The number one complaint we hear when it comes to river cruising is about price – but oftentimes, that complaint is from people who have never taken a river cruise. While it can be pricey to cruise the rivers of Europe, you often get what you pay for. River cruises can provide exceptional value. On most river cruises, you get a boutique hotel room, meals, most alcohol, and excursions wrapped up into one cost.
But river cruises can – and do – vary in price. For your convenience, we break them down into three categories on a cost per-person, per-day basis:
- Less than $200
- Up to $400
- Over $400
This way, we are able to narrow our list down to cruise companies that will work within your budget. In this post, we are going to look solely at cruises in two of those categories, excluding the highest price points and capping our budget at $400.
When looking at the cost of a river cruise, it is important to look at what is included in that price. When we are talking about cost per person, per day, we are looking only at the price of the cruise divided by the number of days. This daily cost is not the “true per diem,” which would factor in things like airfare, port charges, and more. We publish true per diems for all of the rivers. See Comparisons.
Up To $200 Per Person Per Day
The most budget-friendly cruise comes in at less than $200 per day with Teeming River Cruises. Teeming, however, does not offer drinks with lunch and dinner as do most other cruise lines. Nor does Teeming include excursions in its cruise fare. The owners of Teeming say that they only want their guests to pay for what they are going to use. So, for example, if you do want to drink freely throughout the cruise, there are packages available.
Up To $400 Per Person Per Day
This category is the middle of the road. There will be noticeable differences from the more budget-friendly options such as stateroom sizes and amenities, quality of the dining experiences, bikes available for complimentary use, gyms, and alternative dining venues. Ships in the $200 per person per day range generally do not have a ton of extra amenities.
First, we will look at CroisiEurope. The French-owned cruise company is still unknown to many people in North America, although it has gained some popularity with non-Europeans in the past few years. CroisiEurope’s cruises usually come in at less than $300 per person per day; however, some itineraries command a heftier price tag.
For example, CroisiEurope’s Africa itinerary comes in at more than $700 per person per day. This is an anomaly for the line, but the itinerary is unique enough to require a special price tag. CroisiEurope’s 13-day Africa cruises include a stay at a lodge, land and water safaris, a helicopter tour of Victoria Falls, and much more. Accommodating only 16 passengers per journey, this trip is arguably worth the steep fare.
Next up, we have Riviera River Cruises. Like CroisiEurope, Riviera is more well known in Europe than in North America. The UK based cruise company has numerous itineraries that range in price from as low as around $180 per person per day up to around $400 per person per day. Like Teeming, Riviera does not include beverages in its cruise fare, but drink packages are available. Riviera does, however, include port charges and excursions in its fare.
Avalon Waterways is another line where prices can vary depending on itinerary, but they average just above $350 per person per day in the lowest category stateroom. Avalon offers the Avalon Choice Program, which allows guests to choose from three different types of excursions – active, discovery, or classic. Avalon is a good choice for guests looking to have a bit more control over their cruise experiences with all of the different options offered.
Following Avalon, we have Emerald Waterways. Emerald was founded by Scenic, an Australian river cruise company that started as a tour company; we will get to Scenic in just a minute. Emerald Waterways comes in at a slightly lower price point than Avalon, with most European itineraries priced at just below $350 per person per day. Something that Emerald offers that the other companies we have looked do not, is added gratuities. On an eight-night sailing, gratuities average around $120 but depend on the cruise line’s policy. With Emerald, gratuities are included.
Lastly, we have Viking River Cruises. It goes without saying at this point that itineraries vary in price, but like Riviera and CroisiEurope, Viking’s itineraries can have a large price gap. Itineraries start around $230 per person per day, while special sailings like those that include The Passion Play in Oberammergau can be over our price point of $400 per person per day. However, most sailings fall into the prior category.
Over Our Price Point, But Not Always
Now, Viking was our last on the list, but I also told you that we would get to Scenic earlier in the article. While some of the companies mentioned before have sailings that go over our set budget of $400 per person per day, most of the sailings fall below that price point. We will look at two companies where the opposite is true. That is, most of the sailings are over $400 per person per day, but there are some that may fall within our budget. Those are Scenic and AmaWaterways.
Both Scenic and AmaWaterways have select itineraries that either fall under or are right at this $400 mark. For example, Scenic has an eight-day itinerary from Nuremberg to Budapest that starts at $375 per person per day. That fare is in combination with an airfare incentive allowing guests to fly from $395 per person.
AmaWaterways has a seven-night cruise from Giurgiu to Budapest that is marked down from $3,099 to $2,599, making it about $370 per person per day. The same cruise is offered in reverse for about $400 per person per day.
The takeaway from the AmaWaterways and Scenic example is that sometimes it is worth it to look at discounted sailings and promotions offered by cruise companies that you think may be out of your budget. If you find the right one, you may be sailing for less than you would with a more budget-friendly line.
No matter your decision, we are here to help with the resources on River Cruise Advisor, including help directly from me, Get My Recommendations Based On Your Budget.