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5 festivals to see on a river cruise

clock 26th January 2016 | comment0 Comments

Updated February 2017


A river cruise can be a leisurely and exciting way to explore a new destination. From cruising the diverse and scenic riverbanks to stepping ashore in the heart of the city, there is plenty to see and do depending on your preferred pace of holiday.

mardi gras new orleans mississippi

Most river cruises provide ample opportunities to explore on foot. Make a point to delve into new destinations whilst in port and you can enjoy local cuisine, embrace new cultures and see a whole new way of life. Depending on when you chose to cruise you may be lucky enough to catch unique community events, celebrations or local festivals during your trip.

With river cruises available worldwide, the breadth of new and exciting experiences is endless. Check out a few of our favourite events below which you could encounter on your next river cruise.

Rhine in Flames

Sail on a Rhine river cruise in summer and you might just catch the Rhein in Flammen festival which is held in various locations from Rudesheim to Bonn every year from May to September. You can expect a large audience of around a quarter of a million enjoying a fantastic firework display with flames and romantic flair amidst this beautiful castle-lined region.

Dates in 2017:

Bonn - 06.05.2017

Koblenz - 12.08.2017

Budapest Summer Festival

Held between June and August, the Summer Festival is an incredible opportunity to experience the arts and music of Budapest. With musical performances from the Budapest Symphony and various jazz groups, open-air theatrical productions, exhibitions and more. Combine your river cruise with a stay in Budapest to make the most of the wide range of cultural programmes.


Mardi Gras

The unique and rarely touched region of the Mississippi river takes river cruisers through some of USA’s famous musical and cultural hotspots, including Memphis and New Orleans. New Orleans in particular is known for the Mardi Gras festival where parades and floats move through the city daily. Cruise the Mississippi with American Queen Steamboat Company.


Mardi Gras River Cruise


The Vienna Festival

As one of the icons of music and culture, Vienna holds a yearly festival highly regarded for its musical productions, from classical performances to operas and exhibitions. Stop in Vienna between May and June and you can see prime examples of Austria’s cultural magnificence. Explore Austria when you river cruise the Danube.



Usually during the last week of September, Oktoberfest is the most famous beer festival in the world. Say prost! (cheers!) with the locals in Munich as you learn of Bavarian traditions, enjoy the locally brewed beers and experience a whole host of celebrations. See Munich on a river fly-cruise, ask one of our sales agents for more details.



At Iglu Cruise we tailor-make our cruise holidays. If you can't find an itinerary to suit your festival plans, please speak to one of our cruise agents who can help.

The World's Best Festivals

clock 20th July 2015 | comment0 Comments

Updated August 2017

Introducing the IGLU guide to the best and most interesting festivals and cultural celebrations from around the world. Perfectly organised with date and destination information to help you plan your travels, so that you can witness some of the most magnificent festivals the world has to offer. From Samba dancers in Rio, to dragons parading the streets of Hong Kong, this list has it all. Now is the time to experience life the way it should be lived.

Holi Festival 

When: March Where: India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Worldwide

Why you should go: Holi Festival, or The Festival of Colours, celebrates the end of winter and beginning of spring. It’s fun, safe, and free. It is an ancient Hindu religious festival that is celebrated with enthusiasm, singing, dancing, and a rainbow of colours. Groups carry drums and other musical instruments and go from place to place, while everyone plays, chases, and colours each other with dry powder and coloured water, with some carrying water guns and coloured water-filled balloons.

Snow & Ice Festival 

When: Late December to February Where: Harbin, China

Why you should go: The Harbin festival is the largest snow and ice festival in the world, exhibiting the most exquisite ice and snow sculptures ever made. Experience the magnificent Ice and Snow World - with incredible carvings that tower an amazing 20 feet high. Not to mention the perfectly crafted full-size monuments, that are designed from gigantic blocks of ice and decorated with lights and lasers. This exhibition has a lot to offer, and is definitely worth a visit at least once.


