Every river has a mind of its own. Some are romantic and playful and then there are those that paint a picture of serenity. It’s on a cruise that you will encounter the many moods of a river. Along the journey learn about stories from the past, explore new lands and visit forgotten civilisations. You may not have the time to set sail across oceans, but there are always the short cruises. Lakshmi Sharath lists five such cruises that caught her fancy.

The Rhine Cruise, Germany

If you have dreamt of a fairy tale cruise, then the Rhine is like a magic carpet taking you into a world of castles and cathedrals where fairies and witches hovered around the kings and queens. The Rhine is the longest river in Germany and there are several cruises ranging from a few hours to days. The Romantic Middle Rhine Cruise takes one through the World Heritage Site, the Upper Middle Rhine Valley from Rudesheim to Koblenz. Stand at the deck with a glass of wine, and looking at verdant vineyards punctuated by medieval towns. At every turn of the river, learn about rogue barons and wicked bishops who lived in the fortresses perched atop vineyards.

The Bosphorus Strait, Turkey

Separating continents while bridging cultures is the Bosphorus Strait that takes you along a historic passage across Europe and Asia in barely a couple of hours. In Istanbul, this cruise along the Strait of Constantinople, makes one feel like a merchant from a different era. There are several cruises along the Bosphorus and one of the popular ones combines the Golden Horn, an inlet of Bosphorus which separates old Istanbul from the rest of the city. Cruise down the ages into the past and visit old Byzantium and Constantinople as fortresses and palaces dot the landscape. There are cruises that take you up to the Black Sea as well. But if you are a romantic at heart, do choose the moonlight cruise.

Ton Le Sap, Cambodia

The largest fresh water reserve in South East Asia, Ton Le Sap is both a river and a lake, swelling and shrinking according to the seasons and changing directions twice in a year. I was in Siem Reap in Cambodia at the beginning of the dry season and the water was still overflowing into the Mekong Delta. Cruising down this ecological hotspot, a lifeline to more than three million people who live on the floating villages along the lake, I visited Kampong Phluk where I saw a cluster of stilted houses, supported by bamboo that towered beyond ten m , partially flooded with water. Small restaurants floated along the waters even villagers continued going about their daily routine. More cruises take people to the touristy village of Chong Kneas, the bird sanctuary at Prek Toal or to the remote village Kampong Khleang.

Lochs of Scotland

A monster may be roaming around Loch Ness but there is a mysterious charm surrounding the lochs of Scotland. These freshwater lakes or fjords add to the ethereal beauty of Scotland and if you are visiting the Scottish Highlands, then cruising down these lochs is something that one must not miss. Loch Lomond is the largest inland stretch of water by surface and following it is Loch Ness. However there are several lochs flowing all around Scotland and you can choose the ones where cruises are organised. Thankfully, there wasn’t any any monster during our visit.

Liberty Island Cruise, USA

Towering at a height of 300 ft , is the symbol of USA, representing freedom – the Statue of Liberty. Although the statue has been featured over and over again in every film and magazine, there is nothing like seeing it in person and climbing up the pedestal to the crown. A cruise from Manhattan in New York City across the Hudson River gets us to Liberty Island. Sea gulls start following the moment you get on board. On an evening cruise you can see the skyline of New York City lighting up. And while you are there, also visit Ellis Island.