1. Sign up for an archi-tour of Chicago
Cruise along the Chicago River and the shore of Lake Michigan with a boat tour of the city’s famous skyline. Chicago Architecture Foundation trains the guides, who are engaging, thorough and, surprisingly, unscripted. A 90-minute outing highlights such Windy City icons as the Willis Tower, the second-largest building in the western hemisphere, and the Aqua Tower, the tallest skyscraper in the U.S. designed by a woman. Instagram stars should book the Capture Chicago version of the cruise, which includes strategic stops where riders can photograph the buildings from the best angles.
• DEPARTS: Southeast corner of the Michigan Avenue Bridge at Wacker Drive
• COST: US$39.74 per person ($42.58 for 7:30 p.m. cruises)
• CONTACT: Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise, 312-922-8687, architecture.org
2. Look behind the scenes at the Panama Canal
The Panama Canal functions thanks to the 425-square-kilometre Gatún Lake, one of the world’s largest man-made lakes. Spend the day exploring this wonder of engineering with Panama Canal Boat Tour, learning how the canal works and getting an up-close view of how ships pass between the Atlantic and the Pacific. Guides help identify the sloths, monkeys and crocodiles that live around the lake before ferrying you to lunch on a floating lodge. After eating, you can swim, kayak, fish or just relax by the lake in a hammock.
• COST: US$110
• CONTACT: Panama Canal Boat Tour, 866-390-3451, panamacanalboattour.com
3. Float along the waterways of Amsterdam
Friendship Amsterdam travels the city’s web of canals year-round on 45-person boats – just small enough to slip under low bridges and down less-frequented waterways. The trips are cozy, with hot and cold drinks (some alcoholic) and blankets to ward off the chill. Pre-recorded audio tracks are de rigueur on Amsterdam’s tourist boats, but these tours are delivered by personable and clever guides who tailor the information to the season.
• DEPARTS: Oudezijds Voorburgwal 230 (jetty at Krasnapolsky)
• COST: From 15€
• CONTACT: Rederij Friendship Amsterdam canal cruises, 31-20-334-4774, friendshipamsterdam.com
4. Go gourmet in Switzerland
Reservations are required, but worth it, for CGN’s dining cruises across Lake Geneva. Lunch and dinner tours are available, but we recommend the fondue option, offered in spring and autumn. The communal meal is served either fromage (bread dipped in cheese) or chinoise (meat and fish cooked in a communal pot of broth) on the deck of a Belle Époque steamship. The hearty food matches the surrounding Alpine scenery, including the tiered vineyards of Lavaux, Chillon Castle and the lake’s famous Jet d’Eau.
• DEPARTS: Ports in Geneva and Lausanne
• COST: 26 Swiss francs
• CONTACT: CGN Gourmet Cruises, 41-848-811-848, cgn.ch
5. See Hong Kong’s quieter side
Escape the dense bustle of Hong Kong on a junk – a small teak passenger ship – that glides through Sok Kwu Wan Bay, one of the region’s quieter bodies of water. Lunchtime cruises include a stop at the famed seafood restaurants of Lamma Island, but the twilight versions offer a more charmed view of the city’s skyline and nightly light show. Pay attention on the return journey through Repulse Bay, home to Hong Kong’s most opulent real estate developments.
• DEPARTS: Aberdeen Public Pier
• COST: HK$570 for four-hour cruises
• CONTACT: Island Junks, 852-2877-5222, islandjunks.com.hk
6. Straddle the divide in Istanbul
Turkey’s largest city straddles Asia and Europe over the Bosphorus, a 31-kilometre strait connecting the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara. Cruise the shores of both continents on a private yacht tour by Luxury Istanbul, passing Selimiye Barracks (where Florence Nightingale cared for soldiers during the Crimean War) and the Ottoman Baroque Ortaköy Mosque. Tours can be tailored to your desires, so request a stop at the Spice Bazaar, where you can purchase caraway, saffron and other native ingredients as souvenirs.
• DEPARTS: Cruise directors pick you up from your hotel or other accommodations
• COST: From 175€ per hour (two-hour minimum)
• CONTACT: Luxury Istanbul, 90-535-312-2642, luxuryistanbul.com
Starting this June, Air Canada will offer new year-round non-stop service from Toronto to Amsterdam.
Air Canada offers year-round non-stop service from Toronto to Panama City.
Air Canada, in conjunction with Star Alliance partner United Airlines, offers the most non-stop service from Canada to Chicago.
Air Canada offers year-round non-stop service from Toronto to Istanbul.