When: Mid September - Early October Where: Munich, Germany

Why you should go: The famous Oktoberfest is the largest Volksfest beer festival and travelling funfair in the world. Held annually in Munich, Germany, Oktoberfest began life as a wedding for the Bavarian crown prince Ludwig to Princess Therese on October 12, 1810. It has since grown into an extremely popular festival running from mid - late September to the first weekend in October - with more than 6 million people from around the world attending the event every year. The event is all about beer, beer, and only beer. Grab a stein and start the celebrations.

Lantern Festival 

When: Mid February to Early March Where: Taiwan

Why you should go: The Lantern Festival was originally celebrated to ward off evil and disease from the town. The Taipei Pingshi Sky Lanterns were released to let others know that the town was safe.

Witness thousands of sky lanterns light up during one of the world’s largest lantern festivals. If you’re looking for a little magic, there is nothing more surreal than a sky ablaze with thousands of floating lanterns. The lanterns are decorated with wishes and images relating to the owner before being released into the night at the same time, magically decorating transforming the sky into a sanctuary of lights. Don’t miss the great street festivals that take place during the day.

Rio Carnival 

When: February Where: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Why you should go: Rio carnival is simply electrifying; the combination of pulsating music, samba dancing, a nonstop party, with the special addition of Brazilian flair. The Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is a world famous 5-day festival held before Lent every year, and is considered to be the biggest carnival in the world - with over 2 million people on the streets of this vibrant city every day. The first festivals of Rio date back to 1823. The typical Rio carnival parade is filled with revellers, dancers, glittering costumes, giant parades, and adornments. This festival is a mind-blowing week of sequin-fuelled fun, in one of the world’s most beautiful destinations.

Chinese New Year Parade 

When: February Where: Hong Kong and Major Cities Worldwide

Why you should go: This ancient festival is an experience like no other; it marks China's New Year - an important traditional Chinese holiday celebrated at the turn of the Chinese calendar. With dragons, fireworks, symbolic clothing, flowers, lanterns, and celebration, China marks their most important and significant day of the year in style. In Hong Kong, the heart pounding action features a fabulous parade of floats, dragons, symbolic clothing, international and local performers, and a stunning fireworks show over the harbour.

Albuquerque International Balloon Festival 

When: October Where: Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Why you should go: The Albuquerque International Balloon Festival hosts the largest gathering of hot air balloons in the world. The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is a yearly festival of hot air balloons that takes place in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA. The Balloon Fiesta is a nine day event, and has around 750 balloons. Once the balloons are let off, watch as the Skies of Albuquerque become a rainbow of vibrant colours, creating a breath-taking spectacle. You can take part, climb aboard and take flight, or even get married way up in the clouds.

Mardi Gras Festival 

When: February - March Where: New Orleans, USA

Why you should go: In many ways Mardis Gras’ reputation precedes itself — if you want to party like there’s no tomorrow, New Orleans is where you belong. Mardi Gras, meaning “Fat Tuesday” in French, is a festival marked by an endless cyclone of feathers, costumes, beads, and booze that whips through city streets of New Orleans. It’s been called the wildest fete in the U.S and for good reason: Every year, droves of party-goers flock to New Orleans to take in the floats, the festivities, and the food, and to leave their mark on the Big Easy. Don’t miss the throwing of beads - it’s a staple of the festival.

Up Helly Aa Fire Festival 

When: The Last Tuesday in January Where: Lerwick, Scotland

Why you should go: This is Europe’s largest fire festival, complete with the burning of a full-scale Viking ship. Need we say more? This superb spectacle is a celebration of Shetland history, and a triumphant demonstration of the islanders' skills and spirit. Up Helly Aa day involves a Nordic themed series of marches and visitations, and the procession culminates in a torch-lit procession and the burning of a galley. This is followed by hours of performing acts and dancing in halls throughout Lerwick. This northern Mardi Gras lasts just one day (and night). But it takes several thousand people 364 days to organise. Much of the preparation is in strictest secrecy.

image credit: www.no-straight-lines.com

Carnevale di Venezia 

When: Late January to Early February Where: Venice, Italy

Why you should go: Carnevale, or “Carnival,” has been a Venice tradition dating back to the 13th century. The Carnival of Venice is an annual two-week festival that ends with the Christian celebration of Lent, forty days before Easter on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. The carnival is well renowned with visitors flocking from around the world to admire and even participate in the masquerade masked celebrations, arguably making it one of the best and visually stunning shows on Earth.

