River cruising is all the rage. In fact, I have more people asking about river cruises that any other kind of tour travel these days. It’s not really surprising based on the amazing advertising that airs about this type of travel. It looks simply idyllic doesn’t it?
Guess what? It is!! Having just returned from a trip down the Rhine River, I feel qualified to say this. Traveling through the waterways of the world by ship is absolutely enchanting. A vast array of river cruise companies have created floating hotels that whisk you through multiple cities and countries, but you never feel rushed or overwhelmed. Many times you spend the day basking in the culture of one delightful town, cruise overnight and wake up in a brand new place to explore the next day. Add in exceptional food, interesting and fun excursions and plush accommodations, and you have a recipe for a fantastic vacation experience.
Below I’ve given a little bit of information about four popular cruise lines currently operating. If you would like to see a chart that compares all the major river cruise lines, please let me know by adding a comment here, and I’ll get that to you shortly.
- AmaWaterways – This cruise line boasts 17 modern ships in their fleet and sails the waterways of Europe, Africa and Asia (Vietnam and Cambodia). The staterooms, recreational and dining areas are beautiful, well-equipped and meticulously maintained by an incredibly friendly staff that make you feel more like an old friend than a customer. In addition, Ama has a focus on health and wellness, offering hiking and biking excursions as well as yoga and pilates classes, and all are included in the cost of your cruise. There are also less active excursions like gentle walking tours and wine tastings for those who’d rather relax while seeing new places. The food is simply wonderful (seriously), and the cost is very reasonable based on the accommodations and level of service provided. WanderMore Travels Grade: A+
- Viking – Based on the amount of advertising Viking does, this cruise line has become synonymous with river cruising especially to Americans. Sailing the waters around Europe, Russia, Egypt and Asia, Viking is the largest river cruise operator (by far) in the world. This leads to itineraries that are widely varied and well-developed. The accommodations, common and dining areas have very clean lines following Nordic fashion, and are well maintained by a lovely and polished staff. There is not a focus on health and wellness for excursion choices, but the staff is always ready to help you hire a bicycle in town or map out a hike to scenic areas. The cost can be reasonable if you book through an advertised deal. WanderMore Travels Grade: B+
- UniWorld Boutique River Cruise Collection. UniWorld has been offering amazing river cruise experiences for the last 30 years. Just walking onto the ship is an experience. Each vessel has a unique design that can only be described as artful. Think Versailles mixed with a little Ritz Carlton and you’ve got the right flavor. Their itineraries are just as varied as the décor, offering trips down less-visited waterways like the Po River in Italy. In addition, they are truly an all-inclusive experience (yes, that includes alcohol 24/7). With all the beautiful attention to detail in the décor, the food and the itineraries, UniWorld charges a premium fare and has people returning again and again to experience this amazing brand of floating elegance. WanderMore Travels Grade: A
- Crystal River Cruises. Crystal has been cruising the oceans in luxury (serious luxury) for the past 25 years, and has now entered the river cruise market. In keeping with their strength in the luxury market, Crystal calls their ships “River Yachts” as opposed to the more mundane title. The food can only be called Michelin inspired and the staff are hand-picked and Crystal trained. Their staff ratio of two crew members to three guests is unmatched, with butler service for every room category, dedicated spa professionals, Crystal Society hosts, multiple pastry chefs and much more. Their ship Mozart boasts king-sized beds, iPad control centers and the largest suites of any river vessels in Europe. Suffice to say, you will be in the lap of luxury for your entire cruise. Naturally, the price tag is as hefty as you might imagine, but sometimes you just need to splurge a little – right? WanderMore Travels Grade: A+