As younger, fitter and independent-minded travellers discover the joys of river cruising, cruise lines are responding by laying on a raft of more active shore excursions. Rather than walking sedately through a historic site or village, passengers can now opt for tours that involve cycling – guided or independent – running, hiking, kayaking, Segway-riding and horse-riding.
This year, Avalon Waterways is operating Active Discovery itineraries on select Danube and Rhine cruises and has added the Rhone to its 2019 schedules. On a nine-day sailing between Budapest and Linz, for example, you can take a walking tour that’s combined with a language lesson in Budapest; go jogging through Vienna; canoe down the Danube; and go cycling in most ports of call.
The eight-day Arles to Lyon cruise offers guided hikes through the Camargue Regional Natural Park (perfect for birdwatching), a cycling tour in Avignon combined with a wine tasting (downhill all the way back to the ship – only joking), and a canoe trip down the Gorges de l’Ardèche.
Uniworld’s Let’s Go program features guided walking, hiking, cycling, kayaking and golfing tours; in Venice you can even try gondola rowing. The ships carry bikes and Nordic walking poles so you can take off on your own; yoga classes are held onboard and you can sign up with a wellness instructor for TRX Suspension Training classes.
Crystal River Cruises, which now has five ships sailing the Danube, Main, Rhine and Moselle rivers – Crystal Ravel joined the fleet in April – offers a range of shore excursions that are rated from ‘soft adventure’ to ‘extreme adventure’.
There are lots of cycling and e-biking tours, and more unusual experiences such as a hike up Avala Mountain from Belgrade followed by a meditative yoga session at the peak. If you’re not worried by heights, a forest trek that includes crossing Germany’s longest suspension bridge, Geierlay Bridge, might appeal; in Serbia you can ride a horse through Fruska Gora National Park from the enchantingly named Good Piglet Ranch.