This epic voyage up China’s Yangtze river includes an excursion to see the Three Gorges Dam, an incredible feat of engineering whose infamy is matched only by its grand scale. After that you’ll cruise through the Wu Gorge, known for its forest covered mountains, before heading straight into the Qutang Gorge, the shortest, narrowest and most dramatic gorge of the three, with sheer rock faces towering over the route.
This four-night cruise along the longest river in Asia is broken up by a series of smaller excursions along the scenic tributary streams of the Yangtze in a local longboat steered by Tujia boatmen. The cruise is bookended by two night stays in Shanghai and Chengdu, where you’ll see pandas up close in a protected habitat, and enjoy local cuisine. wendywutours.co.uk
The Strand Cruise
Launched in early 2016, The Strand Cruise takes the legendary style of its sister property, The Strand Hotel Yangon, and reinvents it as a contemporary river cruise experience. Expect the same high standards of comfort and service for which the iconic hotel is renowned, combined with classic design touches that draw upon the location’s rich history as a meeting place for colonial explorers and raconteurs.
The 28-cabin ship will stop at private moorings close to landmarks along the Ayeyarwady River, allowing passengers to visit ancient capitals and temples. This March the cruise is operating a special gourmet-themed trip, on which passengers can join the ship’s executive chef Christian Martena and Michelin-starred guest chef Sylvain Royer as they visit rural markets to procure local ingredients. They will also present some of their signature dishes and wine pairings each evening. thestrandcruise.com
Fly directly from London into the colourful Norwegian city of Tromso, situated high above the Arctic Circle where the dramatic Lyngen Alps meet the sea, before embarking on a six-day voyage that takes passengers along the country’s remote northern coast, as far east as Kirkenes, where tired travellers are invited to bed down for the night in a hotel made entirely of ice.
Enjoy excursions to destinations seldom seen by tourists, taking in the historic town of Hammerfest – which not only sounds like a heavy metal festival, but holds the title of the northernmost town in the world – before reaching the spectacular North Cape, where you are just 2,000km from the Geographic North Pole. The journey’s course is contained entirely within the Arctic Circle, giving passengers the best possible opportunity to see the magnificent and elusive Northern Lights. hurtigruten.co.uk
An Amazon Adventure
Experience one of the most challenging of South American voyages as you journey for seven days along three powerful tributaries of the Amazon River – the Maranon, the Ucayali and the Puinahua – as well as several hidden blackwater lakes. Fish for piranha in Charo Lake, or spot monkeys and pink freshwater dolphins while skiffing around the Yacapana Islands, referred to by the locals as the Isles of the Iguana because of the booming lizard population.
A cruise for the truly adventurous, this trek into the Amazon isn’t without a touch of luxury, and service on board is finely-tuned to cater for exhausted, sweaty passengers, providing cold towels and air-conditioned rooms whenever the jungle becomes too much to handle. Local cuisine and drinks are served too, so you can sip on a classic Peruvian pisco sour on the upper deck while the sun goes down. aquaexpeditions.com
Arctic Express: Greenland’s Northern Lights
Dodge towering icebergs and curious whales on one of this cruise’s many day excursions, which see passengers taking to sea kayaks to explore Greenland’s most treacherous fjords and glaciers. A 10-day cruise for the warm-blooded and sure-footed, this epic arctic tour embarks from Reykjavik before pushing deep into the dark northern latitudes, revealing the otherworldly beauty of this rarely seen part of the world. Hikes through the frozen wilderness are accessible only by zodiac motorboats, and guides are armed with rifles to defend from hungry polar bears and territorial musk oxen.
The 78-passenger, ice-strengthened Ocean Nova charts a course that includes visits to remote Inuit communities along the country’s sparsely-populated Eastern coast, where passengers can sample local cuisine and embark on sled rides with working dogs. To finish, passengers are invited to plunge into the frigid waters themselves – though we’re assured this part is optional. quarkexpeditions.com
Sailing the Great Bear Rainforest
See grizzly bear fishing for salmon and explore the protected waters of this spectacular corner of North America on this eight-day, small-ship Canadian cruise. Setting off towards the coastal mountain region of the Fiordlan Provincial Protected Area, a group of 16 passengers can visit native villages and remote estuaries in the hopes of clapping eyes on some roaming wild beasts. From there the cruise charts a meandering course along the shores of Princess Royal Island, where you’ll find an opportunity to see the rare Kermode bear, a type of black bear famous for its all-white fur and scathing film reviews.
Spend a day with local Tshimshian guides, who’ll share their favourite wildlife viewing areas and lead you to ancient sites decorated in local art. An on-board naturalist ensures you never miss out on spotting whales and other assorted wildlife too. discover-the-world.co.uk