Do any of these festivals sound intriguing to you? Why not plan your next trip so that you can attend. We can tailor-make your cruise holiday to add additional stays in destinations before or after your cruise. Call us to find out more. 

Pirates, Masks And Calypso - Caribbean Festivals

clock 24th June 2014 | comment0 Comments

The Caribbean is the world’s top cruising destination, and once you’ve been there you’ll have no confusion as to why. Endless blue water which sparkles aquamarine and sapphire until a blazing sun, welcoming people with fascinating cultures, and islands which are the definition of tropical paradise: there’s nowhere better in the world. However, if you visit during the right time of year, you’ll understand that the Caribbean has even more to offer than it might appear at first glance. Exciting festivals, alive with music and laughter, open their arms to everyone - young and old, local or just visiting, you’ll find plenty to explore and experience here. Festivals can be found in almost every area of the Caribbean, but some of the most famous and most fascinating are the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival, Pirates Week, and the New Year’s celebration that is Junkanoo. Wherever you come from, you’ll be delighted by the diversity and history on display during these festivals.

Trinidad & Tobago Carnival

Carnival events can be found throughout the world; from London to Miami, people come together on the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday in order to celebrate. Originally a Catholic religious festival, Carnival - with its masks and masquerades, parades and feasting - has now been adopted by people from all walks of life, regardless of their religious background. In Trinidad and Tobago, Carnival is the most important celebrations of the cultural year, and has been the birthplace and proving ground of some of the islands’ most important musical styles and cultural contributions. Calypso music, for example, was developed at the Trinidad and Tobago Carnivals of the 17th century, while steelpan and - more recently - soca music have also made appearances at the festivities.

Carnival-related events stretch out long before Carnival itself, with must-see tickets like Panorama (testing the skill of steelbands) and the Kings and Queens Costume Competition (with bandleaders in extravagant costumes which can weigh up to 200 pounds) drawing crowds in the thousands. However, Carnival itself begins with the eerie and beautiful J'Ouvert party: at 4am on Monday morning, revellers cover themselves in mud, oil, chocolate, and paint, then dance through the streets to the sound of soca music.

What most people consider “Carnival” starts with Carnival Monday’s riot of colorful costumes and high-decibel soca music, the streets filling with dancers, “Pretty Mas” bands, and food vendors. The next day, things are at a fever pitch, with extravagantly costumed bands waiting to be judged, hyped-up masqueraders in beautiful masks and costumes, and endless parties and events to attend. The dazzling sight of revellers at the Trinidad & Tobago Carnival is one of the world’s greatest treasures, and it makes for a trip you won’t ever forget.

Pirates Week

If you’re looking for a family-friendly festival which will delight both the young and old, Pirates Week in the Cayman Islands is a must-see event. Held for eleven days in November, the festivities here are diverse and fascinating, with a strong basis in history and sense of fun and celebration which takes over the islands for as long as the festival lasts.

Founded in 1977 to liven up the sometimes dreary month of November, the festival celebrates the history of the Cayman Islands through music, dancing, sports events, costume contests, and much more. Whole streets are shut down for parades and parties, stupendous firework displays make the skies over the islands light up in brilliant peacock colors, and there are parties, games, and delicious food everywhere you turn. Things start off with a “pirate landing” at George Town Harbor, where pirate ships provide the backdrop to pageants, live music, and dancing competitions. From then on, it’s a free-for-all, with events popping up in all corners. Many districts are awarded their own “heritage day” to celebrate the unique history of the area, while food festivals, marathons, and child-friendly events like treasure hunts and model boat races ensure that nobody ever has a moment to spare.

