River cruising comes with a variety of choices. Which river? Which countries? Which ship? Which activities? Which stateroom? There are enough question marks to cause decision fatigue before the trip ever begins. But the big question perhaps is what’s your budget?
A river cruise is a major purchase. To help you figure out what may work best for your budget, we developed a comparison of prices between multiple lines – a task that required extensive research in the hopes of cobbling together a better understanding of the price differences and inclusions between companies and their ships.
Mindful of that, we’ve spent a lot of time during the past year coming up with a plethora of price comparison charts that will hopefully aid you in better determining which river cruise is right for you – at a price point that is comfortable for you.
First, however, let’s take a look at some general guidelines about budgets.
How Much Do You Want To Spend?
How much are you comfortable with spending for your river cruise? Though there are no hard and fast guidelines, I recommend thinking about how much you would be comfortable spending on a daily basis. Below, I provide a range of per diems, from less than US$400 per day to more than US$400 per day. Knowing what you’re comfortable spending can help you match the ship to your budget.
Sky’s The Limit, More Than $400 Per Person Per Day
If the sky’s the limit, you’ll find a good fit with Crystal, Scenic, Tauck or Uniworld. All are truly all-inclusive whereas on the other river cruises you’ll typically need to pay gratuities, and you’ll need to dole out extra for drinks outside of lunch and dinner and some excursions. For truly all-inclusive cruises, expect to spend more than $400 per day per person.
As an example, Scenic’s 12-day Bordeaux sailings from May through September, 2017, start at US$6,230 per person, double, and include free or reduced airfare. That’s $519 per person per day. But keep in mind that air is included or reduced.
Down To Earth, Up To $400 Per Person Per Day
If your budget is up to $400 per day per person, AmaWaterways, Avalon Waterways, CroisiEurope, Emerald Waterways and Viking River Cruises will usually fall within your budget. Example, in 2017, AmaWaterways’ 8-day Enticing Douro river cruises, one of its higher priced river cruises, starts at $3,099. That’s $387 per person, per day.
In each post below, we’ve developed a comprehensive table outlining the cruise line, the name of the itinerary, the duration, embarkation/disembarkation ports and the voyage’s average per diem (price per day). We’ve also outlined whether things like port charges are included.
We’ve made sure to list inclusivity; after all, a cruise that is initially more expensive may come out to be the more affordable option if it includes gratuities, transfers and beverages. These kinds of incidentals can really add up on a longer voyage.
Notes on Pricing
All of our data was collected from actual cruises based on fares found on each cruise line’s website during the summer and fall of 2015 (and all are noted within each article). While it’s obviously not September of 2015 anymore, these prices can still be used as a rough guide to illustrate the average price differential between one or more cruise itineraries. Our intent is to update the tables.
A Travel Agent Can Still Get You A Deal
Note that the prices we rely on aren’t special one-time offers or anything like that; a good travel agent may still be able to get you a deal depending on the special offers they’ve managed to extract from their river cruise line partners.
Limited-time specials won’t dramatically reduce the cost of a given river cruise, but quite often they can incentivize to the point where you’re getting a lot more bang for your buck.
We’re Concentrating On Europe – For Now
Right now, our price comparison charts focus heavily on Europe, for one simple reason: The vast majority of the world’s river cruising is currently focused on rivers like the Danube, Main, Rhine, and other more off-the-beaten-path waterways like Portugal’s Douro River and Italy’s Po. But we hope to expand these comparisons to destinations in Russia, China and Southeast Asia.
Don’t see a price comparison here that you’re interested in? Let us know using the comment form at the bottom of the page. In the meantime, have a peek at some of the pricing differences between European river cruises; what you find may very well surprise you.
The Douro River is the only river in Portugal that offers overnight river cruises. Itineraries are usually round trip from Porto, Portugal and visit Salamanca, Spain. You’ll find that most river cruise companies now offer at least one package on the Douro River.
Some itineraries begin in Porto and others begin in Lisbon. The river cruise portion departs from Porto, which is about 194 miles north of Lisbon. Itineraries that include Lisbon are usually 10-11 days long.
There are also itineraries that include travel to Madrid, Spain. For the purpose of this article, we’ll look at travel that begins in Lisbon or Porto. [Read More]
Most river cruise companies offer itineraries that include some combination of the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers. For this article, we’re going to compare prices for river cruises between Amsterdam and Budapest. Most suppliers offer cruises between these two cities.
An itinerary between Amsterdam and Budapest lasts an average of 15 days and travels along four major waterways – the Rhine, Main, Main-Danube Canal and the Danube. It includes the Upper Middle Rhine Valley, the entire Main River and Main-Danube Canal and the western portion of the Danube River. [Read More]