Best River Cruises

River Cruises and the Best Destinations Save up to 50% on 4-14 day river cruises in the US and worldwide.

Best River Cruise Lines

“Emb on an unforgettable journey as the finest river cruises seamlessly merge lavish onboard accommodations with thrilling itineraries along the world’s most treasured waterways. Get ready to be captivated!!”
If’re looking to go on a cruise but not into the whole hustle and bustle of a massive ocean liner, you should definitely consider a river cruise. They give you the chance to explore lesser-known ports all over the world, thanks to their small size and maneuverability. And let me tell you, these sailings offer some exceptional, personalized service. They usually have less than 200 guests at a time, so you can expect top-notch treatment. Plus, you’ll get to visit a different port every day, as most places along the waterways are pretty close to each other. It’s a fantastic way to see the world! Explore uncover the top river cruise lines worldwide. Delve into their destinations, passenger capacity, amenities, and recent traveler feedback for a comprehensive snapshot of each unforgettable experience.

KEY FACTS

Adventure

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DESTINATION
USA National Parks
LANGUAGE

English

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ACTIVITY
Hiking, Camping, Photography, Wildlife.
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Best Destinations
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Viking Europe River Cruise

Viking River Cruises

#1 in Best River Cruise Destinations

Number of passengers: 75 to 250 Sails to: Europe, Asia, Africa, U.S. Viking has an amazing fleet of over 60 longships that gracefully sail across the major rivers of Europe. You can discover the Danube, Rhine, Douro, and many more. And guess what? They also offer incredible voyages along Egypt’s Nile River and the mighty Mississippi River. Plus, if you’re looking for something truly unique, Viking now has captivating itineraries exploring the Great Lakes. So many epic adventures await!

What to Expect:

If you’re a traveler, chances are you’ve heard of Viking Ocean Cruises. They offer luxurious accommodations and a wide range of enriching activities for those who love larger ocean voyages. And guess what same fantastic formula! From delicious meals to daily walking tours, and even Wi-Fi (where available), it’s all included in the base fare. In addition to all the fantastic amenities and activities like guest lectures, cooking demonstrations, musical performances, and libraries, you’ll also find outdoor decks and much more. And guess what? Some Viking riverboats even have swimming pools! Plus, the cabins come with minibars, premium toiletries, purified water, and TVs for your ultimate comfort. When you step on board, you’ll find that most passengers speak English. Viking cruises tend to attract an older crowd, typically aged 55 and above, and only individuals who are at least 18 years old can embark on a journey with this line.

What Travelers Say:

Recent cruisers had a fantastic time with Viking, absolutely loving the breathtaking shore excursions, exceptional service, and cozy rooms. While a few mentioned some minor hiccups with the service and food, overall it was a memorable experience. 😊 Book a Viking River Cruise on GoTo Sea, a service of One Travel Destinations.
Uniworld Cruises

Uniworld Boutique River Cruises

#2 in Best River Cruise Destinations

Number of passengers: 32 to 159
Sails to: Europe, Asia, Africa, South America

Uniworld presents opulent sailings through historic cities across central Europe, France, Italy, Portugal, India, Egypt, and Peru, bestowing a touch of grandeur and elegance upon every journey.

Here’s what you can anticipate:

With 17 ships, our objective is to provide the ambiance of a boutique hotel, complete with elegant decor, captivating antique artwork, and exceptional specialty restaurants. Our boats can accommodate an average of 120 cruisers while upholding one of the industry’s highest staff-to-guest ratios, ensuring that you receive outstanding service with approximately one crew member for every two travelers.

The stateroom amenities on each vessel may vary, but they’re pretty amazing! Think marble bathrooms, Egyptian cotton linens, French balconies, iPod docking stations, Nespresso coffee machines, and even rainfall showers – to name a few. And let me tell you, the all-inclusive rates are quite a deal! They cover everything – meals, alcoholic beverages, select excursions, gratuities, onboard fitness classes, and even Wi-Fi access. Oh, and don’t get me started on the entertainment and enrichment classes. Uniworld takes pride in its top-notch cuisine too, made with local ingredients sourced right from the ports on your itinerary. They’ve got options for everyone, including vegetarian and vegan ones. Isn’t that awesome?

Uniworld attracts a diverse clientele primarily in their 50s or 60s from North America, the U.K., and Australia. In addition to their regular packages, Uniworld offers exclusive itineraries designed for families, LGBTQ cruisers, and solo travelers.

What travelers say:

Recent cruisers offered abundant praise for Uniworld’s voyages, complimenting the stylish accommodations, attentive staff, and fascinating excursions. Though complaints were few and far between, a handful of past travelers felt the experience was not worth the high price point.

Compare Uniworld Boutique River Cruises on GoToSea.

