What are the differences between Viking River Cruises & Uniworld River Cruises & AmaWaterways & Tauck & CroisiEurope & Riviera & Scenic?
With so many river cruise lines in operation along the waterways of Europe and elsewhere throughout the world, it’s never easy to answer one of the most basic questions travelers are likely to have: How are each of these river cruise companies different from one another?
Compare River Cruise Companies
When you’re planning a river cruise in Europe or Africa or Asia or South America or the United States, you have a dizzying number of choices. To better understand what your choices are, we’ve prepared the table below with some of the features our readers most commonly ask us about, coupled with a brief overview of what makes each line unique in its own right.
This makes it easy for you to compare river cruise companies at a glance and to find out which may work best for your tastes. If you prefer prepaid gratuities, you’ll want to select a river cruise company that includes those. If you like the idea of biking along the river or cycling in the cities where your ship docks, then choose river companies that offer complimentary use of their on-board bicycles. In fact, there are nearly as many variables as there are cruise companies. The chart helps you compare them to choose what’s best for you.
Ready? Let’s go river cruising!
Attributes Of The Top River Cruise Companies
|Beer/Wine Lunch & Dinner?||**|
|Drinks Included 24/7?||**||**||**||**|
|Two Room Suites||**||**|
|Own & Operate||**|
|Port Charges Included|
While we've tried to be as accurate as possible, sometimes the answer require more than a simple yes or no. For example, while all river cruise companies in the accompanying table offer complimentary shore excursions in ports of call, some charge for "optional" excursions. Also, airport transfers are included when air tickets are purchased with the river cruise company, but may not be included otherwise. We’ve indicated companies that always include airport transfers, even for guests who have made independent air arrangements.
AmaWaterways **: Beer, wine and soft drinks included with lunch and dinner; sparkling wine with breakfast; and complimentary cocktails during Happy Hour. Complimentary shore excursions included in every port, along with complimentary Special Interest Tours. AmaWaterways features twin balconies, both a French and an outside balcony, in many staterooms. In addition to the main dining room, AmaWaterways features The Chef's Table restaurant, with its multi-course, wine-paired dinners, at no additional charge. Light lunches and breakfast are served in the lounge, along with full lunches and breakfast served in the main dining room. Airport transfers are included when purchasing air through AmaWaterways. Pre-paid gratuities are offered.
Avalon Waterways **: Beer and wine included with lunch and dinner, sparkling wine with breakfast, and complimentary cocktails during happy hour. Coffee, tea and non-alcoholic beverages complimentary 24/7. In addition to the main dining room, Avalon offers small group (30 people) reservations to Panorama Bistro (light menu paired with wine). When weather permits, grilled lunches are available on the Sky Deck. Meals can also be served in the Club Lounge and Panorama Lounge. Some optional tours require a fee. Airport transfers included when purchasing air from Avalon.
CroisiEurope **: Extra charge only for high-end champagnes and wines. Wi-Fi internet access with complimentary use of Samsung tablet. Complimentary shore excursions included in every port.
Emerald Cruises **: Complimentary shore excursions in every port. Wine, beer & soda complimentary with lunch and dinner. Room service included for suites. Laundry concierge available for a fee; complimentary for suites.
Riviera **: Riviera’s beverage package, which includes wine and beer with lunch and dinner, ranges from $99 per person to $299 per person depending on the duration of the cruise. Expect to pay $129 for the drink package on a weeklong cruise.
Scenic **: Inclusions are for all guests, regardless of ship or suite.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection **: Free laundry service in higher-end suites across its fleet. Additionally, most Uniworld ships have complimentary self-service laundry facilities for passengers to use. Room Service and Butler Service on Uniworld is at the suite level only. Uniworld’s ships have multiple dining venues including restaurants and cafés. Guests also have the option to eat each course in a different part of the ship such as appetizers on the top deck and dessert in the galley on all super ships.
Viking River Cruises ** : A complimentary shore excursion is included in every port. Beer, wine and soft drinks included with lunch and dinner. Specialty coffee & teas available anytime. Optional Silver Spirit beverage packages are available for an extra fee, this makes drinks all-inclusive. Room service, stocked mini-bars and laundry are included for Explorer Suites. Bicycles and gyms are available ashore and arranged by Viking. Airport transfers included when booking air (or receiving free air) with Europe.
Defining Feature: Modern, contemporary ships combining elegant style and service, and a focus on health and wellness.
Destinations: Europe, Portugal, Africa, Cambodia & Vietnam, Myanmar
I recommend AmaWaterways for anyone seeking a stylish and personable river cruise experience and also for those who appreciate wellness and activity. Notable is the company’s emphasis on walks, hikes and both guided and independent bicycling excursions along with theme cruises, such as those that focus on wine. Although the company emphasizes active excursions, it caters well to all levels of mobility, even featuring foldable wheelchairs and other assistive devices on its ships.
