1. The Mississippi
You don’t have to leave the U.S. to cruise. Popular domestic destinations include the rivers of the Pacific Northwest and the mighty Mississippi, says Mark Murphy of TravelPulse.com. Book by Oct. 31 for half off December sailings from New Orleans to Vicksburg, Miss., and back with American Queen Steamboat Co. The firm has two eight-day options for $1,275 a person (down from $2,550). Stops include the Oak Valley Plantation in Louisiana and the Old Natchez Trace trail in Mississippi. Onboard, dine in one of two restaurants and watch the river from the deck-mounted swing.
2. The Rhine
You’ll find holiday deals on this Western European river. AmaWaterways is offering up to 40% off cruises from Basel to Amsterdam in November and December. The 13-day trip starts in Zurich, then heads up the Rhine, stopping along the way so you can tour local Christmas markets and sip mulled wine in cities like Cologne, Germany, and Strasbourg, France. The trip, typically $2,800 a person, drops as low as $1,680 if you book before Oct. 15. Prefer to wait for warmer weather? Snag a balcony room on more than 90 AmaWaterways 2015 sailings by the end of the month and get up to $1,500 off.
This 2,700-mile river runs through Vietnam and Cambodia, passing lush farmlands as well as metropolises like Ho Chi Minh City. A 15-day trip with Viking River Cruises is a great way to explore the area, says Ruth Turpin of Cruises, Etc. You’ll explore the temple of Angkor Wat, see dance performances in Phnom Penh, and take a culinary tour of the floating markets of Cái Bè. Viking recently slashed its 2015 prices; this cruise, which launches multiple times each month, is now $3,500 (regularly $7,000) when booked before Oct. 31, and includes intracountry airfare and hotels.
Don't Get Caught Short by Extra Costs
While river cruises are often billed as “inclusive,” you will need to shell out for some expenses. Here are the big ones.
Budget for flights to and from your cruise, as well as for lodging the night before you depart (you don’t want to miss the ship!) and transportation from your hotel to the boat, says Adventure Life Journey’s Mary Curry.
Before you imbibe, read the fine print: Rates often include beer and wine with lunch and dinner, but you’ll usually pay extra for premium liquors or any drinks outside of mealtimes, says Scott Kertes of Hartford Holidays.
Gratuities for staff and guides aren’t usually included, though there are exceptions, such as trips with Tauck. Not sure how much to give? “Budget about $100 per person per week,” says Murphy of TravelPulse.com.