Sailing to Venetian coastal towns and lunching with locals: Discover more of Europe on a luxury river cruise

Uniworld’s all-inclusive itineraries offer immersive experiences, trips down the Gironde and Danube rivers, plus plenty of amenities onboard

River cruises are a great way to explore multiple regions and smaller cities while only having to unpack once. PHOTO: UNIWORLD

River cruises – where cosy ships offer an intimate boutique hotel-like experience, and travel down meandering rivers right to the heart of bustling cities and quiet villages – are fast becoming a popular way to discover hidden gems. With multiple destinations, comfortable amenities, and carefully curated itineraries, you only have to unpack once to enjoy myriad unique experiences for days.

This is what you can expect with Uniworld Boutique River Cruises. The all-inclusive luxury river cruise doesn't just promise a decadent onboard experience, it also caters to holidaymakers looking for something out of the ordinary. With their Masterpiece Collection Experiences, you will explore lesser-known spots off Austria, cruise through the streets of Bordeaux on a retro sidecar motorcycle, and can also opt for after-hours tours of famous landmarks and private vineyards.

Summer (June to August) is also the perfect season to experience Europe, with comfortably warm and sunny days that stretch late into the night. Fall asleep to the gentle ebb and flow of the river and wake up to a brand new view right outside your window. Here are five Uniworld itineraries to embark on for an adventure of a lifetime.

Brilliant Bordeaux Cruise: Enjoy wine tasting at a château, visit farmers markets and take scenic bike rides 

Savour some of France’s finest wines when you visit its sprawling vineyards. PHOTO: UNIWORLD

Embark on an eight-day journey to the heart of France’s wine region with the Brilliant Bordeaux itinerary aboard the exquisite S.S. Bon Voyage. From the Yves Saint Laurent-inspired interiors, to freshly baked croissants, you’ll be immersed in French culture, art and wine from the moment you step on board.

Cruise along the picturesque Garonne, Dordogne, and Gironde rivers, stopping at handpicked destinations that will bring you to the heart of charming French towns.

On day two, you will take a motorcoach to the town of Cadillac, famed for its dessert wines. There you will tour the vineyards of Château Royal de Cazeneuve, meet with the owners who are descendants of the French royal family and join them for a Sauternes wine toast.

At the Médoc wine route, you can immerse yourself in the local culture with a guided bike tour or a leisurely scenic drive, admiring a breathtaking blend of architectural styles that include Renaissance, Greek Revival, and Medieval. Later, indulge in a Grand Cru wine tasting session, savouring the complex flavours of premier wines that put Bordeaux on the map.

Bike rides are the perfect way to discover Bordeaux and its charming backstreets. PHOTO: UNIWORLD

On day six, you will drop by Libourne’s farmers’ market to buy fresh local produce while meeting the artisans who bring the goods to the market. In the evening, you will be treated to an immersive light show at a submarine base built during World War II. This event will be held after hours exclusively for Uniworld guests.

Portugal, Spain & The Douro River Valley Cruise: Taste famous Port wine and sample fresh chorizo and cheeses

Taste authentic and fresh Spanish fare when you visit Salamanca’s tapas bars and central market. PHOTO: UNIWORLD

Uniworld’s 11-day Portugal, Spain & the Douro River Valley itinerary  spans two countries and covers six UNESCO World Heritage sites. You will travel down the magnificent Douro River on the S.S. São Gabriel where you'll discover the best that Portugal and Spain have to offer, from terraced hillsides and quaint villages to lush vineyards.

At Porto, indulge in the region's most famous export – Port wine. Learn about the region’s unique geology and winemaking history at the Douro Museum. Fun fact: Romans planted vines in this region 2,000 years ago. In the picturesque wine town of Pinhão, you will be hosted by owners of a local quinta (country estate) for a traditional Portuguese dinner.

History buffs can explore the Archaeological Park of the Côa Valley, where prehistoric carvings of horses, deer and aurochs are beautifully preserved. Experience this UNESCO-protected area via four-wheel drive down dirt roads and a hike into hard-to-reach locations.

As the cruise navigates through the Douro River Valley, soak in the stunning landscapes before reaching the historic Spanish university town of Salamanca, known as the "Golden City" for its sand-coloured buildings and abundance of churches. Foodies will love the Central Market, where they can purchase fresh Spanish produce, sample chorizos, cheeses, and hams, and buy olive oil as souvenirs. And if you have time, ask your cruise manager for tapas bar recommendations for a quick bite.

Milan, Venice & The Jewels of Veneto Cruise: Sail to coastal towns and visit a fishing village

The S.S. La Venezia features Venetian elements such as Murano glass, gilded accents and artistic etching. PHOTO: UNIWORLD

Discover a new side of Italy with Uniworld's 10-day Milan, Venice & the Jewels of Veneto itinerary, which takes you on a journey through coastal towns in the Veneto region.