Founded in 2002 by Rudi Schreiner, Kristin Karst and the late Jimmy Murphy, AmaWaterways boasts a fleet of more than 20 modern ships that sail the waterways of Europe, plus the AmaDara operating in Vietnam and Cambodia; and the Zambezi Queen in Africa.
Personable service has been a hallmark of the line since day one. It’s a theme that transcends each of AmaWaterways’ stylish river cruise ships and even applies to the company itself. Co-founder Kristin Karst even writes her own blog for the line. Expect to feel not like a number, but like an old friend, when you sail with AmaWaterways.
In recent years, the line has been taking its lauded brand of cruising to other parts of the world. In addition to Europe, AmaWaterways offers luxury voyages to South Africa, Cambodia and Vietnam with a focus on cultural immersion and authentic experiences both onboard and ashore.
AmaWaterways also operates the double-width AmaMagna, representing a game-changing new design elevating modern luxury even further. See 6 Types Of Travelers Who Are Perfect For AmaMagna, Are You One Of Them?
I’ve enjoyed many wonderful cruises through Europe and abroad on AmaWaterways, and those voyages consistently rank as my favorites. See Cruising The Rhone On AmaWaterways: Lyon To Arles, A Cruise Along The Seine With AmaWaterways, and AmaWaterways’ Taste Of Bordeaux
Also check out my Live Voyage Reports, AmaLotus – Vietnam & Cambodia as well as 12 Things To Like About The New AmaPrima.
One of my favorite restaurants resides on AmaWaterways’ vessels, The Chef’s Table. Situated aft, the complimentary, reservations-only dining experience pairs fine wines with multi-course dinners prepared in a show kitchen right in front of you. Ships also offer light lunches, late night snacks and complimentary tapas in the Lounges.
AmaWaterways’ core philosophy is to “under-promise” and “over-deliver.” Thus, you may be surprised by such events as German Fruehschoppen with Beer, German Sausages, Pretzels, Leberkaese and Potato Salad, as well as Austrian Spritzers, and Ice-cream Parties on the Sundeck.
Ships feature complimentary WiFi (probably the best I’ve experienced on the rivers), free movies and music in the staterooms, unlimited complimentary bottled water, complimentary postcards and postage (the only company I know of that does this), 24-hour complimentary specialty coffee & tea station and much more.
Also for an overview of what to expect on AmaWaterways, be sure to check out my Riverside Chat: Q&A AmaWaterways & Magnificent Europe
Read more about AmaWaterways.
Defining Feature: Some of the most uniquely-designed staterooms afloat.
Destinations: Europe, Asia, Amazon, Galapagos Islands
The first of Avalon’s “Suite Ships,” Avalon Panorama, debuted in May 2011 and pioneered the use of two full decks featuring Panorama Suites with floor-to-ceiling windows that open to create what the line calls Open Air Balconies. And while Avalon states that up to 100 cruisers could fit within the spacious, 200-square-foot Panorama Suite, we wouldn’t recommend it. But let’s not split hairs – these are still some of the most spacious river cruise ships out there.
On two full decks of every Suite Ship, beds face the views. The Open-Air Balcony turns your room into a balcony thanks to an 11-foot wide wall of windows that opens 7-feet wide. The design also functions to preserve room space.
Not all of Avalon’s ships in Europe are Suite Ships. On Avalon Creativity, Avalon Felicity, Avalon Luminary and Avalon Affinity, all staterooms, except for the Royal Suites, measure 172 square feet.
Founded in 2003, Avalon has worked quickly to ensure that all of its new river cruise vessels are now Suite Ships, each offering some unique features like beds positioned to face the balcony windows, and some of the best-designed bathrooms we’ve seen on a river cruise ship. That the line offers itineraries throughout Europe and to farther-flung destinations like Asia, the Amazon and the Galapagos Islands (the latter of which is operated by a ship) is just the icing on the cake.
See A Journey through France aboard Avalon Creativity | From Amsterdam To Paris On An Avalon Waterways |
Read more about Avalon Waterways
Defining Feature: Family owned, shallow-draft cruises exploring nearly every corner of Europe.
Destinations: Europe, Asia
Strasbourg-based CroisiEurope has a lot of ships, more than 50. The company’s all-inclusive cruises impress me with their French flair, inventive itineraries and innovative ships, including paddlewheelers that can operate on the Elbe and Loire. CroisiEurope also serves up one of the best values in river cruising. But CroisiEurope is not for everyone. See my story: Is CroisiEurope Right For You?
Founded by Gérard Schmitter in 1976, CroisiEurope River Cruises is still a family run business, responsible for the construction, ownership and day-to-day operations of river cruise vessels that are capable of carrying between 100 and 200 passengers. CroisiEurope is one of the few lines to offer sailings on nearly every river in Europe.
