To Each His Own: Elite's Quick Guide to the Best European River Cruise Lines
River cruising is gaining in popularity - for good reason. We think river cruising is one of the best ways to see Europe, hands down. But which river cruise line is the best fit for you? It can get confusing! Since there's been an explosion in river cruising companies, here's our quick guide to six of the most popular lines:
The quick sum-up: An intimate cruise line (European ships usually have just 148-164 passengers) that sails down the Rhine, the Danube, Mosel, Rhone, Saone, Seine, and Portugal's Douro River.
Who it’s best for: Affluent, mature travelers who enjoy mingling. Thoughtfully designed public spaces on ships encourage conversation, and most of the other passengers will be fellow Americans, Brits, or Australians.
Our favorite feature: Most ships have around 20 bikes on board, available free of charge to take for a spin in any city you dock in. It’s a great way to explore — and it’s easy on the knees!
The quick sum-up: Part of the Globus family of brands, Avalon Waterways operates 16 ships in Europe. Locally sourced wines and top-notch excursions are included in fares.
Who it's best for: Well-traveled baby boomers who appreciate a fine attention to detail without having to pay splurge-worth prices to get it.
Our favorite feature: Well-designed rooms; most of Avalon's staterooms in its Suite class are 30 percent larger than the average river cruise stateroom. And this cruise line is serious about maximizing view - nearly every bed faces a window, not a wall.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection
The quick sum-up: An upscale river cruise line with top-notch cuisine, décor, personalized service, and classic itineraries. Who it’s best for: Travelers who want to truly pamper themselves or celebrate a special occasion luxuriously. A Uniworld river cruise is a really special experience. Our favorite feature: Sumptuously decorated rooms, inspired by the locale. Think luxurious fabrics, gilded finishes, and fine art and antiques.
The quick sum-up: A truly all-inclusive experience awaits you on Scenic’s river cruises — all drinks and meals, excursions, and gratuities are included. Plus, you get a private butler. Who it’s best for: Well-traveled passengers who want an upscale experience with a modern feel (as opposed to Uniworld’s more traditional, sumptuous décor). Our favorite feature: The Scenic Tailormade program means you can create your own personalized tour, enjoying a guided experience without the group feel. Scenic supplies you with a portable GPS device that you can clip onto an electric bike that shares highlights along your chosen route, and then guides you back to the ship.
Tauck River Cruising
The quick sum-up: A smaller river cruise line from the guided tour experts, Tauck provides elegant experiences for passengers who like to learn about the destinations they visit. Tauck provides on-board experts, exploratory excursions, and three cruise directors on board (more than most other cruise lines). Who it’s best for: While many Tauck cruises are great for couples, the line also caters to less traditional river cruisers. Tauck has dedicated multigenerational family cruises, a special program for group travel, and also offers special discounts for solo travelers. Our favorite feature: Tauck has exceptional themed cruises to choose from, like Castles on the Rhine, Musical Magic along the Danube, and a gourmet cuisine-themed sailing through France.
Viking River Cruises
The quick sum-up: The largest river cruise line in the world, Viking operates about 60 river cruise vessels and perhaps has the best name recognition among river cruise companies. Who it’s best for: Considered more of a mass-market option, Viking river cruises are best for more budget-conscious travelers who don’t mind larger ships (many ships have up to 190 passengers). Our favorite feature: Viking’s alfresco dining area, called Aquavit Terrace, is the ultimate place to relax — and not many other river cruise lines have an alfresco dining option.
Which cruise line best fits your traveling desires?
Want to learn more about a line, or know about the difference between two? Contact me and I'll be happy to illuminate the distinctions of each line for you!