SAGA Travel

SAGA Travel

November 25, 2010 06:46 ET

River Cruises Exclusive to Saga

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM--(Marketwire - Nov. 25, 2010) - A river cruise is a fabulous way to explore a region, as it combines the excitement of a touring holiday with the convenience of returning to the same comfortable, convivial accommodation each day.

You can enjoy all of these cruises aboard Rex Rheni and Regina Rheni II, river cruise ships chartered exclusively for Saga passengers.

A blooming good time

Ever since tulip mania struck in the 1630s, the Netherlands has been at the forefront of the flower industry. Today almost half of all internationally traded flowers and plants come from this tiny nation, with roses, chrysanthemums and of course tulips topping the export charts.

You'll be able to see the vast flower fields at their most impressive if you join a springtime cruise through the windmill-studded landscape. For a country largely reclaimed from the sea it's hardly surprising that Holland has more than 4,400 kilometres of navigable rivers, canals and lakes to explore.

What's perhaps more surprising is that Holland has the highest concentration of museums in the world, more than 40 of which can be found in Amsterdam. If it's your first time in the capital make sure you visit the Rijksmuseum to see the works of Rembrandt and his contemporaries, and take a detour along Prinsengracht to see the poignant exhibition housed in Anne Frank's former hideout. Springtime in Holland cruise

A tale of two countries

Flanders is a unique region of Europe. Considered part of Dutch-speaking Belgium but with its own Flemish dialect, the area is famed for its art, gastronomy and medieval cities.

One such city is Ghent, which made its fortune from the wool and textile industry in the Middle Ages. Centuries later, more than 900 elegant listed buildings still stand proud alongside its canals and cobbled streets. Most of the architecture escaped damage during the Second World War, but nearby Antwerp fared less favourably.

As a strategic port it was the target for thousands of V-2 missiles, although parts remained unscathed. Grote Markt is a fine example of how the city once looked: almost Disneyesque in appearance, the seven-storey Guildhouses which surround this grand square depict the Flemish Renaissance style of the 16th century and are adorned with golden statues. Voyage through Flanders cruise

Europe's lifeblood

Said to carry more river traffic than any other waterway in the world, the Rhine runs a gauntlet through mountains, forests, valleys and vineyards, crossing the border of six countries en route. From its source high up in the Swiss Alps, Europe's main artery eventually flows into the North Sea having traversed some 820 miles and descended thousands of feet.

At Konstanz, the spot from where all distances along the riverbank are measured, the river spans just 490 feet; by the time it reaches Cologne it has increased to nearly two and a half times that width. This makes it ample size for pleasure cruisers and working barges to navigate and to provide more than 30 million Europeans with drinking water and hydroelectric power.

Statistics paint only half the picture however, for this river is also dramatically beautiful. The upper part of the Middle Rhine Valley has been given UNESCO World Heritage status both for the role it played in the exchange of cultures and for its inspiring landscape of terraced vineyards and steep-sided gorges. Romantic Rhineland cruise

Raise a glass

It was the early Greeks who supposedly introduced wine to central Europe but the Romans who truly made an impact on the Rhine and Moselle Valleys' landscapes. Their vines flourished in the benevolent climate, although when the hanseatic powers began to import sweeter, lighter wines from the south they forced a decline in local trade.

Small-scale viticulture continued through the centuries and rose to prominence once again in the 1950s, resulting in a top ten placing for Germany among the world's largest wine producers. Of course the drink never went out of favour with the locals, as testified by the beautiful old wine taverns which nestle in the heart of the medieval towns and villages.

From sweet, white Liebfraumilch and aromatic Riesling to the dark, rich red of Pinot Noir, a cruise along the Rhine and its tributary the Moselle is the perfect way to sample Germany's finest grapes. Wine towns of the Moselle river cruise

An illuminating event

Imagine the sound of firecrackers ricocheting around the valley and the sparkle of multicoloured fireworks reflected on the tar-black waters of the Rhine.

This is the spectacle that awaits visitors to the annual Rhine in Flames festival, an extraordinary event which is guaranteed to shed a whole new light on the river. Glitter-filled rockets, crackling sunbursts and showers of blazing stars seem to explode from the ancient castles high up on the banks to create a dazzling pyrotechnic display.

And when the smoke clears and the noise abates, the party continues with street stalls and festivities along the riverbank.

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