One of CroisiEurope’s defining features is its shallow-draft river cruise vessels. By reducing the amount of the ship that exists below the waterline, CroisiEurope can sail into the heart of cities – like Strasbourg, where CroisiEurope is headquartered – while other river cruise operators are forced to dock on the other side of the Rhine, in the German town of Kehl, and bus guests in.
The line also offers pseudo river-ocean voyages through the Mediterranean that are wholly unique within the industry.
In 2013, CroisiEurope began actively marketing to North American travelers for the first time. Check out our Live Voyage Reports from onboard CroisiEurope’s sleek vessels:
- Loire Princesse through the Loire Valley
- Barging the South of France aboard Anne-Marie
- Botticelli along the Seine River in France
- Bordeaux On CroisiEurope’s Cyrano de Bergerac
- Elbe Princesse: Summing Up
For special offers, see CroisiEurope’s website: https://www.croisieuroperivercruises.com
You can reach CroisiEurope’s U.S. call centers through email ([email protected]) or by phone (toll free number) 1 800-768-7232.
Read more about CroisiEurope River Cruises
Crystal River Cruises (no longer operating)
Defining Feature: Spacious staterooms; Crystal’s renowned service by Crystal hired, trained and manage crew; Michelin-star-inspired dining.
Crystal River Cruises ceased operations in 2022. Read more about the company’s fate and our sailings at Crystal River Cruises.
Defining Feature: Sister to Scenic, Emerald is a “four-star product operating on five-star ships.”
Founded by travel company, Scenic formerly known as Scenic Tours, Emerald Cruises made its debut in April 2014. Much like its parent company, Emerald Cruises serves travelers who are seeking a luxury river cruise experience. However, river cruise packages are offered at a more budget-friendly price compared to Scenic.
I liked what I saw when I cruised on Emerald Sky in April of 2016. The vessel was modern and sleek, with staterooms and public rooms that were bright, contemporary and inviting. Gratuities are included, and bicycles are on board for those who want to pedal ashore. I also enjoyed the aft pool, which transforms into a cinema at night. And yes, there’s popcorn for those who like movies with salty snacks.
While Scenic’s luxury brand caters to travelers who were seeking upscale river cruise experiences, the company also saw a need to serve the less-affluent (and possibly younger) travelers. Thus, the concept of Emerald Cruises was born. Like the Scenic brand, Emerald Cruises has its own custom-crafted vessels referred to as “Star Ships” that began sailing on a few of the waterways in Europe on April 15, 2014.
Glen Moroney, the owner of Scenic, told us that Emerald is a “four-star product operating on five-star hardware.” That’s a pretty good description in our minds.
Check out My Take On Emerald Sky: Five Favorite Things and my voyage through Eastern Europe with Emerald Cruises: An Incredible Journey: Enchantment Of Eastern Europe On Emerald Sky
Read more about Emerald Cruises.
Riviera River Cruises
Defining Feature: Premium river cruise experiences for a fraction of the cost
Founded over thirty years ago in the UK as Riviera Travel, Riviera River Cruises has recently started targeting English-speaking guests from the United States and Canada for its value-priced river cruise offerings in Europe.
The company has a fleet of 11 vessels on the rivers of Europe, with more on the way. Unlike other river cruise lines, Riviera offers a price-point that is substantially lower than most of its competitors. It does this by “unbundling” some features, like inclusive drinks. You’ll pay extra for things like bottled water and beer, wine and spirits, but Riviera believes the overall cost savings justify the add-on charges by making river cruising accessible to a wider swath of people who might be put off by the multi-thousand-dollar-fares charged by other lines.
What Riviera has going for it is its three decades worth of experience as a tour operator, and the rave accolades its UK-based guests have given its river cruise product. Ships carry between 126 and 169 guests apiece, and are elegantly decorated, with plenty of fine woodworking, brass fixtures, and modern décor.
Read more about Riviera River Cruises.
Defining Feature: With its new ships, Scenic strives to be the most inclusive of all river cruise lines.
Destinations: Europe, Asia
I last cruised on Scenic in 2015 and enjoyed the product quite a bit. The ships are modern and inviting, but it is all of the luxury trappings that make Scenic stand apart. Scenic strives to be the most inclusive of all river cruise companies. So naturally gratuities and 24/7 bar is included, but also laundry service and nearly everything else you can think of. The ships are beautiful with gorgeous staterooms. There are also multiple dining venues. I wrote extensively about Scenic in this post: Scenic Jasper, End Of Cruise, Summing Up
In 1987, Australian entrepreneur Glen Moroney founded Scenic Tours, a company that got its start offering coach trips to the Australian coast. Initially, Scenic Tours marketed its product to residents of Melbourne but soon realized that its guests would travel further with them.
During the next two decades, Scenic Tours continued to grow and expand, earning accolades from travelers around the world for quality and service, not to mention Scenic’s rapidly diversifying array of tour packages.