At the end of the festivities, the pirates are ceremonially sentenced, which is followed by street dancing, an absolute feast of excellent food, and a fireworks display which will remain in your thoughts for years to come. Pirates Week may not be as well-known as some of the other Caribbean festivals, but there’s no question that it’s one of the most fun.


Imagine spending your Christmas and New Years holidays cruising the Bahamas: palm trees, clear waters, and a sense of peace and joy which befits the holiday season. Yet if you venture into the towns on Boxing Day or New Year’s Day, you’ll be astonished by the sight of costumed parades snaking through the streets, which are filled with revellers and dancers. There are Junkanoo events and parades throughout the Bahamas, but the best place to experience this 400 year old tradition is in Nassau, where dance groups of up to 1,000 people perform in colourful masquerade costumes to the delight of the celebrating crowds.

The best of the Junkanoo dancers are up for prizes and coveted recognition, so the best and brightest of the islands are all in top form and ready to show off their skills in front of the adoring audiences. Performers practice for months for this moment, while costume creation can take just as long, but there are events for everyone to strut their stuff, including a “children’s rush” for the little ones. With both excited locals and visitors from across the world scrambling to find their spot to watch from, there’s a constant atmosphere of delight and surprise which is pulled along by the sound of drumming and laughter.

If you’ve ever thought about spending your winter holidays somewhere tropical, the Bahamas can’t be beat - and if you go, it would be a crime to miss the Junkanoo festivities. Let your hair down, let the rhythm of the drumming get into your bones, and get ready to have the time of your life here in the Caribbean.

Time For a Hoʻolauleʻa - The Festivals of Honolulu

clock 5th June 2014 | comment0 Comments

There are some very good reasons why the Hawaiian islands are some of the most popular cruise destinations in the world, and those reasons are reflected in the islands’ many festivals. Colorful, joyous celebrations which welcome in both Hawaiian and haole revellers alike, Hawaii’s best festivals include a range of things to do for visitors both young and old; from stately parades to all-night parties, whole cities put everyday life on hold to celebrate the beauty and history of these remarkable islands. Although there are fantastic events across each of the islands, Oahu - and the state capital of Honolulu in particular - is home to some of the most famous and exciting. Visitors quickly succumb to the city’s beauty and hospitality even on the calmest days, so imagine the scene when the city shows up to celebrate; there’s nothing else like it in the world.

Honolulu Festival

For three days in March (2015’s will be held from March 6-8), Honolulu descends into revelry. Parades, performances, and fireworks all draw people from across the islands - and around the world - to celebrate Hawaii’s diversity and its deeply-felt connections to the other countries and islands of the Pacific Rim. These connections are seen from the moment you step off your cruise ship - Hawaii is a rich blend of Asian, South Pacific, and American influences, and by taking part in this 21 year-old festival, visitors are able to immerse themselves in Hawaiian life and culture.

Take the famous performances, for example. Examples of the traditional dances of Hawaii and other Pacific islands are available everywhere from shopping malls to luaus, but the Honolulu Festival is the place to be if you want to see Alaskan Native dancing and Japanese samurai performances, as well as the brightest talents of the islands showcasing the hula and other Hawaiian dances. Singing, drumming, and even acrobatic performances all have their place here as well, celebrating the diversity of Hawaii’s thriving culture.

Of course, nobody can visit the Honolulu Festival without taking in the Grand Parade, traditionally held on the last day of the festival, followed by a spectacular fireworks show. For four hours, the parade winds through the streets of Waikiki, treating everyone to some of the highlights of Hawaii’s heritage and diverse culture. Richly decorated floats, marching bands, dance troupes representing not only Hawaii but all the cultures of the Pacific islands, and other traditional performances from across the Pacific Rim will keep revellers of all ages enchanted and entertained until the sun goes down. Alongside the parade route you’ll find games, food booths, and much more, ensuring that by the time you reach Waikiki beach (or your ship) for the fireworks show, you’ll have had your fill of fun and excitement.

