by Jane Archer from The Telegraph, December 11, 2017
1. Monet in Paris
Delay a spring cruise on the Seine until early June (summer starts officially on June 21) and with luck the water lilies immortalised by Claude Monet will be in flower. His Giverny gardens are not to be missed; trips to Honfleur and Auvers-sur-Oise, where Van Gogh died, reveal more about the impressionists.
Avalon (0800 668 1843; avaloncruises.co.uk) offers an eight-day Paris to Normandy cruise round-trip from £2,539 per person full board including flights, drinks with meals, most tours and tips. Departs June 9.
2. Music on the Danube
Spring is perfect for a river cruise to Budapest, as the city’s museums, concert halls and streets come alive with music, art, dance and opera to celebrate the largest cultural festival in Hungary (March 30 to April 22 in 2018). Music lovers will delight in Mozart and Strauss concerts in Vienna, and seeing Mozart’s childhood violin and his music manuscripts in the Salzburg house, now a museum, where he was born.
Uniworld (0808 281 1125; uniworld.com) offers a 10-day Enchanting Danube and Munich cruise-and-stay pairing two nights in Munich with a cruise from Passau to Budapest from £2,429 per person full-board including drinks, tours and tips. Flights cost extra. Departs March 30.
3. Wellness break at sea
March is not only a good time to spring-clean the house, but also to get the body back in shape after a winter of festive excess. Land-based gyms are costly and boring. Keep fit on one of AmaWaterways’ new wellness river cruises, however, and you’ll not just save your pennies, but be jogging, stretching and cycling to a different backdrop every day.
AmaWaterways (0800 320 2335; amawaterways.co.uk) offers a seven-night Taste of Bordeaux cruise round-trip from Bordeaux from £2,111 per person full board including twice-daily fitness classes, drinks with meals and tours. Flights extra. Departs March 29.
4. Gardens in Holland
In Holland, seven million tulip bulbs are planted each year in Keukenhof gardens, creating wonderful displays. If you’re quick enough to secure a cabin on Telegraph Tours’ Holland in Bloom cruise, you can enjoy them in the company of gardening expert and TV presenter Carol Klein. She will also be offering tips and talks during the cruise, while The Telegraph’s gardening writer Helen Yemm is hosting a live version of her Thorny Problems advice column.
Emerald Waterways (03331 227 907; telegraph.co.uk/travel/tours) offers an eight-day Holland in Bloom cruise, with Carol Klein, round-trip from Amsterdam from £1,695 per person full board, including flights, drinks with meals, tours and tips. Departs April 12.
5. Castles on the Rhine
There will most likely be a winter chill in the air on the Rhine in April, but don’t be put off. Spring is a busy time on the river as cruisers rush to beat high summer prices, trees begin to blossom and the café culture in Holland, Germany and France kicks in. Scenic’s Rhine cruises visit all three countries: sail through the castle-strewn Rhine Gorge and end your cruise in Switzerland.
Scenic (0808 120 9126; scenic.co.uk ) offers an eight-day Rhine Highlights cruise from Basel to Amsterdam from £2,770 per person including flights, all meals, drinks, tours and tips. Departs April 23.
6. Wildlife in Myanmar
Swap a chilly European spring for the warmth of Asia on a Pandaw cruise around the Irrawaddy Delta in Myanmar. This is a true adventure, visiting towns, markets, temples, churches and mosques where Westerners are a rarity, and also a wildlife reserve where saltwater crocodiles lurk. Sign up quick as there are only two departures in 2018, both in March, on a vessel that holds just 32 passengers.
Pandaw (0208 326 5620; pandaw.co.uk) offers a seven-night Great Irrawaddy Delta cruise round-trip from Yangon from $2,117 (£1,575) per person full-board including drinks, tours and tips. Flights extra. Departs March 18.
7. Cherry blossom in Berlin
Cruising the Elbe in spring is not just a good excuse for seeing cherry blossom in Berlin but also a fairly sure way of avoiding the low water that plagues the river most summers – and which, incidentally, means few cruise lines dare to sail here, so capacity is very limited. Among rewards for booking fast are visits to Wittenberg, the birthplace of Protestantism; Meissen, famed for its porcelain; and the beautiful city of Dresden.
CroisiEurope (020 8328 1281; croisieurope.co.uk ) offers a nine-day cruise from Berlin to Prague from £1,794 per person full- board including drinks. Flights extra. Departs April 4.
8. Easter on the Mississippi
Easter in the US means colourful parades, eggs and bunnies, so you’ll feel at home celebrating on a Mississippi river cruise, but be aware that the holiday weekend is a favourite for Americans, so the boats fill fast. When not painting eggs, there are antebellum mansions to explore and civil war battlefields to discover on this cruise on American Duchess.
American Queen Steamboat Company (01223 568904; l ightbluetravel.co.uk) offers a nine-day Springtime in the South/Easter cruise from New Orleans to Memphis from £3,025 per person full-board including flights, a pre-cruise hotel night, drinks with dinner and hop-on, hop-off bus tours. Departs March 25.
9. Fruit trees in Portugal
June, July and August in the Douro Valley are dubbed three months of hell by the locals, so most people beat the summer heat by cruising there in spring instead. It’s a lovely time of year, with peach and orange trees starting to blossom and the tiny grapes used to make the region’s famed port wine peeking through the verdant vines that cloak the steep river banks.
Shearings (0344 874 8220; shearings.co.uk ) offers a seven-day Porto and the Douro Valley cruise round-trip from Porto from £1,256 per person full board including flights. Departs April 14.
10. Art tour in Belgium and Holland
Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum receives around 1.6 million visitors each year, so APT’s spring river cruise around Holland and Belgium, with a private tour before the doors open to the public, will be snapped up. There’s more Van Gogh on offer at the Kröller-Müller Museum near Arnhem, plus a visit to the former home and studio of Rubens in Antwerp.
APT (0800 046 3002; aptouring.co.uk ) offers an eight-day Springtime in Holland and Belgium cruise round-trip from Amsterdam from £2,795 per person full board including flights, a private visit to the Van Gogh Museum, drinks, tours and tips. Departs April 20.