American Cruise Lines

American Cruise Lines

#3 in Best Rive Cruises Destinations

Number of passengers: 90 to 180
Sails to: U.S.

American Cruise Lines, as the name suggests, sail exclusively on the rivers and coastlines of the United States. They offer popular cruises to incredible destinations like the Mississippi River, the Hudson River, New England, and the stunning Columbia and Snake rivers in the Pacific Northwest. They also take you on amazing adventures to Alaska, the Southeast coast, including sunny Florida, and the breathtaking Puget Sound between Washington State and the Canadian border.

What to expect:

American Cruise Lines has a fleet of 19 relatively new small ships and river vessels (average age is about 5 years). They have a range of options from modern riverboats to small coastal ships to authentic paddlewheelers. The cabins are cozy and can accommodate up to three people per room, with single staterooms available exclusively for solo travelers. Every room has picture windows, a roomy bathroom, and in some cases, a private balcony.

Passengers can delight in a plethora of daily activities and unwind in cozy settings within the ship’s public areas. Onboard, they can experience a delightful blend of entertainment including captivating jazz and blues performances, as well as engaging presentations by knowledgeable historians and area experts.

The line promises an all-American experience.

On these American-built ships, you’ll discover not only a warm and welcoming staff but also culinary delights that pay homage to the destinations you’ll explore. From mouthwatering New Orleans-style andouille sausage gumbo to delectable New England-inspired seafood boils, the onboard cuisine is a culinary adventure in itself.
Each evening, before dinner, indulge in complimentary cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. And the best part? All meals, snacks, as well as wine and beer, are included in the base fare. Keep in mind that shore excursions are typically not included in the rate, allowing you the freedom to choose your adventures on land.

Passengers on American Cruise Lines tend to lean North American and are typically mature retired travelers.

What travelers say: Recent cruisers enjoyed their experience, particularly on the line-themed cruises.

River Cruises

AmaWaterways

#4 in Best River Cruise Destinations

Number of passengers: 28 to 196 Sails to: Europe, Asia, Africa, South America Discover the allure of a river cruise with AmaWaterways! Embark on an unforgettable adventure to Europe’s captivating heartland or set sail on a journey of a lifetime. From the enchanting waters of Vietnam to the historical wonders of Egypt and the vibrant landscapes of South Africa – and soon, in 2024, the scenic splendors of Colombia await! As a family-owned business since 2002, AmaWaterways proudly operates a fleet of 29 river cruise boats, ready to welcome an average of 150 passengers onboard. Get ready to experience the world in a whole new way with AmaWaterways!
It strives to deliver immersive experiences, offering themed sailings tailored to passengers’ interests. Wine-themed voyages are a perfect choice for wine enthusiasts seeking to delve into Europe’s renowned wine regions. Golf enthusiasts can indulge in a concierge golf program, seamlessly moving from one prestigious golf course to another. Alternatively, embark on a holiday river cruise and immerse yourself in the enchanting Christmas markets scattered across Europe. In 2024, AmaWaterways will introduce three captivating new itineraries with a focus on Black history.

What to Expect:

On board, you’ll find cozy cabins perfect for couples or solo adventurers, as well as connectible rooms tailored for multigenerational families. The staterooms are spacious and come with delightful extras like comfy bathrobes, soft slippers, and plush bedding. And don’t forget the two balconies! With AmaWaterways’ twin balcony design, you’ll enjoy a full, step-out balcony, plus a lovely French balcony with sliding glass doors. Stay connected with complimentary in-room Wi-Fi and indulge in movies and music on demand. The pass can indulge in a wide range of amenities beyond their comfortable cabins. From small pools and sun decks to fitness equipment and a hair salon, there are options aplenty to cater to their every need. For added relaxation, massage services are also available, ensuring a truly luxurious experience for all. AmaWaterways mainly attracts folks from North America in their 50s who love joining active shore excursions with walks or bike rides. Passengers from the U.K. and Australia also hop aboard this river cruise line. You’ll find a mix of couples, families, and solo travelers, including more millennials, enjoying the diverse cabin options on AmaWaterways’ ships. Adventures by Disney even charters some AmaWaterways ships for a few sailings each year.

What travelers say:

AmaWaterways has garnered high praise from recent travelers, who applaud its exceptional service and delightful experience, especially for families. However, a minor point of contention was raised by a few guests with regard to the culinary offerings.
Avalon Waterways Cruise

Avalon Waterways

#5 in Best Disney Cruise Destination

Number of passengers: 16 to 166 Sails to: Europe, Asia, Africa, South America Avalon Waterways cruises along 19 stunning river routes, including the Danube, Rhone, Seine, Nile, Rhine, Moselle, Mekong, Ganges, and more. And guess what? Starting in 2024, they’re adding the beautiful Douro River in Portugal to their list!

