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

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

Across Asia and South America

One of the global leaders in small ship voyages, Aqua Expeditions, offers river journeys along the Amazon and Mekong rivers, with the new river expedition vessel, Aqua Nera, joining the existing ships, Aria Amazon and Aqua Mekong, later this year. Providing an appealing way to travel in the new normal, each luxury vessel is available for private charter. While Aria Amazon and Aqua Mekong accommodate up to 32 passengers, the focus is now more than ever on allowing small groups of family or friends to set out on an adventure with exclusive-use of the entire vessel.

Itineraries on-board these three ships, ranging from three to seven nights, take in remote pockets of wilderness on tailored journeys distinguished by excursions focusing on wildlife and local culture. The culinary expertise of world-class chefs, award-winning design and 1:1 staff to guest ratio add to the vessels’ luxury appeal, with amenities on each ship including observation decks and spacious suites with floor-to-ceiling glass.

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

Aqua Expeditions new ship, Aqua Nera, is now set to make its debut in late 2020. Placing even more emphasis on design, this new vessel will stand out for its interiors inspired by the black water lagoons and tributaries of the Amazon River, along with its bespoke rainforest experiences and menus devised by Schiaffino. For added assurance in this time of uncertainty, all of Aqua Expeditions’ ships have a dedicated on-board health and safety officer.

European journeys

Another of luxury travel’s great cruise providers, Emerald Waterways, is using World Rivers Day this year to remind people how important the waterways across the globe are and how rewarding it is to journey down them. In these times of tentatively planning ahead for future travel, the cruise operator is offering charters of its Star-Ships on Europe’s waterways. Having exclusive access to these vessels means the inclusion of private shore excursions as well as private access to the ship’s suites, staterooms and on-board amenities including a bar, pool and cinema.

Among the Star-Ships available for charter is a vessel that was specially commissioned to sail the Rhône and Saône of Southern France, Emerald Liberté. This 2017-built boat takes passengers from Lyon to Avignon, with exploration of culturally rich cities and wine regions along the way. You can alternatively travel along the Danube, Rhine and Main Rivers on Emerald Dawn or sail the Douro River on Emerald Radiance. Normally accommodating over 100 guests, these ships provide an extremely privileged charter experience.

On a smaller scale, Belmond offers private charters of its fleet of luxury river barges in France. This is a part of Belmond’s new Exclusive Places offering launched in response to guests’ desire for greater privacy. This new accommodation concept allows you to reserve a private section of one of Belmond’s hotels or secure private charter of the brand’s luxury trains and barges. These spaces can be reserved for small groups of friends and family, mostly between four and 12 guests, and extends across the Belmond portfolio.

For Belmond Afloat in France, this offer entails a six-night private charter of Belmond Amaryllis, Belmond Fleur de Lys or Belmond Lilas on a journey through Burgundy. Both Belmond Lilas and Belmond Amaryllis accommodate up to eight passengers in four cabins, while Belmond Fleur de Lys provides space for six. Each barge has indoor and outdoor living and dining space, a sundeck with loungers and heated swimming pool. They all come equipped with bicycles for rides into the local villages or to peddle alongside the canal.

As each itinerary is fully customisable, experiences depend on your personal preference, whether you want to include hot-air balloon rides, truffle hunting, vineyard tasting or cooking classes. In addition to these excursions, Belmond is launching a new wellbeing itinerary made up of activities such as cycling tours, paddle boarding, hiking with a wildlife photographer and yoga sessions.

As the demand for private and socially distanced travel increases, journeys like these could be the ideal way to begin travelling again when it’s safe to get back out into the world.

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