The first tourist ship to negotiate the river passage from the Vietnamese Mekong to the more tranquil Cambodian side in 2003, the RV Mekong Pandaw is still doing the trip today. The 24 teak-and-brass cabins have panoramic windows, and complimentary ice-cream is served from dawn to dusk on the sundeck.
• Pandaw’s four-night Saigon-Phnom Penh trip costs from £630 full-board, including entrance fees and guiding
Evia is Greece’s second-largest island, and more popular with domestic tourists than foreigners. Take the kids and explore by caïque, the region’s traditional wooden fishing boat, stopping to scramble among ancient ruins, swim in the Aegean and load up on feta and filo in local tavernas.
• Explore’s eight-day family caïque cruise on eight-cabin MV Isidoros costs from £625 adult, £565 child
People have been building boats on this stretch of the Aegean coast since classical times, and from the outside, their traditional wooden, twin-masted gulets look much as they ever did. But inside, it’s a different story. Passengers sleep in eight comfortable cabins, and swap fishing duties for swimming, sunbathing and some light sightseeing.
• Direct Traveller’s eight-day Sail Away in Bodrum trip costs from £201pp, including accommodation and most meals
Kerala backwaters, India
Most people just spend a night in Kerala’s palm-lined backwaters on a thatched houseboat, and stick to the busier channels. On this six-night trip, the crew will pilot your one-cabin boat through quiet canals to tourist-free temples and villages, and serve coconut-laced curries under the stars.
• Kerala Connections’ six-night cruise on a converted kettuvallam (rice barge) costs from £735pp full-board, keralaconnections.co.uk
Senegal to Gambia
Experience the wilder side of cruising on a voyage from Dakar down the coast of Senegal and up the Gambia river (pictured) in a 25-cabin yacht. There’s a stop in Banjul, but most of the time you’re in pristine nature reserves, spotting hippos, crocodiles, chimpanzees, bushbabies, and countless birds.
• Seafarer Cruises’ one-week Rivers of West Africa cruise costs from £1,325pp full-board
Island hopping, Maldives
If over-water bungalows don’t float your boat, it doesn’t mean the Maldives are a no-go area. Island-hopping on a traditional wooden dhoni with just five cabins, passengers can sunbathe on uninhabited sands, snorkel over quiet coral reefs and dine with a local community.
• G Adventures’ seven-day Maldives Dhoni Cruise trip from Male costs from £989pp full-board
The Hebrides, Scotland
The other five guests, skipper and chef aren’t the only companions on this refitted “tall ship” in the Hebrides. In most remote, tranquil bays, passengers will be joined by sea eagles, basking sharks, orcas and dolphins. Days can be spent swimming, hiking, and sinking a shot of whisky or three.
• St Hilda Sea Adventures’ five-night Sounds of the Hebrides cruise costs from £750pp full-board
Nile temples, Egypt
Tutankhamun isn’t the only Egyptian royal with history on the Nile. In 1938, Egypt’s last king, Farouk, launched his steamship, the Misr, on the river. Restored to its former glory in 2006, it has 24 plush cabins packed with antiques, all with marble bathrooms.
• Memphis Tours’ four-day cruises cost from £564pp full-board, including excursions
Gota canal, Sweden
The Göta Canal Cruise
Cruise Sweden’s “Blue Ribbon”, part of a 614km waterway linking Gothenburg to the Baltic, on a steamer and watch castles, churches and villages float by. The 25-cabin, 1912-built Wilhelm Tham has period furnishings and white tablecloths, and guests don’t have to help at any of the 44 locks for which the canal was nicknamed “divorce ditch”.
• A three-day Göta Canal Highlights cruise costs from £743pp full-board
Six island hop, Cape Verde
Photograph: Getty Images
Explore the Cape Verde archipelago with its mixture of African and Portuguese heritage and welcoming locals on a three-masted Motorsailer that can accommodate up to 49 passengers in 24 cabins. It takes in coffee and sugar plantations, colonial towns and the Fogo volcano.
• Variety Cruises’ eight day Islands of Cape Verde trip costs from £1,600 full-board including excursions