In 2008, Scenic Tours expanded once again, this time jumping into the river cruise market with the launch of the trademark Scenic “Space Ships.” On April 13, 2015, Scenic Tours officially changed its name to Scenic.
Read more about Scenic.
Defining Feature: All-inclusive river cruise tours that include overland journeys chocked full of exclusive experiences.
Founded in 1925 by Arthur Tauck Sr., the long-standing American tour company has been slowly but surely expanding into the European river cruise market, offering up its unique brand of inclusive luxury river cruises coupled with full-guided overland journeys.
One of Tauck’s defining features is what the company offers ashore. The line offers exclusive events like private lunches, dinners and concerts, and in some cases, even private after-hours tours of museums like the In Flanders Fields museum in Ieper, Belgium, and the Lobkowicz Palace in Prague.
The line is also starting to innovate on the waterways of Europe, introducing new Loft-style staterooms aboard their two newest vessels, ms Inspire and ms Savor that are quickly becoming some of the most talked-about staterooms. The line is also noteworthy for its restraint: instead of carrying 190 guests, these new vessels take just 130.
Aaron recently cruised on Tauck’s ms Inspire through Belgium and Holland on the centenary of World War I. See his Live Voyage Report, Tauck’s MS Inspire – Belgium & Holland.
Ralph recently sailed aboard ms Savor along the Danube. Read his complete Voyage Report here.
Read more about Tauck.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection
Defining Feature: All-inclusive, boutique river cruises accented with classic “old world” European design.
Destinations: Europe (including Italy), Russia, Portugal, Egypt, China, India, Cambodia & Vietnam
Uniworld’s full name might be a mouthful, but the company has been providing river cruises in its own inimitable style longer than any company on this list, save for CroisiEurope. And during the past three decades, Uniworld has learned a thing or two about how to run a successful river cruise line.
One of Uniworld’s defining features is its intrinsic style. The interiors of each of Uniworld’s European-based ships are entirely unique, reflecting a style that could best be described as Versailles-meets-Ritz Carlton. It’s this style, coupled with the line’s varied itineraries that include less-visited waterways like Italy’s Po River, that keep guests coming back time and time again.
Uniworld is all-inclusive and is one of only a handful of lines to offer a truly inclusive experience along the waterways of Europe.
In March of 2014, Ralph attended the S.S. Catherine Christening. He calls Uniworld the “Seabourn of the Rivers.” See his report from the south of France on S.S. Catherine.
In March of 2015, Aaron looked on in Amsterdam as the new S.S. Maria Theresa was christened. Click here for the full multi-day report.
Also see our Live Voyage Reports from sailing on S.S. Maria Theresa: Day 1, Boarding Maria Theresa | Day 2, Biking Bamberg, Making The Case For River Cruising As An Active Experience | Day 3, Step Into Stateroom 425, Crossing Europe’s Continental Divide | Day 4, Open-Air Balconies Make All The Difference | Day 5, This Is River Cruising? Fine Dining On Uniworld | Day 6, Cruising & Cycling The Wachau Valley
Read more about Uniworld Boutique River Cruises.
Viking River Cruises
Defining Feature: Scandinavian design, Nordic sensibility and the most river cruise ships on the waterways of Europe – by far.
Destinations: Europe, Russia, Portugal, Egypt, China, Cambodia & Vietnam, Myanmar, Ukraine
It’s hard to not know about Viking River Cruises. Chances are that you’ve seen the company’s ads during Downton Abbey and other programs, or you’ve simply heard about Viking because of the prodigious expansion of the new Viking Longship fleet. Everywhere you look, from print advertising to docking spaces in Europe, Viking is there.
Founded in 1997 by cruise industry veteran Torstein Hagen, one of Viking’s defining features has always been providing guests with a good river cruise at a reasonable price. When the first of its new Viking Longships set sail in March of 2012, the company became a driving force for innovation within the industry, pioneering firsts like the indoor/outdoor Aquavit Terrace and the introduction of the first true suites on the waterways of Europe.
Viking doesn’t feature gyms, or hot tubs, or bicycles aboard its ships for the simple reason that, as Hagen puts it, all of Europe is a natural gym. In many of the towns and cities Viking stops in, walking tours are offered and bicycle rentals from private vendors are plentiful. Those are amenities that Hagen believes are under-used on other vessels, and space that could be better put toward the line’s wide array of staterooms and suites.
As active travelers who enjoy cycling and some time in the gym, we don’t always agree with Hagen but we do love his ships. Viking’s big, bright ships are the company’s defining feature, along with crews that are increasingly polished as some of the best and brightest stars are coming to work for Viking from other lines. By the time the line took delivery of another 12 Viking Longships in March of 2015, Viking had launched a total of 42 new vessels since 2012 – more than any other river cruise line afloat. The line will launch additional Longships next year, along with a new vessel on the Douro, Viking Osfrid.
In 2015, Viking also took delivery of their first oceangoing cruise ship – Viking Star. She will be joined in 2016 by a sister-ship, Viking Sea, and in 2017 by two additional vessels: Viking Sky and Viking Sun.
