view them from your ship on a special "tulip time" river cruise, which also includes a visit to Keukenhof Gardens, where 7 million bulbs are planted annually. These sailings take place in March and April and also sail to ports in Belgium.
Yangtze River cruise tours start or end in Beijing, where guided sightseeing includes a stop at the Forbidden City. Built in the 15th century, this complex of nearly 10,000 rooms served as the imperial palace for 24 emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties. You'll also take an excursion to the Great Wall and to the Terra Cotta Warriors of Xian. A highlight of your cruise will be the passage through the Three Gorges -- soaring cliffs that rise high above the river. .
Mekong River cruises travel through Cambodia and Vietnam, where temples, floating markets and bustling cities are among the intriguing sights. Attractions include Tonle Sap Lake, known for its rich birdlife and fishing villages, and the Silver Pagoda in Phnom Penh. Many departures also incorporate Angkor Wat, a 12th-century complex of ornate stone structures and beehive towers.
Irrawaddy River sailings in Myanmar (Burma) typically are part of longer itineraries that include hotel stays and sightseeing in cities like Yangon in Myanmar and Bangkok in Thailand. See Yangon's Shwedagon Pagoda, considered the most sacred Buddhist pagoda for the Burmese; visit a floating market in Bangkok; and view the 18th-century, wooden Yoke Sone Kyaung monastery in Salé.
Amazon River cruises showcase natural wonders in Brazil and Peru. The Amazon basin is home to an array of eye-catching birdlife, including the scarlet macaw and the toucan. You might spot sloths and the region's famous pink river dolphins as well.
Mississippi River cruises glide through America's heartland, stopping in cosmopolitan cities and unique river towns. Guided sightseeing includes visits to landmarks such as Oak Alley, a historic antebellum plantation famous for its canopy of 300-year-old oak trees, and the French Quarter, New Orleans' oldest and most famous neighborhood housing horse-drawn carriages, pub-lined streets and world-famous cuisine.
Columbia River cruises reveal the rugged beauty of America's Pacific Northwest, where excursions might include a hike among the towering cascades of Multnomah Falls or a trip to volcanic Mount St. Helens.
There are many other rivers around the world that offer more unforgettable sights, like the Volga in Russia, the Nile in Egypt, the Po River in Italy, the Main and Moselle in central Europe, the Hudson in New York and the Chobe in south-central Africa.