Best River Cruise Line: AmaWaterways
With programming that caters to families (through a new partnership with Adventures by Disney) and the actively inclined (through tour operator Backroads), as well as art, music and wine lovers, AmaWaterways has successfully drawn new passengers to river cruising, and it continues to tweak the onboard experience with specialty restaurants and new cabin configurations.
Best New River Cruise Ship: Crystal Mozart
With multiple restaurants, expansive spa and gym spaces, and indoor and outdoor lounges, Crystal Mozart is more like a small ocean cruise ship than a riverboat. Public spaces have a wow factor, and cabins are laden with high tech amenities. Add in top end speedboats and Michelin-starred dinners, and Crystal Mozart makes a standout debut for the new Crystal River line.
Best Luxury River Cruise Line: Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection
Similar to lavish luxury hotels, Uniworld’s ships are the most beautiful and unique in river cruising. Looks aside, the line offers fine dining, almost full inclusivity (alcoholic drinks, excursions and tips), butler service and amenities that include a cinema, pool and spa. While Europe itineraries prevail, the line branched into India this year and expanded its multigenerational family cruises.
Best River Cruise Line for Dining: Tauck River Cruising
Choice rules here, with river passengers craving interesting regional specialties, familiar comfort food and dishes friendly to dietary restrictions. With the addition of Arthur’s a casual grill that’s open all day, offering a vast menu Tauck ensures passengers can eat what they want, when they want. The line also encourages authentic shore dining by giving out lunch money for local cafes.
Best River Cruise Line Cabins: Avalon Waterways
In Avalon’s smartly designed 200-square-foot Panoramic Suites, you can turn your cabin into a fresh-air balcony, thanks to wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling windows that slide completely open. The line also positions beds to face the river not the wall so you can watch the world go by in total comfort.
Best River Cruise Line Itineraries: Viking River Cruises
It’s a simple equation: With its vast fleet of Longships, Viking River Cruises has the most choice of rivers and cruising dates in Europe and beyond, including exotic destinations like Myanmar, the Yangtze, the Mekong and the Nile in Egypt. Its sheer size also helps the line snag the best berths, making getting into town a breeze.
Best River Cruise Line Shore Excursions: Scenic
When it comes to variety, Scenic’s shore excursions can’t be beat. The luxury line includes plenty of choice onshore. It even allows passengers to explore on their own with GPS-guided tours. Recently added Portugal sailings also open doors for new experiences, such as dinner at an award-winning winery. Cap off the night at the line’s signature “Scenic Sundowners” cocktail reception.
Best River Cruise Line for Enrichment: American Cruise Lines
Think American history is dry and boring? You haven’t met the river historians on American Cruise Lines. The engaging speakers hold daily lectures, as well as Q and A sessions about the river you’re sailing on so you won’t miss the significance of the scenery. Narration is also broadcast into your room so you can listen while resting.
Best River Cruise Line for Active Cruisers: AmaWaterways
AmaWaterways has always been a trendsetter when it comes to keeping cruisers active. Options for staying fit include bikes for passengers to use in port, active shore tour options including bicycle sightseeing and onboard fitness centers. Its partnership with Backroads means passengers on exclusive itineraries can bike and hike during the day before wining and dining onboard at night.
Best River Cruise Line for Families: Adventures by Disney (AmaWaterways)
Adventures by Disney’s foray into river cruising strikes the perfect balance of endless fun for kids Learning to be a knight! Getting lost in a maze! with plenty for adults too, such as wine tasting and a night at the opera. The partnership with AmaWaterways is inspired, with ships specially designed for families. They include a number of interconnecting cabins and a swimming pool.
Best River Cruise Line for Value: Emerald Waterways
Starting prices are less than those of most other river cruise lines. Plus, free excursions in every port, complimentary beverages (soft and alcoholic) at lunch and dinner, all gratuities (on the boat and in port), unlimited Wi-Fi and transfers to and from your boat are included in the fares. There’s no doubt Emerald offers the best value on Europe’s rivers.