Click here for our multi-day voyage report from onboard Viking Star in London and her christening in Bergen, Norway.
For the Viking Longships, see Ralph’s Six Points Of Differentiation: Viking Odin Review
We’ve each sailed Viking several times now, and have Live Voyage Reports from all three Danube Christmas Markets runs, all four Viking Longsships christening ceremonies, and France’s Bordeaux region. Read about our past and upcoming sailings on our Live Voyage Reports page.
Read more about Viking River Cruises
Check out our Price Comparisons for cruises on the Douro, Seine, Rhine, Danube, and for cruises Between Amsterdam & Budapest.
Meantime, In America
American Queen Steamboat Company River Cruise Reviews
Review from our sister site, The Avid Cruiser.
Even if you’re an avid cruiser like us, you’ll find there’s little to compare to the American Queen. It can’t be compared to a river cruise vessel in Europe. The largest paddlewheeler ever built, the six-deck American Queen is nearly 2.5 times wider than those river cruisers. Spanning 90 feet across, she offers multiple restaurants, including a gorgeous two-story main restaurant, lots of public rooms, a variety of staterooms and suites, a small pool, gym and, of course, a giant paddlewheel to propel the riverboat.
Click play to check out the Avid Cruiser’s video review featuring The American Queen.
For optimal viewing, toggle the full-screen icon. Troubling viewing the video? Click here. Or subscribe to the Avid Cruiser video podcasts to download the videos to your iDevice.
Check out all of our articles and videos featuring the American Queen.
Currently on uniworld Main river cruise. Previously taken Viking Rhine and Danube cruises. Prefer Viking on all levels. Food is comparable between both but tour information is much better with Viking. Better communication and information prior to cruise, better history lessons with tour guides. More of an educational tour and less touristy shopping type tour. Viking rooms are cleaner with better use of space. More storage, more room to move around within the room. Better organization overall for the whole trip with Viking. Employees on Viking were friendlier and more willing to engage in conversation. Not unhappy with Uniworld but Viking was better choice for me.
Agree after 4 trips with Viking in all areas.
eleanor mahoney says
Hi..does anyone have an opinion on which cruise line offers the best food and wine lists? Thank you!
Ralph Grizzle says
You would not be disappointed with Crystal with regard to food and wine.
CHARLES J VERSAGGI says
I’ve only cruised on Uniworld (twice) and as a “foodie” the meals are so good you don’t have an urge to explore local restaurants – certainly not for dinner. The included wines are local and always excellent – and reviewed nightly by the sommelier. I highly recommend. BTW, I’m booked on my third Uniworld cruise in October.
tina dunn-emmons says
What a shame that you didn’t venture out to enjoy the local fare. That’s 1/2 the fun of traveling abroad! Hope you choose to be more adventurous on your next cruise!
Ben Miedema says
It has been a some years that I have been on a Rhine cruise. I am now looking to possibly lease a vessel for a private group tour. I need to be able to contact Avalon, Scenic, Uniworld, Tauck directly to arrange terms of the lease of a vesssel, crew, with at least two meals per day provided. I could use Scenic’s $379.00 per day per person as a starting point. Cruise would probably be for seven days. I Thank you in advance for your advice.
Leslie Jones says
Having sailed with Viking River in Bordeaux and now Uniworld River Queen European Jewels, I cannot figure out why Uniworld is almost twice as expensive as Viking. If anyone has any idea, please respond. I have not been that impressed with the food and while I appreciate the “fitness center” (small room with cycle, treadmill, step machine and weights) that alone is not worth the extra money. Personally I prefer the more contemporary Viking furnishings rather than the European provincial look of Uniworld. The ONLY benefit for me was no single supplement on Uniworld for my particular cruise. Still, given the price difference I might have still paid less on Viking. I do wish Viking would offer selecter cruises with no single supplement.
Kathy Dunn says
Just returned from an AmaWaterways trip. Would like to see information about Gate 1 as well (saw several of these river ships on my trip). Also, when comparing river cruise lines, it would be good to know if they provide free WiFi or other internet access in cabins for free (as Ama does). Description of Ama needs to be updated too. They provide free water in your cabin, and now have a second dining option on most ships, for example.
Al Haworth says
Please include Grand Circle on your updated comparison. Thanks.
Ralph Grizzle says
Thanks. Have you cruised with Grand Circle? I would like to know how they stack up too.
Hi, I am seeking information from anyone that has sailed with Uniworld for their fall 2016 Nile River cruises. I am trying to determine if ships sailed as scheduled or were cancelled. We are confirmed for early next spring but I have concerns about the number of confirmed travelers and cancellations.
Thank you in advance for any and all responders.