What to Expect:

This voyage launched in 2004, Avalon stands apart with its opulent vessels – the remarkable Suite Ships. These extraordinary marvels boast the most spacious rooms in the river cruise industry, where beds face majestic wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling windows, treating guests to breathtaking panoramic views. Indulge in delightful stateroom luxuries such as complimentary breakfast in bed, lavish L’Occitane toiletries, cozy sitting areas, generous storage spaces, and sumptuous mattress toppers. Prepare for an enchanting experience like no other! Passengers aboard the ship can indulge in a multitude of amenities, including a sun deck adorned with lounge chairs, whirlpools, and a game area. Not to mention, there are numerous restaurants, bars, and even a 24-hour self-serve coffee station to satisfy your cravings. Moreover, you’ll have the opportunity to explore shore excursions tailored to your preferences and physical capabilities. Choose from Classic, Active, or Discovery tours, ranging from immersive local guides to invigorating hikes through hilltop castles. Avalon Waterways warmly welcomes English-speaking cruisers to embark on this remarkable journey. Passengers from diverse countries, usually in their 50s and 60s, embark on our voyages. Nonetheless, children aged 8 and above are warmly welcomed aboard (despite the absence of dedicated kids clubs), and certain journeys attract passengers from various age groups.

What Travelers Say:

The reviews have been overwhelmingly positive, with travelers praising the amiable and knowledgeable staff as well as the delectable cuisine on offer.
American Queen River Cruise Line

American Queen Voyages

#6 in Best Destination to Visit in the USA

Number of passengers: 150 to 400
Sails to: U.S., Canada

In the autumn of 2021, American Queen Steamboat Company merged with Victory Cruise Lines to establish American Queen Voyages. Headquartered in North America, American Queen Voyages operates various routes within the United States, encompassing Alaska, the Mississippi River, the Ohio, Tennessee, and Cumberland rivers, as well as the Columbia and Snake Rivers.

This river cruise line rocks four amazing paddle-wheelers. On their all-inclusive sailings, they’ve got you covered with unlimited onboard Wi-Fi, unlimited beverages (and an open bar), unlimited guided tours, dining throughout the entire cruise, gratuities, and more. When you hop on board, you’ll discover a main dining room, an entertainment hall, a sun deck, card rooms, and lounges. And let’s not forget about the mouthwatering local cuisine served up on each cruise – it changes based on where you’re headed. Oh, and did I mention that the staterooms are decked out with plush linens, coffee makers, minifridges, TVs, private balconies (in select accommodations), and so much more? Yeah, they’ve really thought of everything!

The cruise line primarily caters to adventurous travelers in their 50s, occasionally accompanied by grandparents and college-aged grandchildren. It stands out as a top choice for passengers requiring wheelchair accessibility, offering a wealth of options to cater to their needs. Moreover, history enthusiasts are particularly drawn to the captivating itineraries and enriching programs available on board.

What travelers say:

Travelers aboard American Queen Voyages were highly impressed by the exceptional offerings, as they lauded the company’s immaculate vessels, accommodating staff, and delectable cuisine. However, a few guests mentioned experiencing travel disruptions attributable to weather and vessel issues, exacerbated by inadequate communication.

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Emerald River Cruises

Emerald Cruises

#7 in Best River Cruises 2024

Number of passengers: 84 to 180
Sails to: Europe, Asia

Formerly known as Emerald Waterways, Emerald Cruises offers unparalleled transportation for travelers along the picturesque rivers of Europe and Asia. Experience the enchantment of the Danube, the grandeur of the Rhine, the charm of the Douro, and the allure of the Mekong, as you embark on a remarkable journey like no other.

What to Expect:

The cruise fare includes everything you need for an amazing experience – meals, beverages with lunch and dinner, daily shore excursions (even more adventurous options called EmeraldACTIVE), Wi-Fi access, and gratuities. You won’t have to worry about anything!

Emerald has nine awesome river vessels, each with luxurious public spaces and accommodations that have en suite bathrooms and flat-screen TVs. You’ll find heated indoor pools, sun decks, spa and wellness facilities, and a bunch of amazing eateries. Plus, there are onboard fitness classes and plenty of other entertainment options. When you’re on land, you can even borrow bicycles to explore cool historic city centers.

Typical clientele aboard Emerald Cruises’ voyages includes American and British passengers around retirement age, though some younger travelers may make an appearance as well. Children 12 and older are permitted on board and on tours, but there are no kid’s clubs or designated activities for younger cruisers. Special rooms and dinner reservations are available for solo travelers.

What travelers Say:

On recent sailings, cruisers – particularly first-time sailors – have had enjoyable experiences with Emerald Cruises. They appreciated the dedicated crew members and the hassle-free booking and planning process. However, there were some concerns about customer service and communication, which were perceived as below expectations.

