Private river cruises designed for social distance travel


If you’re feeling inspired by World Rivers Day, which this year falls on September 27, start planning one of these river cruises now available for exclusive charter.

At any time, river cruises provide access to life along some of the world’s great waterways. In this time of social distancing, the private charter of these vessels is more attractive than ever.

Across Asia and South America

One of the world leaders in small ship travel, Aqua Expeditions, offers river trips along the Amazon and Mekong rivers, with the new river expedition vessel, Aqua Nera, joining existing ships, Aria Amazon and Aqua Mekong, later this year. Offering an attractive way to travel into the new normal, each luxury ship is available for private hire. While Aria Amazon can seat up to 32 passengers and Aqua Mekong has 40, the emphasis is more than ever on being able to allow small groups of family or friends to go on adventures with the l ‘exclusive use of the entire vessel.

The itineraries aboard these three ships, ranging from three to seven nights, take you into secluded pockets of wilderness on tailor-made trips characterized by excursions focused on local wildlife and culture. Culinary expertise from world-class chefs, award-winning design and 1: 1 staff-to-guest ratio add to the luxurious appeal of ships, with amenities on every ship including observation decks and spacious suites with bay windows.

Climb aboard Aqua Mekong for an immersion in the culture and traditions of this waterway through Cambodia and Vietnam, the cuisine of Michelin-starred chef David Thompson, and onboard amenities including a cinema and an outdoor swimming pool. Or embark on an Aria Amazon expedition to explore the Peruvian Amazon and the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve, including daily excursions with naturalist guides and chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino’s culinary concept.

Aqua Expeditions’ new ship, the Aqua Nera, is now slated to debut at the end of 2020. Putting even more emphasis on design, this new ship will stand out with its interiors inspired by black water lagoons and tributaries of the Amazon River, as well as his tailor-made rainforest experiences and menus designed by Schiaffino. For added assurance in these uncertain times, all Aqua Expeditions vessels have a dedicated health and safety manager on board.

European trips

Emerald Waterways, another leading luxury travel cruise provider, is using World Rivers Day this year to remind people how important waterways around the world are and how rewarding it is to walk them. In these times of provisional planning of its future trips, the cruise line offers charters of its Star-Ships on European waterways. Having exclusive access to these ships means the inclusion of private shore excursions as well as private access to the ship’s suites, cabins, and onboard amenities including a bar, swimming pool, and cinema.

Among the Star-Ships available for hire is a ship specially tasked with navigating the Rhône and Saône rivers in southern France, the Emerald Liberté. This boat, built in 2017, takes passengers from Lyon to Avignon, while exploring culturally rich towns and wine regions. You can also travel along the Danube, Rhine and Main on Emerald Dawn or cruise the Douro on Emerald Radiance. Normally able to accommodate more than 100 passengers, these ships offer an extremely privileged charter experience.

On a smaller scale, Belmond offers private charters of its fleet of luxury river barges in France. This is part of Belmond’s new Exclusive Places offering launched in response to customers’ desire for more privacy. This new accommodation concept allows you to book a private portion of one of the Belmond hotels or a secure private charter of the brand’s luxury trains and barges. These spaces can be reserved for small groups of friends and families, typically between four and 12 people, and span the entire Belmond portfolio.

For Belmond Afloat in France, this offer includes a six-night private charter of Belmond Amaryllis, Belmond Fleur de Lys or Belmond Lilas on a trip through Burgundy. Belmond Lilas and Belmond Amaryllis can accommodate up to eight passengers in four cabins, while Belmond Fleur de Lys offers space for six. Each barge has an indoor and outdoor living and dining area, a terrace with sun loungers and a heated swimming pool. They are all equipped with bicycles for touring the surrounding villages or for pedaling along the canal.

As each itinerary is fully customizable, experiences are up to your personal preferences, whether you want to include hot air balloon rides, a truffle hunt, wine tasting, or cooking lessons. In addition to these excursions, Belmond is launching a new wellness itinerary consisting of activities such as bike rides, paddle boarding, hikes with a wildlife photographer and yoga sessions.

As the demand for private and socially distanced travel increases, trips like this could be the perfect way to start traveling again when it is possible to return to the world safely.


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