Alan Alexander says
My wife and I just completed a river cruise on River Beatrice with Uniworld. We booked the owners suite and it was a mistake. It is quite a bit more expensive than a regular suite and for about 2,800 dollars you get 75 square feet more and a bath tub. There are no other amenities above what you may get if you just booked a suite. Additionally, the completion of arrangements prior to the cruise were very difficult and not very clear. The pre hotel was very expensive for an extremely small and very noisy room. Overall I do not consider the higher end of Uniworld arrangements to be a good value. I sent a letter to Uniworld and received sympathy, but mostly excuses rather than any attempt at any solutions. I would not sail with them again.
Paul Winge says
After doing some extensive research on the major river cruise lines, I decided to spend a little extra and book a trip on the Scenic Jasper. What a great decision that was. The ship couldn’t have been more beautiful and the staff couldn’t have done anything to add to the experience. The all inclusive features mean that once you’re on board you never have to touch you wallet and you want for nothing. We were blown away by Scenic and highly recommend that others consider Scenic too.
Mike Avanti says
Let’s be real, the on ship service is great while the corporate travel booking is a mess. Not only did they incorrectly book our outbound and inbound flights, Viking disregarded the necessity for customer service to correct their mistake they made. When attempting to cover Maria, a supervisor with Viking, stated “this was an agent entry mistake” instead of simply owning THEIR mistake and finding a comparable solution to the problem. When these type of things happen they completely taint the entire experience. Not reccommended!
Carol Ressler says
Just finished Bordeaux cruise with Viking Forsetti. Cruise Director was rude to many guests. Frequently said, “As I told you” and “If you had been listening” to guests who asked for clarification (and needed it) of something she said that was vague or confusing. She peppered her speech with “Ladies and gentlemen” the way some people say “Um” or “Like” when they pause. She was so over-the-top in her promotion of future Viking trips that we decided to investigate other cruise lines.
… sounds like I would have insisted on paying my own gratuities on that trip … I certainly would NOT have wanted the Cruise Director to receive an “automatic” gratuity.
Carol Ressler says
Been on 4 Viking cruises and all have met everything I look for in a river cruise. Outstanding in every detail from start to finish. Outstanding friendly crew.
Brenda White says
Love your site. We have been on two river cruises, the first was with AMA Waterways and we were so disappointed we did not try it again for 5 years. The cruise director was so obsessed with trying to figure out who had money so he could suck up to them ( excuse my language) for a better tip that that the rest of us were left hanging. Extremely unprofessional. Anyway in 2015 we thought we would try it again and our agent booked Scenic, now there is a company that others can learn from. Wonderful, accommodating, the best service. We loved it.
ML Kampert says
Where is Vantage? We have traveled with them 10 times…river voyages and small group travel. Sorry to see you didn’t include them or Grand Circle, which many of our friends have enjoyed.
Kay N. says
Which river cruise lines allow you to bring children and what is is the minimum age?
Ralph Grizzle says
AmaWaterways, Uniworld and Tauck have good family programs. See this post: https://www.rivercruiseadvisor.com/2015/03/which-river-cruise-companies-allow-children/
As the mother of 7 grown children, I surely would not want to take a child or children on a river cruise unless they enjoyed quiet time and didn’t mind the lack of space to roam around and loved history. Although I ended up teaching history at a university, at least half of the seven didn’t like to visit the historic sites I was drawn to. I know the brochures show photos of happy children, but they would. Of course they could always text or play video games, but that would defeat the purpose of taking them.
Don’t know/understand why you show Cristal River Cruises – which is NOT in the chart, but missed Scenic – which has a tick in EVERY column and the most dining options as well?! NOT GOOD!
Ralph Grizzle says
Give us a little bit of a break. Scenic and Emerald were accidentally deleted during an edit. Crystal is not operating yet, and we don’t have enough information to include them in the chart until the company begins operation in July with Mozart and in 2017 with four of its six new ships.
Love this chart but I would have liked a column with who provides free wi-fi. Does anyone know which lines do provide Wi-Fi for free. Thanks
Ralph Grizzle says
I find your comment “no obnoxious American tourists to deal with” rather unkind. I have sailed on 6 river cruise companies including A-ROSA, 3 times. The purpose of this type of travel is to relax, have fun, explore great historic towns and socialize with likeminded people. It is difficult to have a conversation with Germans who refuse to speak English even though they can. I had such an experience this past July on A-ROSA. Nobody likes obnoxious travelers (you think Germans can’t be obnoxious??) but please don’t pick on Americans, we have enough bad things said about us.
Ralph Grizzle says
Amen to that! “we have enough bad things said about us”
I agree. I’m from Australia and have travelled on 3 Uniworld cruises which are very popular with Americans. I have encountered very few obnoxious Americans on these trips, only one couple comes to mind, in fact the majority have been delightful people. We swapped names and addresses with quite a few couples with the view to catching up either when we visit the states or they visit Australia. Believe me there can be some very obnoxious Australians overseas as well!