Scenic Luxury Cruises

Scenic Luxury Cruises and Tours

#8 in Best Disney Cruise Destinations in the World

Number of passengers: 68 to 163
Sails to: Europe, Asia

From the Danube to the Mekong, Australian travel company Scenic Luxury Cruises and Tours offers lavish, all-inclusive river sailings with an emphasis on customization. The more upscale sister brand of Emerald Cruises, Scenic allows travelers to do as much or as little as they want while on board and ashore.

What to expect:

Enrichment activities are hand-picked by the line’s “Journey Designers,” and vessels provide a top-notch level of service thanks to their high crew-to-passenger ratios. Each passenger receives a designated butler who can complete nightly turndowns and make laundry arrangements, among other tasks.

Spacious suites on board are larger than those on most other riverboats (ranging from 160 to 510 square feet). High-tech balcony controls allow lodgers to let in as much air as they’d like with the touch of a button. Cruisers will also enjoy special in-room touches like pillow menus, slippers, and robes.

When it comes to dining, Scenic sources local ingredients and culinary inspiration from the ports visited on the itinerary to provide an authentic experience. All meals are included in the base cruise fare, along with beverages, gratuities, Wi-Fi access, shore excursions, and electric bicycle usage in select destinations.

What travelers say:

Recent cruisers were pleased with their experiences aboard Scenic’s vessels, praising the spacious cabins, pampering butler service, and knowledgeable crew members and tour guides. However, some travelers were particularly disappointed with the food.

CroisiEurope Cruises

CroisiEurope Cruises

#9 in Best Disney Cruise Destinations

Number of passengers: 22 to 200
Sails to: Europe, Asia, Africa

Established in 1976, CroisiEurope is a prestigious, family-run French cruise line with a remarkable fleet of over 50 ships and barges that gracefully traverse the globe. With captivating itineraries that span diverse countries like Egypt, Cambodia, and Spain, CroisiEurope stands out in the world of river cruising. Notably, the brand boasts two purpose-built ships exclusively reserved for sailing on the picturesque Lake Kariba in southern Africa. Furthermore, CroisiEurope is proud to offer an exceptional division specializing in idyllic barge cruises along six enchanting canals in France, including the scenic Burgundy and Provence regions.

What to expect:

CroisiEurope is renowned for its extensive range of destinations and stands out as one of the few river cruise lines that operate specially-designed vessels along Germany’s Elbe River, as well as the Guadalquivir and Guadiana Rivers in Spain and Portugal, and the enchanting canals of Venice. The accommodations on board are relatively modest, helping to maintain a budget-friendly fare. The cruise line strives to offer exceptional value for money in the industry. Delight your taste buds with the focus on delectable French cuisine, complemented by enticing regional flavors, all served in the elegant main dining room, inclusive of the cruise fare.

CroisiEurope cruises attract a diverse range of passengers from around the world. Travelers from France, Germany, the U.K., and North America form a significant part of the international mix onboard. Announcements are thoughtfully presented in both French and English to ensure clear communication. The cruise line caters to a variety of guests, from seasoned couples and groups to vibrant families, depending on the itinerary and time of year.

What travelers say:

Several cruisers echoed that some of CroisiEurope’s river ships are due for refurbishment and that internet connectivity leaves a lot to be desired, while others maintain that the experience was superb.

Tauck Cruise Line

Tauck

#10 in Best Disney Cruise Places to Visit in the World

Number of passengers: 84 to 130 Sails to: Europe Tauck, the travel company, does it all! They offer small-ship voyages worldwide, land tours across all seven continents, small group journeys with an average of 24 travelers, family tours, and even European river cruises. In 2024, they’re adding six new river itineraries in Europe. You can choose from nine river vessels to explore amazing waterways like the Douro, Moselle, Rhine, Danube, and Rhone. So many exciting options to choose from!

What to Expect:

All-inclusive fares cover shore excursions, onboard activities and entertainment, gratuities, beverages, and more. Plus, Tauck offers exclusive access to unforgettable experiences like wine tastings at private vineyards and gala dinners in historic castles. More than 80% of the staterooms feature French balconies and floor-to-ceiling windows, allowing for excellent views. Other in-room amenities may include adjustable climate controls, satin linens, pillow-top mattresses, terry cloth robes, and more. Outside of your cabin, you’ll find perks such as a sun deck, a putting green, enrichment programs like cooking demonstrations, a fitness center, and complimentary bikes for onshore exploring. Tauck caters to affluent, English-speaking cruisers – primarily Americans in the 55-and-older age group – though you may also find families with adult children on board. The line appeals most to travelers who prefer all the details of their trip to be taken care of for them, versus those who like to plan activities independent of the cruise line.

What travelers say:

Recent passengers generally speak highly of their Tauck River cruise experiences, pointing to the exceptional level of organization and spacious, luxurious accommodations. Others said they were underwhelmed by the price.

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