Whoever said cruises were just for lazing around? More cruisers than ever are now after cruises that make them feel more cultural, forgoing sand, sun and total relaxation for thriving cities, breathtaking galleries and a cultural overdose. Cruise lines are now making it easier than ever to do just this, offering exciting but still affordable cruises to cities like St Petersburg, Budapest and Bilbao, and many of them are under £1,000. We’ve rounded up six of the best bargain cruises on offer… so what are you waiting for?

1. Buenos Aires

Birthplace of the most sensual dance of all, Buenos Aires is packed with cultural delights including vibrant tango halls and Latin American art museums, and the president’s house, Casa Rosada, steeped in political history. Going in sun-soaked January also lets you get a mid-winter tan.

9-night ‘South America’ cruise, round trip from Buenos Aires via Punte Del Este, Ilhabela, Buzios and Rio De Janeiro, departing 23 January 2020, from £1,019, msccruises.co.uk

Bargain cultural cruises Buenos Aires
Beautiful Buenos Aires has it all, great food, friendly people and heaps of culture

2. St Petersburg

It doesn’t get more cultural than a visit to the palatial rooms of the Hermitage, home to the Gonzaga Cameo, and a Da Vinci masterpiece, The Benois Madonna. Get your fix of history, ballet and Fabergé with NCL’s two-night stay in the City of Palaces, plus a visit to culture-dense Berlin and Helsinki.

8-night ‘Scandinavia, Russia & Baltic’ cruise, round trip from Copenhagen via Berlin, Tallinn, St Petersburg, Helsinki and Stockholm, departing 11 October 2019, from £949, ncl.co.uk

3. The Danube

Winding through the hilltop fortresses and walled old towns of Budapest, Bratislava and Vienna, a Danube river cruise has it all: scenery, history and a whole lot of sights. This round trip from medieval Passau even passes through Linz, a European Capital of Culture.

7-night ‘Danube’ cruise, round trip from Passau via Budapest, Bratislava, Vienna and Linz, departing 14 October 2019, from £714, nicko-cruises.de

cultural cruises: The Danube
The blue loops of the Danube take travellers through some of Europe’s best landscapes

4. Japan

It may be just weeks short of the cherry blossom season, but crisp and sunny February is a great time to visit Japan, without the crowds. This round trip from Tokyo will allow you to experience the culture-shock capital with its bullet trains and self-serve ramen machines, but also the serene beauty of Mount Fuji.

7-night ‘Japan & Taiwan’ cruise, round trip from Tokyo via Shimizu, Kobe, Okinawa and Taipei, departing 20 February 2020, from £549, princess.com

5. Bilbao

Often outshone by Barcelona and Valencia, Basque capital Bilbao has cobbled alleyways brimming with tapas bars and gothic architecture, such as the Cathedral de Santiago. One of Spain’s most important art collections resides at the Guggenheim, plus it’s a short ride to Spain’s foodie capital, the epicurean dream of San Sebastian.

7-night ‘Canary Islands & Iberia’ cruise with P&O, round trip from Southampton via Cherbourg, La Coruna, Bilbao and St Peter Port, departing 12 April 2020, from £616, cruise118.com

 

Cultural cruises: New Orleans French Quarter at night
New Orleans’ bustling and dynamic French Quarter

6. New Orleans

Visiting the colourful, balcony-clad French Quarter of New Orleans is like entering a movie set. This city is packed with cultural hotspots, like the chilling voodoo museum and artist-packed Jackson Square. So get your fill of the Big Easy before visiting Cozumel and its Mayan ruins.

7-day ‘Western Caribbean’ cruise, round trip from New Orleans via Mahogany Bay, Belize and Cozumel, departing 29 September 2019, from £422, carnival.com