They should have said NJ/NY Americans. They truly are obnoxious.
Agree obnoxious folks exist in all societies.
Judy Graff Fisher says
Hi, RCA! We just returned from an A-Rosa Rhine cruise on their newest ship, the Flora. You don’t have it listed here, although it looks just like the Stella, from your pics. Anyway, we loved it! We’ve only been on one ocean cruise before and probably wouldn’t ocean cruise again, but river cruising is a whole other ball game and we can’t wait for our next one. Just an FYI, most of the other passengers were German and older. This was fine, tho — no obnoxious American tourists to deal with! And all announcements were in both German and English. This was an all-around great experience.
Aaron Saunders says
That’s great, Judy – really glad to hear you enjoyed your cruise with A-ROSA! We’ll work on getting a profile of A-ROSA Flora on the site. As you can imagine, we’re pretty passionate about river cruising, too. Glad you enjoyed your first one!
Polite American Tourist says
Judging from your comment “no obnoxious American tourists to deal with,” I certainly wouldn’t want to deal with someone like you anywhere. A sweeping generalization like that showcases your ignorance since there are obviously many delightful American tourists out there as well as “obnoxious” tourists from every nationality. Shame on you.
Fill Wood says
I just discovered and love this site. As a compulsive travel planner, who likes to research every detail imaginable from as many sources as possible, I welcome the info that you provide. My wife and I have taken over 30 ocean cruises, but are new to river cruising. I particularly appreciate your info regarding exercise opportunities available on the various lines, especially the availability of bicycles as my wife and I also have taken numerous bicycle trips and are looking forward to being able to cycle across Europe without carrying panniers and un-packing/packing in new hotels every night, as we have in the past. I’d appreciate any info you can provide comparing the quality of the bicycles offered on the various cruise lies, especially Ama and Uniworld. I don’t expect the bicycles to be as good as our own custom touring bicycles or even high-end road racing bicycles, but hopefully they should be relatively new, decently maintained, and with some gearing to allow one to visit hilltop castles and not just pedal on bike paths along the river banks and in town centers.
Ralph, the next time you prepare a chart, please consider using a “check” mark as opposed to an “X” to indicate the affirmative. An “X” has a very negative connotation to most people. Without reading the fine print below the chart, my husband expressed his surprise that Viking (the line we’re leaning toward for our first river cruise) doesn’t have step-out balconies, a feature that is very important to us. Reading down that category, one sees “some” “some” “some” and then an “X”. A check mark is much more positive, and if you really want to get fancy and even more affirmative, make it green!
I have to stay that I am a huge planner/researcher for my husband and I when we go on vacations. I enjoy reading before hand about the areas, and types of tours etc. Thinking back on the days before the internet and relying on tour books and travel agents to send me in the right direction was a real chore. Now with the internet and the extraordinary capabilities that it gives a traveler to plan, in some cases, for their lifelong adventure is an amazing tool. One I rely on immensely. So with that said, I look for anything I can find relating to a particular trip I may be thinking of booking. I search for ANYONE’S opinion on the subject and weigh what is said for it’s informational purposes. I really don’t care much who or what company is imparting this information, rather using it to gather as much information as I can to help me make the best planned trip that I can. In this case, I was searching for info on the Viking Baldur. We are sailing on her 7/27/14 on a Grand European Tour down the Rhine, Main, and Danube. The review/day by day account that Aaron Saunders posted on his Christmas Market trip was very well done and interesting., full of great information. Again, not reading it for info on the markets but rather for what was said about the ship, cruise line and some of the towns he visited. To each his own for what you garner from the things posted on the internet. I for one am happy to have learned quite a bit from is review and am happy I stumbled upon it. Thanks for your great review and we are very excited to be on the Baldur for our first river cruise.
Aaron Saunders says
Thank you, Carol – I am glad you found the Viking Baldur review useful! I started these day-by-day reports a few years back to give people an up-to-date view of what they can expect on their trip, and more importantly, of their ship. Viking Baldur is very comfortable, very stylish, and nicely appointed. You should have a wonderful time on your Grand European Tour – it’s a fantastic itinerary!
Have fun and Bon Voyage!
Hope you will post a review of your extensive experience. Like yourself, we do considerable research in planning vacations and last summer mixed a week with Viking, a week with trains through Belgium, and two weeks visiting Norway’s ports. I basically found the preparation for the Rhine Getaway to decrease our enjoyment of it! The short daily walking/bus tours got us back for lunch (with beer/wine) and seemed to basically fill available time in the least expensive manner). If you are that planner-type that haunts Roll Calls on Cruise Critic, you tend to do port visits by yourself or in private groups. I have found that my Roll Calls for Holland America, Princess, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity include a majority of experienced world travelers who have information and experience to share! It seems that most of our Viking travelers were on their first European vacation and found the morning walks or bus rides just fine, as long as the beer and wine were waiting on their return!