King Kamehameha Day and Floral Parade

On June 11 every year, the Hawaiian islands come together to celebrate Kamehameha the Great. During the late 18th and early 19th centuries, King Kamehameha united the islands, preserved their independence, and helped to establish their place in the growing Pacific trade routes. For over 140 years, Kamehameha Day has brought Hawaiians together in celebration of their unique history and heritage, and the modern festival is the perfect time for visitors to take in the real Hawaii.

Although celebrations are held across the islands, the most famous festival - the King Kamehameha Floral Parade - takes place in Honolulu, Oahu. Held on the first Saturday after King Kamehameha Day, the Floral Parade will reach its 100th running in 2016, and is a much-beloved part of Oahu life. Celebrations begin with the ceremonial draping of leis on the statue of Kamehameha the Great, while leis are also placed on a Kamehameha statue located at the United States Capitol. The parade route starts at the beautiful ʻIolani Palace (open as a museum, and well worth a visit) before winding its way through Oahu and ending at Kapi’olani Park; Waikiki is one of the major hubs of activities (and easily accessible by most cruise docks), but if you’d rather watch the float away from the worst of the crowds, Ala Moana is a good compromise.

The parade itself is a wild profusion of music and color, from some of the island’s best marching bands to the intricate, spectacular floats which utilize the exotic flowers and plants found on this island paradise. Be sure to catch the traditional pa’u riders, one of the parade’s most popular sights; decorated in flowers, leis, and flowing clothes, the pa’u “royal court” of queen, princesses, and ladies-in-waiting is sight to behold. Once you’ve had your fill of flowers and music, visit Kapi’olani Park for the Hoʻolauleʻa - with arts and crafts, games, food, and even more performances, this party is the perfect way to cap off a perfect day in Oahu.

Aloha Festivals

Celebrated across the Hawaiian Islands, the Aloha Festivals - held in late September for over 60 years - are one of the most exciting times to visit Honolulu. Think of the biggest block party you’ve ever seen, and you won’t even come close; the streets fill with celebration, Hawaiians and visitors alike join together to have fun, and the soundtrack is provided by rock bands and traditional musicians. Wandering through Waikiki during the Hoʻolauleʻa, you’ll find traditional dance performances, food booths with mouth-watering offerings, the chance to make a lei of your own, and many more attractions.

Aside from the block party, the Aloha Festivals feature many other highlights as well. The festivities begin the day before the party, with the ceremonial recognition of the festival “royal court”, complete with hula, chanting, and a glimpse at Hawaii’s past. A floral parade then kicks off the next day at nine am, ten hours before the Hoʻolauleʻa. Here you’ll see pa’u riders, floats, and more music. You’ll think you’ve seen the best that Hawaii has to offer, but then the Hoʻolauleʻa will begin, and you’ll realize that there’s still a whole world of excitement left to discover in this beautiful, exciting city.

Saints, Sinners and Tomatoes - The Festivals Of Spain

clock 5th June 2014 | comment0 Comments

Spain is a modern country steeped in a deep sense of history, where astonishing centuries-old architecture embraces hyper-modern lifestyles, and where vast dry vistas suddenly give way to plunging cliffs, deep blue waters, and spectacular beaches. Spain’s many festivals embody these contradictions, braiding the past together with the modern era and producing a riot of sights and sounds which can’t be found anywhere else on earth. It’s enough of a joy to go cruising past the shores of Spain on your Mediterranean adventure, but taking the time to join in with the revellers at Spanish festivals will leave you with memories you won’t forget for the rest of your life. These are the moments which make life truly worth living, and if you join in wholeheartedly, you’ll find yourself living for the moment in a way you may not have done in years. From the joyful celebration that is the Fiesta de San Isidro in Madrid, to the ancient Moors and Christians Festivals, to the bizarre and wonderful tomato-flinging party which takes place in Buñol for La Tomatina, you can have your fill of celebration simply by stopping by at one of Spain’s fantastic festivals.

