River cruises are gaining popularity for their intimate and engaging experiences. From comfortable cabins with unbeatable views and luxury amenities to itineraries that go off the beaten path, these five cruise lines offer memorable excursions along water routes in Europe, Southeast Asia, South America and beyond.
The spacious, river-focused design of Avalon’s fleet is a notable hallmark and one that has garnered a lot of buzz from passengers. Wall-to-wall glass doors that retract for an unobstructed open-air balcony view means you can watch the sun rise with your coffee or set with a nightcap.
Whether you choose a laid-back holiday or an action-packed vacation, every option is sure to be engaging. Encounter sea lions, giant tortoises and other wildlife in the Galapagos Islands or soak in the sacred water of the Ganges, the river most holy to Hindus.
The ship’s adventure host leads on-board workout classes and off-boat walking and cycling tours. Or you can request a customized itinerary for your specific interests. New in 2023 is the Storyteller Series, literary-themed tours featuring such best-selling authors as Cheryl Strayed, Gillian Flynn and Candace Bushnell.
Viking River Cruises
With instantly recognizable longships that are synonymous with a holiday on the water, Viking has 25 years of experience. And, its esteemed Swiss-trained crew have become a staple of the industry. Serene Scandinavian style influences the decor aboard each vessel. Each ship has an atrium with a modern, minimalist lobby and glass walls opening onto the Aquavit Terrace. Plus, a light-filled contemporary cafe with indoor and outdoor dining.
It’s easy to explore the world with Viking. Their cruises have offerings throughout Europe, Asia and the Americas. Journey along the Nile to see pyramids, tombs and ancient temples. Or take a Mekong tour through Cambodia and Vietnam, with visits to floating markets, fishing villages and a French-colonial river port.
Ever innovative, Viking launched five new itineraries on the Mississippi River this year, while the Great Lakes Collection debuts in June 2023, with trips between Toronto (Lake Ontario) and Duluth (Lake Superior) through all five Great Lakes.
This family-owned and-operated company emphasizes adventure by partnering with Backroads an active-tour operator, to provide guests with more challenging excursions at each destination. There are also wellness hosts who organize on-board activities with luxe touches—champagne yoga classes, anyone? Golfers are welcomed with up to five rounds at championship courses. While wine enthusiasts can enjoy multi-day trips featuring seminars, tastings, wine pairing dinners and access to smaller vineyards.
For an extended experience, book AmaWaterways’ newest offering, the Seven Rivers Journey, which launches in spring 2023. The 46-day itinerary covers three ships, 14 countries and seven European riverways. And in 2024, head down to Colombia for an unforgettable trip along the Magdalena River.
As one of the oldest river cruise companies, Uniworld offers the red carpet treatment. Complete with luxurious amenities and services, including in-suite butlers who cater exclusively to passenger requests. Uniworld has also partnered with Golden Eagle Luxury Trains for six European cruise and rail packages. These packages offer trips ranging from picturesque Venice and the Swiss alps to the castles of Transylvania and the fabled Danube River.
Specialized programming is also available, including Christmas cruises with visits to European holiday markets and floating art workshops led by artist Larry Aarons. The Generations Collection is a family-friendly experience that’s tailor-made for kids of all ages. A dedicated host helps oversee junior passengers, while cooking and craft classes and complimentary bicycles and helmets ensure no one is bored on deck.
With almost 100 years of travel experience, this family-owned company crafts journeys that combine land and water. Each trip is capped at 130 guests, making it a favourite for solo travellers looking for an intimate experience. In 2023, visit the Dutch canals in Amsterdam, Delft and Rotterdam on an eight-day tour.
Multi-generational holidays are a breeze with Tauck Bridges, enabling grandparents, parents and children to plan customized trips. The new Blue Danube family tour is a seven-night, four country adventure that includes an evening at one of the oldest amusement parks in the world and a visit to a Viennese palace.