The Ultimate Guide to River Cruising

Jul 27, 2021 | CRUISE TIPS | 0 comments

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The Growing Appeal of River Cruising

A river cruise offers a range of benefits, so it’s no surprise that the popularity of river cruises is continually increasing. According to CLIA, the UK and Ireland’s river cruise market grew by 10.4 per cent in 2018 in their annual river cruise review.

For in-depth reviews of all the River Cruise companies in the USA and Europe, you might like to buy a copy of the Berlitz Guide to River Cruising. Read our comprehensive review.

Berlitz River Cruising in Europe & the USA (Berlitz Cruise Guide)
Berlitz River Cruising in Europe & the USA (Berlitz Cruise Guide)
Publishing, Berlitz (Author); English (Publication Language); 256 Pages - 07/01/2018 (Publication Date) - Berlitz Travel (Publisher)

Why River Cruising?

For a more relaxed vacation, the perfect multi-city break or a sightseeing adventure, a river cruise gives you all of this – plus a lot more. We explore all the ins and out of river cruising in this article to help you choose the right river cruise for you.

Choosing your dream river cruise isn’t easy if you haven’t tried a river cruise before. The brochures all look fantastic, and the cruise company websites are all designed to lure you into booking with them. Promises or stunning scenery, city tours, fabulous food, bicycle rides and stepping off the ship into the streets of some medieval town are part of the appeal of river cruising, and all this is true. Remember, this applies to whichever cruise line you choose. In this respect, they are all very similar.

The reality is that most river cruise companies basically have the same cost structure sailing on the same rivers with similar sized vessels. So it stands to reason that the cheaper companies will be offering a less inclusive cruise, smaller cabins, massed products food, and less staff to look after you. These companies will also be looking for ways to increase their revenue by charging for extras like speciality restaurants, alcoholic beverages and shore excursions. If you are only interested in the itinerary, these things may not be of any concern to you.

River Cruise Guide

Which Cruise Line?

For a more all-inclusive luxury river cruise experience, in our opinion, you should consider one of the leading European cruise lines. These include AMA Waterways, Crystal River Cruises, Uniworld, or Scenic, which we rate very highly. Our article on All Inclusive versus Pay As You Go Cruising is well worth a read.

As with all things, you only get what you pay for. There are many other river cruise lines to choose from, so it is essential to understand what the fare includes and those classed as extras.

River Cruising Guide Ladies

Which River should I choose?

So if you are itinerary driven, you will need to narrow down your choice of the cruise by choosing which river you wish to experience. For most folks, the River Danube is our top recommendation for people new to river cruising. This charming river hosts many of Europe’s historic cities, including Nuremberg, Passau, Linz, Vienna, Budapest, Bratislava, and numerous enchanting villages along the way. There really is so much history in this part of the world that it is sometimes hard to grasp the richness of the landscape and architecture.

But if you’ve done the Danube, there are many other great Rivers to experience. You can choose the Douro, the Rhone, the Rhine, the Seine, the Moselle, or any other rivers that course through Europe. The USA and the Middle East, and Vietnam are also popular river cruise options for those who like to travel farther afield.

River Cruing Guide

River Cruising on the River Danube

Choosing your Accommodation

Once you have decided on your river and itinerary, you need to think about your accommodation as this can make or break your cruise experience. There are many things to consider, including how much space you like, do you want a window, a French balcony or sit out on a proper balcony.

Compared with Ocean cruise ships, River cruise cabins tend to be somewhat smaller, so it is essential to make an accurate comparison when choosing. They are generally smaller, but that does not mean they are less comfortable. In fact, river cruise designers have been hard at work with innovative cabin designs to make your experience very special.

Dining Options

For us, dining is always an essential consideration on every cruise, and so we always check the fine detail of the options available. Rather than having just a single dining location, we look for alternative and speciality dining options. In terms of table allocation in the main restaurant, river cruises tend to operate “open seating” policies whereby you will join tables as you arrive in the restaurant rather than being able to specify a table for two at a specific time. If you are travelling as a foursome or a party of six, this is less of an issue. Our most recent experience with Crystal River Cruises and Uniworld has worked out well when travelling in a party of 4. 

River Cruise Guide Dining Options
River Cruising Guide Dining Options 2

What’s Included in Your Cruise Fare?

When you start comparing cruise fares, you need to understand exactly what is included in your fare. Things you should check are gratuities, shore excursions, speciality dining. In terms of alcoholic beverages, some cruise lines include them all, some only at certain times of the day and others charge for everything.

Shore Excursions on some cruise lines may be limited, and premium events and visits may be available at additional cost. Some Cruise Lines arrange special events in the area where you are cruising. We were privileged to attend a special concern organised by Crystal River Cruises in Budapest.

River Cruising Guide 0170 1
River Cruising Gude

River Cruising – Frequently Asked Questions


We rate the Best River Cruise Lines as follows:

  • Uniworld Boutique River Cruises.
  • Crystal River Cruises.
  • Tauck River Cruises.
  • AmaWaterways.
  • Scenic River Cruises.

Most river cruises are not really a good choice for families or for people who enjoy extensive onboard entertainment. The daily costs for river cruises are generally are higher than for ocean-going cruises but they are a completely different experience.



River cruise lines with all-inclusive fares include Tauck, Scenic, Uniworld and Crystal River Cruises, which additionally offer complimentary airport transfers, all alcoholic drinks, gratuities, special events and in-room mini-bars.


The Best Luxury River Cruises include:

  • Crystal River Cruises
  • Tauck River Cruises
  • AmaWaterways
  • Uniworld Boutique River Cruises

Both onshore and on-board we recommend comfortable, smart-casual clothing including sturdy walking shoes for shore excursions. When dining ashore, attending special events or concerts men may want to bring a sports jacket and women a cocktail dress or pantsuit – ties are optional.


Always do your homework before you book and if you are new to river cruising perhaps try a short 7-day trip to start with. If you love a relaxing vacation a river cruise can be a good solution, but equally, there is an adventure to be had and plenty and unique destinations to explore.

River cruising can be quite expensive if you compare the per diem rates with some ocean cruise lines, so always be sure what you are getting for your money. The best way to do this is to use a specialist cruise travel agency. These folks understand all the important details about each cruise line and their suitability for your trip. If you need guidance or a quotation please reach out to us.

Enjoy your next cruise whether it is on the worlds’ Ocean or Rivers; there is something for everyone.

Last update on 2024-04-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


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Mike & Anita

Welcome all cruise enthusiasts!
We’re Mike & Anita, your spirited guides to cruising the high seas (and Rivers), and we’ve clocked in over 600 days at sea.

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A passionate cruiser and photographer with more than 600 days at sea, and just a few, but growing number of Luxury River Cruises. Our expereince as hotel inspectors for a prestigous French brand help us uncover all the good things about luxury cruising. All-Inclusive Food and Wine Cruises always attract our attention!

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