Find the Best River Cruise Lines
Compare Reviews for Top River Cruise Lines
|Viking River Cruises|
Read 422 Reviews
Viking River Cruises offers daily shore excursions, exemplary service and comfortable ships. The company also has a staff of over 4,000 English-speaking professionals and cruises going to Europe, Russia, Asia and Egypt.
|American Cruise Lines|
Read 105 Reviews
Explore the Mississippi, Chesapeake Bay, Alaska and other United States destinations on American Cruise Lines. These trips follow historic paths, serve fine dining and include themes for holidays and seasonal attractions.
Read 11 Reviews
Offering cruises along some of the world's most beautiful rivers, Avalon Waterways has trips running in Europe, Asia, South America and Africa. In this unique fleet, most beds face the windows, offering exceptional views.
Read 15 Reviews
AmaWaterways offers luxury vacation packages that include both river cruises and hotel stays. The company's themed vacations allow visitors to enjoy sights like castles, Christmas decorations, wine tours and more.
|Grand Circle Cruise Line|
Read 28 Reviews
The award-winning Grand Circle Cruise Line offers exclusive vacation packages worldwide. Combined ship and land tours focus on cultural immersion, so vacationers can more deeply experience the cultures of each port of call.
|Tauck Cruises||Read 7 Reviews|
Tauck Cruises specializes in European vacations, offering cruises along the banks of the Seine, Rhine, Danube and more. Combining the convenience of cruising and a variety of land excursions, vacationers get the best of both.
|AffordableTours.com||Read Author Review|
AffordableTours.com offers some of the lowest prices on river cruises. The company has departures all around the world, including major destination cities like Paris, Venice, Milan, Prague, Calcutta, Istanbul and more.
|Euro River Cruises||Read Author Review|
Explore world-famous destinations with Euro River Cruises in Europe, Asia and Northern Africa. Vacationers can enjoy a weekend getaway with short three-day cruises, or enjoy the water for up to a month with 30-day options.
|Sanctuary Retreats||Read Author Review|
Sanctuary Retreats doesn't only offer cruises, but also experiences. Passengers can sign up for packages that include excursions like Gorilla Trekking, Walking with the Elephants and watching the Wildebeest Migration.
Features to consider before booking a river cruise
It's important to read the fine print when selecting river cruises. The prices depend on what time of year the cruise is sailing, the level of accommodations and whether the river cruise line is more budget-conscious or more upscale.
- Price ranges: The cost of a river cruise can run from several hundred dollars (for a shorter, off-season cruise) to many thousands per person (for a high-season river cruise in a decked-out suite).
- Discounts for early booking: Some cruise lines encourage early booking by discounting their prices or throwing in free or reduced airfare. Because demand is so high, it's unlikely a consumer will find last-minute deals (although they do occasionally happen).
- Hidden charges: Consumers should learn whether there might be additional costs such as port surcharges, optional excursions that cost extra and alcoholic beverages that are not included in the retail cruise price.
A river cruise ship serves as a floating hotel; get cabins on higher-up decks with French or step-out balconies for great views.
- Height: The typical river cruise ship in Europe has three passenger decks (as well as a fourth outdoor Sun Deck). A cabin on the lowest deck typically only has porthole windows with a water-level view of the river, while cabins on the second and third decks offer better views and balconies. Lower-deck cabins tend to be the most affordable.
- Design: Staterooms on river cruise ships come in all shapes and sizes. They can be cozier lower-deck cabins at 120 or 150 square feet each or sprawling two-bedroom suites with 400 square feet of space and multiple balconies. Prices range drastically so passengers need to weigh the features that matter most to them against the price they are willing to pay.
River cruise ships tend to have many of the same standard features onboard, but increasingly river cruise lines are trying to differentiate with new and different onboard amenities. Standard features include a main restaurant, a bar and lounge and a reception area. More innovative features might include one or two alternative dining venues and a Jacuzzi or small pool.
- Amenities: Most river cruise ships these days will offer Wi-Fi access and will also have a gym onboard, hair salon and/or spa treatment rooms and a small boutique shop. In Europe, some vessels feature a pool or Jacuzzi. Most staterooms will have ensuite bathrooms with standing showers (bathtubs are rare and typically only in suites), flatscreen TVs with satellite channels and on-demand movies, closets, hairdryers and safes. Most river cruise vessels do not allow smoking onboard, and those that do will typically only allow it in one or two designated outdoor areas.