Great site, Thanks. Is it advisable to pay in full 10 months ahead to get all the discounts? Is it better to place a deposit ? Yes, no matter what, need cancellation insurance. Again, Thanks.
Ralph Grizzle says
River cruises are in high demand, so yes, it’s important to act quickly, make that deposit and cover yourself with insurance. Planning in advance is key to a good experience.
Amitabh Sarma says
As to booking early, I think it depends on what kind of cabin/ship you want and where and when you want to go. We have booked fairly early for all our river cruises but I have seen some really good deals a month or so out on all the lines including Uniworld, our preferred company. However, the deals weren’t at the time or place we wanted to go. So perhaps you do pay more choosing early. On the other hand, if the cruise line doesn’t have many sailings listed for a particular trip, it will fill up, so again booking early the only option. I am such a planner that it is hard to be spontaneous.
For those looking for travel insurance, you might take a look at the Squaremouth Website. I know it is an odd name, but they are brokers for dozens of companies that sell trip insurance. You plug in your information and a number of quotes pop up. Very easy to use. ALSO, you may find one or two companies that don’t penalize older travelers as much as is the rule.
Larry Azamara says
Ralph – with all due respect, your disclaimer fails to address the main flaw in your justification. By you own admission your web site receives what you choose to call “sponsorships”…but most people would call them fees. Fees that your web site receives from cruise companies, in exchange for positive publicity, so in effect you are the owner of some web sites that derives revenue from customers in the cruise industry in exchange for favourable reviews. Most reasonable people would describe your company therefore as a PR firm specialising in digital endorsements.
The problem, as I see it lays in two areas.
Firstly you use the term journalist in describing yourself, when inherently journalists are impartial and at arms lengths from the commercial necessities of the publication they write for, so you are using word in a commercially advantageous way, which is not accurate.
Secondly you claim to write your reviews of the ships as part of a free “press trip”, when actually you are not part of any “press” organization, you are actually a paid supplier of the cruise companies from which you receive “sponsorships” from, and are invited aboard in order to provide positive PR coverage. The fact that the companies choose to add you as a “press trip” visitor actually detracts from the legitimate role that the press play in the description and analysis of a ship and it’s pro’s and con’s, which due to your conflict of interest, are lacking in your reports.
Your statement “We make all the information on this site available for free”, is curious as it is not free to the advertisers, nor the sponsors, and if you believed it could be charged for via subscription or some other method then why not move to that model?
I think Ralph you have some issue to work through to make the statements on your web site an accurate reflection of your business.
Ralph Grizzle says
Larry, While I get where you’re coming from, your reasoning comes from an uninformed point of view about how things actually operate in the media world. For example, I am on a press trip at this very moment in the Mediterranean with journalists from major publications. There are 12 of us, all from US-based media outlets. All of us are guests of the cruise line, and in fact, of the hotel where we stayed last night. The cruise line paid our air and all expenses. This is the way that all travel companies operate. And all media that I know of accepts. No one pays the retail rate of these cruises to write about them or review them. I travel three or four times a year with writers from USA Today, often with writers from major newspapers like the Miami Herald, a lot with Travel Weekly, Cruise Critic and other publications. And yes, I have even traveled with writers from Conde Nast, the Truth in Travel publication. I’ve traveled twice with Conde Nast writers, once in Antarctica and once in the Mediterranean.
I am a journalist, not using the word in a commercially advantageous way. It is my profession. I’ve won awards from journalism associations, and more than that, I have a journalism degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I even wrote a book about a journalist. His name was Charles Kuralt, and my journalistic philosophy is a lot like his. He said, “Most reporters can’t go back to the towns they wrote about. I never wrote that kind of story.” So I am not the Mike Wallace style of journalist, never have been. Don’t want to be.
As for subscriptions, been there, doesn’t work. NPR exists on sponsorships, and NPR doesn’t call them fees. We chose the NPR model. Without it the digital space that this site occupies would be blank, and 99.99 percent of our readers would not want that.
Right on SFONAN – This page is actually one giant advertorial…get out your magnifying glass and you can just spot: “Note that across the site we primarily include cruise companies that sponsor River Cruise Advisor.”
Ralph Grizzle says
I’ve revised the disclaimer to include it in the main text and I corrected it. It was not accurate that only companies that sponsor River Cruise Advisor were featured. What is correct is that only companies that we have personally experienced were included. The disclaimer now reads (in two places): Note that we feature only the river cruise companies that we’ve personally sailed on and experienced. Your favorite line may not be in our chart. If so, mention your favorites in the comments section below.
We do our best. We make all the information on this site available for free. Most visitors have only good things to say about what the service we provide. I simply wouldn’t know how to do it any better – and make it worthwhile for us.
Ralph – Thanks for the disclaimer – couldn’t imagine why one of the very best – Avalon Waterways – wasn’t included until I read that.
I am anxious to read about Avalon as that line has been highly recommended to me for river crossing.