The rivers of the world are fast becoming hotspots for travelers. European river cruising has boomed in the last decade, and cruise lines are expanding to more exotic and interesting parts of the globe every year. So whether you’d like to sail gently along as medieval castles float by your balcony or you prefer the hustle and bustle of a trip through an Asian metropolis, we can help you find your perfect river cruise.
What to Expect on a River Cruise
Whether you’re in Europe, South America, Asia, the U.S. or Africa, river cruising shares similarities — along with plenty of dissimilarities — from ocean cruising. The first point is that ships are much smaller than ocean vessels, particularly in Europe, where they are restricted in width and length to fit into locks and sail beneath low bridges, and parts of Asia where they have to navigate shallow waters.
Unlike ocean ships, river vessels visit a new port each day, sometimes even more than one; passengers can visit up to four countries in a week. Itineraries are port-intensive with a busy program of culture-rich shore excursions — mostly included in the fare and some fee-extra. An actual full day onboard is uncommon, though there is always cruising time, including nighttime sailing on some itineraries.
All meals are included, with many lines offering complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks with lunch and dinner, plus unlimited tea and coffee. Some lines are all-inclusive and, in addition to an open bar, they also cover gratuities. There is generally an open-seating policy, so you can sit where you want. Meals can be fairly regimented due to the small size of the galley, so one sitting for breakfast, lunch and dinner is the norm (although some lines are more flexible with timings than others). Lighter meals can be enjoyed in the lounge, or outside on the deck, and some vessels have additional specialty restaurants.
The onboard experience is more laid-back than it is on oceangoing voyages, with no formal dress code. There’s usually a captain’s reception and gala dinner, where some people opt for smarter outfits, but it’s not obligatory. The most important packing tips are to take layers to cope with unpredictable weather and comfortable shoes or sneakers, as many tours involve walking on cobblestones or uneven surfaces.
Entertainment is low-key — with the major attraction being the passing scenery (there is always plenty to see on both banks) and ports of call. The intimate nature of riverships also means you’ll soon get to know your fellow passengers, and you certainly won’t get lost in the crowd.
Staterooms tend to be smaller than oceangoing vessels, but they are not short on home comforts, particularly on the newest ships. Standard amenities include hotel-style beds, bathroom with high-quality toiletries, TV and entertainment system, hair dyer, safe and ample storage space. Some cabins have French balconies and proper walkout verandas, along with stocked mini-bars, suites with butler service and four-poster beds. If you’re on a budget, the lower deck cabins have fixed windows but still provide a view, albeit at water level. Because cabin configurations and facilities vary from line to line, and ship to ship within a fleet, be sure to get all the details on how your stateroom will look before you book.
When it comes to sailing, inland waterways are very calm and flat, so seasickness is never an issue on a river cruise.
River cruises are not well suited to wheelchair users or passengers with severe mobility issues. Most modern ships have elevators, and some have adapted cabins, but gangways can be steep, depending on the level of the river water, and sometimes ships are moored side by side, necessitating walking across one or more to disembark. Always check with a line before booking to assess how user-friendly it will be.
Barge cruising — which mostly focuses on boats that carry less than 25 passengers and ply the waters of even smaller rivers (and often just stay in canals) — is a completely different style of cruising. They have a very cozy atmosphere and can also be chartered by families or groups of friends. The purpose-built hotel boats or converted working vessels contain comfy cabins and modern facilities, and most have onboard bikes.
River Cruise Lines
Award-winning European river cruise operator AmaWaterways leads the way in river cruising on the great waterways of Europe, Southeast Asia and Africa. AmaWaterways was founded in 2002 by 3 industry experts with the shared goal of offering luxury, all-inclusive river cruise vacations for travelers wanting a different type of cruise experience. Today, AmaWaterways boasts more than 22 itineraries plus immersive wine and art cruises.
American Queen Steamboat Company
Feel the rhythmic pulse of the paddlewheel, and indulge in the mesmerizing beat of jazz as the gentle tempo of the Mississippi river’s own currents play overture to the experience. Dine on cuisines born along the riverbanks from as many cultures as the river has tributaries, and immerse yourself in river lore.
You’re invited to discover famous American landmarks and backwoods roadhouses. Attend the theater without stepping ashore. Embark on a uniquely American river cruise and return with more than memories. Stand on the bow as landing by landing, bend by bend, America reveals itself.
A city break sounds good. But a succession of cities sounds even better. And this is exactly what you can look forward to when you get on board an A-ROSA ship. The best crêpes in the city? Shopping streets that will set your heart racing? Or how about that quirky museum you’ve heard so much about?
Everything is practically at the doorstep of your hotel room. Our berths in the major cities of Europe are mostly in the very centre of the city. So, arrive in the city, grab your handbag or backpack, and get going! Take photos, make memories, experience the city! Alone or on guided tours. By foot or on an A-ROSA bicycle. Your holiday, your decision.
Avalon Waterways River Cruises are brought to you by the Globus Family of Brands. Avalon Waterways sets the standard in river and small-ship cruising with the newest fleet, the most included shore excursions, the widest range of choices and extraordinary itineraries. Experienced travelers agree that an Avalon Waterways river cruise is one of the most enjoyable and hassle-free ways to discover a destination. Avalon Waterways offers river-cruise itineraries in Europe, China, Egypt and the Galapagos Islands.