- Entertainment: As opposed to the casinos and Broadway-style performances on oceangoing cruises, entertainment on river cruises tends to be much simpler and pared down. Live piano music in the bar, local folk dance or music acts and the occasional performance at a venue onshore (such as a classical music concert in Vienna) will be the extent of the nightly entertainment offered.
Consumers need to plan their trips carefully and understand how river cruises operate.
- High and low water: When there hasn't been much rain and water levels are low, river cruise lines may have to alter their itineraries to avoid having vessels run aground in shallow water — they might simply bus passengers to destinations that can’t be reached by riverboat or do what is called a ship swap, whereby passengers will be swapped from one vessel to another vessel on the other side of the low water area and continue their voyage from there, in a different ship. In flooding situations, high water levels can make it so that ships can’t fit under the bridges. In these cases, similar itinerary adjustments might be made.
- One way: Many river cruises sail routes that run one-way only, requiring consumers to fly out of a different city than they flew into or to make arrangements to return to the original city they started from.
- Packages: Many cruises are part of a larger trip package that begins with, for example, a two-night stay in London and then a train trip to France, where the cruise itself begins.
River cruises generally last from a few days to several weeks. Some cruises focus on larger, more well-known cities, while others travel lesser-known regions and towns, all of which depend on the itinerary. The Upper Danube, for instance, includes stops in the more bustling ports of Vienna and Budapest. The Rhone and Saone rivers in the south of France, on the other hand, include more under-the-radar provincial towns.
- Free time: Many river cruise ships do a good deal of sailing at night, so passengers who want to experience more city nightlife may want to look into cruises that overnight in popular ports. Also, some cruises have more guided tours included, while others offer passengers more free time to explore on their own when docked in port.
- Tours: Most river cruise lines typically offer at least one included guided tour option each day of the cruise. Passengers are divided into smaller groups for the guided tours and may be offered a more active version of the tour, a tour at a gentler pace or an off-the-beaten-path alternative tour. There may also be additional premium excursions offered for an extra cost.
River cruises are available in a wide variety of destinations throughout the world, including in Europe, the United States, South America, China, Southeast Asia, India and Africa.
- Season: In Europe, the river cruise season typically runs from March through November and closes out with some holiday-themed cruises at the end of the year. In other destinations, such as Southeast Asia, river cruises will run year-round.
- Country: Different countries have different entrance and visa requirements. For example, travelers to Myanmar, where the Irrawaddy River has become a popular river cruise destination, need to have at least two blank visa pages in their passport.
What are different types of river cruises?
Seasonal and themed
Seasonal river cruises focus on yearly occurrences such as the spring tulip season in the Netherlands or the Christmas markets in Europe in December. Themed cruises cater to enthusiasts such as wine lovers or art lovers. There are also history themed cruises and culinary cruises, among others.
Most river cruises are in fact one-way cruises, meaning they start in one city and end in another.
Some river cruises will do a round-trip cruise up and down the river from a given port of embarkation.
Increasingly, river cruise lines are offering family-friendly river cruise departures on which kids are encouraged and kid-friendly activities and meals are offered.
Who takes river cruises?
River cruises are popular with the 65-and-up set, who make up the largest demographic. They have money to spend and time to enjoy the sights.
Whether it’s for a romantic getaway or a wedding anniversary, river cruises offer an easy way for couples to travel through picturesque destinations.
Younger, active travelers
Some cruise lines offer shorter cruises in an effort to attract working adults with less time to spare. Such cruises also tend to offer onshore activities such as bike rides and may allow more time docked in port at night for nightlife activities.
Cruise lines with family-friendly departures offer kid-friendly onshore excursions that might include scavenger hunts, picnic lunches and more active walking and biking trips.
Large groups may enjoy specialized itineraries catered to their interests and increased savings from some cruise lines.
Some cruise lines have solo cabins onboard (with no single supplement) or will offer solo travelers departure dates that have no or reduced single supplements. Cruise lines that focus on the solo travel market will also offer more mingling opportunities.
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Information in this guide is general in nature and is intended for informational purposes only; it is not legal, health, investment or tax advice. ConsumerAffairs.com makes no representation as to the accuracy of the information provided and assumes no liability for any damages or loss arising from its use.