Fiesta de San Isidro

Madrid’s largest festival, the Fiesta de San Isidro is held every year in mid-May. This is the kind of festival which is known all over the world, complete with spectacular parades, stunning costumes, flamenco dancing and music wherever you turn, and many more public events spanning over nine days of revelry. The festival marks the feast day of San Isidro, the city’s patron saint as well as the patron saint of farmers. San Isidro was said to have lived in Madrid from 1082 to 1172, and his feast day has been a time of celebration and excitement throughout the centuries.

Madrid is a city with a long history and a storied culture, and this amazing festival is the perfect time to see it in all its glory. Dressed in the traditional costumes of Madrid, chulapos and goyescos arrive in public spaces to dance the chotis, eat delicious Spanish food, take in the parades with their bright colors and strange giant puppets, and much more. The grand parade is part of the “launching party”, complete with food vendors, family-friendly events, and music everywhere you turn, but the festivities don’t stop for over a week.

If you’re interested in the religious and historic reasons for this festival, the Pradera Of San Isidro is unmissable. Crowds go on pilgrimage through the streets to drink from the sacred spring at the shrine of San Isidro, before settling beside the Manzanares river to sample the food available from countless vendors, listen to traditional music, watch dancing, and come together in celebration. Of course, there are plenty of purely secular events as well. Massive dances are held with free concerts, activities for children, and - as always - more to eat and drink than you’d ever be able to sample all of.

The Moors & Christians Festivals

Celebrating the victory over the Moors during the 13th century, La Fiesta de Moros y Cristianos is a tradition stretching back to the 1500s and still observed today. Throughout Spain, people dress up in dramatic 13th century costumes in order to re-enact battles, listen to medieval music, watch impressive fireworks displays, and - above all - have as much fun as possible while celebrating their long history. While you can find these festivals throughout Spain in late April and occasionally July (due to various feast days and dates of historic battles), two of them most impressive and widely known are found in Villajoyosa and Alcoy. Recognized as being some of the most popular events for tourists in Spain, these events are nonetheless as spectacular and authentic as you could possibly wish them to be.

As bystanders fill the streets in search of the perfect viewing spot, the Moorish and Christian “armies” arrive to march through the city, a procession of camels and elephants, Arabian horses and Spanish Andalusians, gunpowder and flashing scimitars. People in fur and metal stretch out for as far as the eye can see, while the crowds cheer on the opposing armies. After the parades, ceremonial readings, and many more wonderful events, the armies finally clash in a final battle which inevitably ends in a triumphant victory for the Christians. The battle is a sight to behold, echoing back through the centuries until you can truly believe you’ve found yourself in the distant past; this is one festival you won’t soon forget.

La Tomatina

On the last Wednesday of every August, as part of the week-long festival of Buñol, the people of this Mediterranean town take part in a giant tomato fight. In many ways, that’s the end of the story; this isn’t based on ancient customs or centuries-old history, and it doesn’t have deep symbolic meaning. In fact, the tradition has only been in place since approximately 1950, but in those 60 plus years it has developed a frenzied momentum (much like the tomatoes themselves) and a cherished place in the hearts of those who have taken part. Billed as the world’s largest food fight, La Tomatina draws visitors from across the world to throw tomatoes at each other until the streets run red with pulp and everyone is laughing, happy, and feeling very much like a kid again. Tomatoes (too flavorless to be used as food) are brought in via truck for the festival, and revellers go through approximately 150,000 of them every year.

Due to the popularity of the festival, tickets are limited to 15,000 for out-of-town visitors, so make sure to pick up your ticket online before arriving. As one of the strangest, most wonderful events in the world, La Tomatina is an absolute must for anyone who’s cruising the Mediterranean in August. Located a short drive from many popular docking sites, it’s well worth the trip, and will leave you with stories which will keep your friends in stitches for years.

More information on cruises to Spain

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