It is challenging to categorize the river cruise companies. All have their plusses and minuses, and all have distinctions (or strive to) designed to set them apart from their competitors. One clear point of differentiation is price point, as in how much you’ll pay for your river cruise. I like to break this down to a per-diem basis. How much will the river cruise component cost you, minus the air and other incidentals before or after you cruise? In other words, what’s it costing you each day to be on that ship?
When people tell me the sky’s the limit, with regard to how much moolah they’re willing to part with, I assume they are willing to spend more than US$400 per day per person. If the sky’s the limit, you’ll find a good fit with Crystal, Scenic, Tauck, AmaWaterways, or Uniworld. Tauck and Scenic are truly all-inclusive, meaning that you won’t need to pay gratuities, dole out extra for drinks outside of lunch and dinner, or pay for any excursions. Crystal and Uniworld are mostly inclusive, but do not include port charges. AmaWaterways is not all-inclusive; nor does it include port charges, but because of its quality and reputation, AmaWaterways commands a higher price point. On AmaWaterways, you’ll typically need to pay gratuities (unless you prepay them), and you’ll need to dole out extra for drinks outside of lunch and dinner.
A quick caveat: There are lots of special offers in the marketplace, and sometimes the per-diems on these companies can be much lower than $400 per day. Inversely, sometimes the per diems can be much more. As a general guideline, $400 is the threshold, however, that suggests that you may want to be looking closer at these five cruise companies.
Crystal launched in 2016. Operating five river cruisers, Crystal is the only river cruise company currently operating that started as an ocean-cruise company. Crystal has had more than a quarter of a century to perfect its onboard experience. And years of consecutive awards leaves little doubt that Crystal performs about as good as it gets in the hospitality sector. See Crystal River Cruises: In A Class Apart
Scenic strives to be the most inclusive. Scenic offers a fleet of new ships with great staterooms, really nice balconies, and multiple dining venues. Scenic also carries electric-assist bicycles if you want to take an easy bike ride along the river. Though it applies to France, this post will tell you a lot about Scenic: In Bordeaux, The Exceptional All-Inclusiveness Of Scenic River Cruises
Tauck has a wonderful product, all-inclusive even to the degree of giving you cash for lunch off the ship and change for the public toilets in Europe. I was blown away! Its tours are first-rate, probably the best of any river cruise company out there. I sailed on the ms Savor last spring. You’ll find links to all of my articles here: Tauck’s ms Savor: Danube Reflections, Vienna, Wrapping Up
Uniworld’s ships (the new ones) have fantasy like interiors. Maria Theresa, for example, is baroque inspired. It works well for some people, particularly as you’re cruising down the Danube and can imagine yourself living during the time of the beloved Empress. Uniworld has bikes too – nonelectric. Check out this post:How Do They Compare? Scenic Jasper and Uniworld’s Maria Theresa
AmaWaterways strives to be the most active river cruise company. Though AmaWaterways may not be as inclusive as its competitors at the same price point, it provides a product that can be enjoyed by many generations. With excursions ranging from gentle walking tours to hikes and bike rides in almost every port – AmaWaterways provides something for everyone. Read more about AmaWaterways active options: AmaViola, Active Excursions In Passau And Durnstein
If you can spring for a higher price point, you are guaranteed to sail in comfort with any of these river cruise lines. You won’t go wrong with any of these choices.