Your adventure begins on the luxurious S.S. La Venezia, which pays homage to 20th-century Venetian aesthetics with its exquisite use of Murano glass, gilded accents, and artistic etched elements.

Starting from the bustling Milan, you'll travel down to the floating city of Venice to explore the tiny islands of Burano, Torcello, and Mazzorbo. These charming islands in the northern lagoon of Venice are best explored on leisurely strolls, with their colourful facades, waterfront shops, and calm canals offering a serene respite from the mainland Venice.

The highlight of this area is the Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta, the oldest church in the lagoon, which you'll visit with a local art historian. And if you're looking for some authentic Italian craftsmanship, you can head to the nearby island of Murano to visit the renowned glassblowers who have been creating beautiful works of art for centuries.

A private after-hours visit to Saint Mark’s Basilica can also be arranged where you will be able to marvel at the iconic church in the evening light and without the crowds. Take your time to appreciate the magnificent domes, the intricate marble patterns and mosaic details.

Farther south, the river cruise brings you to discover the fishing village of Chioggia. Here, you will find one of the largest wholesale fish markets in Italy. If you are there on a Thursday, Chioggia also hosts Corso del Popolo, an outdoor market which sells everything from everyday knicknacks to clothes, shoes, purses and gadgets. 

Round up your trip with a private tasting at Dominio di Bagnoli, one of the oldest wine-producing properties in Europe, and a stroll through Venice’s former Jewish Ghetto with a local guide.

Delightful Danube & Prague Cruise: View historic monuments up close and attend a private music concert

Classical music aficionados will enjoy a private concert in one of Vienna’s historic halls. PHOTO: UNIWORLD

Art, music and history lovers will appreciate the 10-day Delightful Danube & Prague  itinerary that spans Austria, Czech Republic, Germany and Hungary.

In Vienna, your day begins with a private tour of The Belvedere museum, where you'll have ample time to admire the expansive art collection. During your walking tour, stop at a local coffee house for coffee and strudel, followed by a glass of Viennese wine from one of the city's oldest cellars.

Classical music aficionados will love the add-on option of a private music concert in one of Vienna’s historic halls featuring the repertoire of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Johann Strauss.

But this itinerary isn't just about history – Uniworld's Jewish Heritage Program showcases the vibrant Jewish communities and positive developments of modern-day life through visits to museums, memorials, synagogues, and more. 

In Regensburg, Bavaria's first capital and oldest documented settlement of Jewish people in Germany, explore historic monuments and meet with locals over coffee and cake for an immersive experience.

A spot on the S.S. Beatrice’s sun deck will reward you with stunning riverine scenery of castle ruins, historic villages and vineyards. PHOTO: UNIWORLD

There’s plenty to enjoy even when you are onboard the S.S. Beatrice cruise. As the ship winds through the Wachau Valley toward the Austrian towns of Emmersdorf and Spitz, Uniworld recommends getting comfortable on the sun deck to take in the stunning scenery of castle ruins, historic villages, and vineyards across rolling hills. This 30km stretch of riverine beauty has been declared a cultural landscape on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

For more onboard activities, Max restaurant also offers intimate cooking classes where you can create local European cuisines alongside the chef.

Highlights of Eastern European Cruise: Visit a famed cathedral’s crypt and learn how to make Bulgarian cheese pie

When you visit the Cathedral of St. Sava, you will tour a crypt, take in a choir performance and be treated to a tasting of wine and brandy. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

Uncover the hidden gems of Eastern Europe with Uniworld's Highlights of Eastern Europe itinerary, a 10-day voyage aboard the S.S. Beatrice that takes you through Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, and Bulgaria – all along the picturesque Danube River.

In the Croatian countryside town of Karanac, you'll visit a museum to learn about craftsmanship traditions before joining a local family for lunch and paying a quick visit to their home and garden.

Belgrade, Serbia, offers a special treat with an evening at the stunning dome-shaped Cathedral of St. Sava, featuring a golden mosaic-tiled interior and a crypt. Listen to a special choir performance and be swept away by familiar tunes such as Schubert's Ave Maria, along with a host of Serbian classics. After the concert, enjoy a tasting of wine and brandy produced exclusively in the region.

Bring home a taste of Bulgaria when you learn the recipe for the famed banista cheese pie. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

In the Bulgarian port city of Vidin, choose between exploring the Belogradchik red rock valley boasting weather-hewn rock formations that date back over 200 million years; or learning how to make banitsa, a traditional Bulgarian cheese pie, at the home of a local baker before visiting a kindergarten. Whichever experience you choose, you'll come away with unforgettable stories to share.

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