CroisiEurope, a leader in European river cruises, welcomes nearly 200,000 passengers yearly aboard its 50 boats that crisscross the rivers of Europe and the World. A family run business, fiercely attached to its independence, has held its high position among river cruise companies for three generations. Nowadays, the company is known throughout the world from its home port in Strasbourg, where it was founded in 1976.
At Emerald Waterways everything is all inclusive. Pack your bags with ease knowing that whatever your need is… covered. From your meals, to your travel transfers, to your incredible onshore experiences, everything is included in the price of your vacation.
A gentle cruise on a hotel barge is the perfect way to discover the very soul of Europe, exploring its wonderful countryside and historical treasures and meeting its many friendly, diverse people.
Far removed from the hustle and bustle of city life, hotel barge voyages allow you to travel in luxury without the strains of packing and unpacking, whilst enjoying a balanced blend of daily excursions and fascinating cruising.
Imperial River Cruises
Imperial River Cruises offers highly affordable rates for great quality voyages. They know it perfectly well at Imperial River Cruises that best ships do sell first. Imperial River Cruises has a fleet of deluxe ships that were thoroughly and thoughtfully renovated to meet the most exquisite expectations of experienced travelers wanting to get the most from cruising in Russia and Ukraine. There really are opportunities to choose between classic interiors of m/s Rachmaninov or m/s Stravinsky and modernly fresh designer interiors of m/s Kandinsky for example. Ship is important, because she becomes home for a while. So is the cruise price – therefore the cruise rates offered are one of the best on the market.
Riviera River Cruises
Riviera River Cruises’ story began in the UK in 1984, when their parent company started escorting tours to the French Riviera. Since 2015, Riviera river cruises has introduced more than 128,000 passengers to the wonderful world of river cruising, and established a North American headquarters in Connecticut. As the UK’s leader in river cruising and tours, Riviera river cruises now offers 13 five-star ships, which are some of the most modern and well-appointed in Europe, on 15 amazing itineraries. Riviera river cruises are passionate about giving travelers the best experience possible. This is why they dedicate great care to designing inspiring journeys filled with visits that enlighten and entertain. At the same time, many special touches are included beyond the obvious, so customers return home feeling like they’ve connected with the heart of their destination. Also, a unique aspect of Riviera is they are the only river line to offer dedicated solo sailings. On those sailings every cabin and suite is sold with just one person in it with no supplement. Riviera river cruises story is just one of the many reasons why to cruise with Riviera.
Scenic River Cruises
Around the world, Scenic Tours is known for providing ultimate touring experiences for discerning travelers. Established in 1988, Scenic Tours is an Australian-based travel company with an extensive global network.
U River Cruises
U River Cruises is a new take on experiential travel, with cruises designed for those with a passion for exploring and a taste for authentic adventures. U River Cruises has always believed that travel should be relaxing, exhilarating, convenient and tailored to your interests — all at the same time. And on a U river cruise, that’s exactly what you’ll experience.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruises
Uniworld is the world’s only authentic boutique cruise line. What makes Uniworld the world’s only authentic boutique cruise line is the unique relationship they have with their sister company, the Red Carnation Hotels-an award-winning collection of five-star boutique hotels. The synergy shared between the two companies has resulted in unparalleled levels of incomparable luxury and gracious hospitality, offering the world’s finest river cruise experience. It’s not just where you go; it’s how you get there. Every bit as important as the destinations Uniworld’s guests visit, are the ships that take them there. While each Uniworld boutique cruise ship has its own unique personality, they are all designed with the same signature touches-stylish elegance, beautiful decor, classic furnishings, inspiring art, and modern conveniences-creating the most inviting atmosphere for those who want to experience the best sights in world-class comfort and luxury.
VIVA Cruises invites you to experience the very best of Europe, the way it was meant to be discovered—with good company, unique perspectives and award-winning service and amenities. Knowing that not all travelers are the same, we have made it our mission to give you greater ease, flexibility and choice. With decades of experience cruising to Europe’s most popular destinations, we are proud to offer a cruise experience like no other, designed to enrich, inspire and renew. Following all the greatest rivers— Danube, Elbe, Moselle, Rhine, Rhône, Seine, and the Main-Danube Canal—you will delve into the heart of timeless towns and villages as well as the world’s most thriving capitals. And, aboard our modern vessels, great travel experiences come to life, every bend of the river brings a new marvel and every moment on board brings more delights to be savored.
Viking River Cruises
With itineraries in Europe, China and Russia, Ukraine, Egypt, Cambodia and Vietnam, Viking River Cruises is the world’s largest river cruise line. Discriminating travelers appreciate the small-size ships, spacious river-view staterooms and gourmet, on-board meals. Today, the company boasts the world’s largest fleet of deluxe river cruisers, including the newest and most luxurious ships on China’s Yangtze River. The company is a multi-year recipient of Travel+Leisure’s “World Best” award, and has been named to Conde Nast Traveler’s “Gold List” multiple times.