Europe River Cruise Reviews By Cruise Operator
Before you dive in, there is one important thing for you to know: Some river cruises are all-inclusive, some are not. The chart below provides a quick glance at what’s included and what’s not. Also see Comparing River Cruise Companies
Attributes Of The Top River Cruise Companies
|LINE||Excursions Included?||Beer/Wine Lunch & Dinner?||Drinks Included 24/7?||Onboard Bicycles||Fitness Center||Exterior Balconies/Veranda||Two Room Suites||Service Guarantee||Own & Operate||Room Service||Mini Bar||Dining Venues||Personal Butler||Port Charges Included||Always Included Airport Transfers||Prepaid Gratuities||Laundry Included|
|Crystal River Cruises||**||6||**|
|Viking||With Package||Available Ashore||Available Ashore||Explorer Suites||Suites||2||With Air||**||Suites|
While we've tried to be as accurate as possible, sometimes the answer required more than a simple yes or no. For example, while all river cruise companies in our 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.
We welcome reader comments at the bottom of this post for those who can add to a better understanding of the differences between the major players.
AmaWaterways **: Beer, wine and soft drinks included with lunch and dinner; sparkling wine with breakfast. Complimentary shore excursions included in every port, along with complimentary Limited Edition Tours. AmaWaterways features dual balconies, both French and step-out, in many staterooms. In addition to the main dining room, AmaWaterways features The Chef's Table, with its excellent 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. Nice touches like gluten-free snacks, fruits, Gemstone detox water, 24/7 coffee stations and more. Airport transfers included when purchasing air through AmaWaterways. Guests in suites receive complimentary laundry service, personal butler, minibar stocked with soft drinks, in-suite coffee and continental breakfast. Pre-paid gratuities are offered.
Avalon Waterways **: Beer and wine included with lunch and dinner; sparkling wine with breakfast. 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 served in the Club Lounge and Panorama Lounge. Some optional tours require a fee. Airport transfers included when purchasing air from Avalon. Avalon's beds face wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors. Stocked in-room mini-bar incurs charges for each item selected.
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.
Crystal River Cruises **: All of Crystal's new-builds will feature Panoramic Balcony Windows. Crystal Mozart features balconies in about half of its staterooms.
Emerald Waterways **: Complimentary shore excursions in every port. Wine, beer & soda complimentary for lunch and dinner. All staterooms restocked daily with bottled water. Owner’s Suites comes with complimentary stocked mini-bars. Room service included for suites only. Laundry concierge available for a fee; complimentary for suites.
Scenic **: Inclusions are for all guests, regardless of ship or suite.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection **: Uniworld charges for at least one optional excursion, the Vienna Evening Concert at 75 euros. Free laundry service in higher-end suites across its fleet. Additionally, most Uniworld ships have complimentary self-service laundry facilities for passengers to use; only River Royale, River Baroness, Douro Spirit, and River Victoria lack this feature in the European-based fleet. Room Service and Butler Service on Uniworld is at the suite level only.
Viking River Cruises ** A complimentary shore excursion is included in every port; there are also additional optional shore excursions available on every itinerary. Beer, wine and soft drinks included with lunch and dinner. Specialty coffee & teas available anytime. Optional Silver Spirit beverage packages are available for extra fee & makes drinks all-inclusive. Room service is included for certain category suites, along with a whole range of amenities. Airport transfers included when booking air (or receiving free air) with Europe. Some promotions offered prepaid gratuities or shipboard credits.
River Cruise Reviews By Company
AmaWaterways: Once known as Amadeus Waterways, AmaWaterways has grown exponentially in the intervening years to become one of the major players in the European river cruise market.
American Cruise Lines: Offers river cruises along the Mississippi River, along with small-ship cruises that explore Alaska & the Pacific Northwest, and the North and Southeast United States.
American Queen Steamboat Company: Operates cruises on the Mississippi, Ohio and Tennessee rivers, as well as the Columbia and Snake rivers. Cruise the Mississippi on the celebrated American Queen or the new American Duchess.
A-ROSA: A long-standing player in Europe, the line recently partnered with David Morris International to bring its unique brand of river cruising to North American audiences for the first time.
CroisiEurope: In 1976 Gérard Schmitter introduced the river cruise line, CroisiEurope. It’s the only major river cruise company that is family owned. With its headquarters in Strasbourg, CroisiEurope is one of the few suppliers that can dock in this French city. Because it designs shallow-draft river cruise vessels, CroisiEurope can dock in ports where other vessels cannot.
Crystal River Cruises: Crystal River Cruises launched in July 2016, and I was on board to take a look at its first ship, Crystal Mozart. See Crystal Mozart Photo Gallery Now Crystal aims to redefine river cruising. For starters, the company calls its ships “River Yachts.”
Emerald Waterways: Founded by travel company Scenic, Emerald Waterways made its debut in April 2014. Much like its parent company, Emerald Waterways 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.
Grand Circle Travel: Founded by Ethel Andrus, who also founded AARP (American Association of Retired Persons), Grand Circle has been in operation since 1958. The company offers land tours, small ship cruises and river cruises. Grand Circle caters to the 55+ community, perhaps more so than other river cruise companies.
Scenic: Led by Australian Glen Moroney, Scenic (previously known as Scenic Tours) operates a fleet of all-step-out-balcony ships in Europe and new ships in Southeast Asia.
Tauck: Long-standing American tour operator Tauck distinguishes itself in Europe by offering river cruise tours featuring hallmarks of the company’s “Uncommon Access.” Have you ever wanted to have a private tour of Prague Castle or enjoy dinner at the Hungarian Academy of Science? You can do it with Tauck.
Teeming River Cruises: For many would-be travelers, however, river cruising remains only a dream. The cost of the experience has been prohibitive for many travelers who would love to see Europe by river ship but simply cannot justify the expense. That’s changing as new operators like Teeming River Cruises introduce river cruises that go for around $200 per person per day.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection: In conjunction with Red Carnation Hotels, Uniworld has crafted some of the most distinctive vessels on the waterways of Europe; something the company has been doing for nearly three decades. Uniworld also offers sailings on Italy’s Po River.
Vantage Deluxe World Travel: Vantage operates four river cruisers: ms River Discovery II launched in 2012; River Splendor launched in Spring 2013; River Splendor launched in Spring 2013; and ms River Navigator built in 200 and refurbished in 2013.
Viking River Cruises: You’ve probably heard of the company founded by Torstein Hagen in 1997, which recently earned a Guinness World Record for christening the most ships ever in a single day. Viking has more river cruise vessels operating in Europe than any other company.
All-Inclusive River Cruise Companies
These companies include prepaid gratuities and complimentary beverages 24/7
‘Premium’ River Cruise Companies
These companies normally price out less than the all-inclusive companies but do not include prepaid gratuities. CroisiEurope includes complimentary beverages 24/7 but lacks bicycles on its river cruisers (the company also operates barges). Viking River Cruises does not feature gyms or complimentary bicycles on its ships.