What to Expect on a River Cruise Ship
Plus, four ships that you’ll want to sail on this year.
Intimate and stylishly appointed, river cruise ships are like floating boutique hotels. Small by necessity (so they can pass through locks and under bridges), most ships carry fewer than 200 passengers.
The top deck is a popular gathering place to enjoy the sun and the passing sights and scenery. Downstairs, hotel-like amenities await, including rooms with free Wi-Fi, cozy European duvets and sliding glass doors opening to French balconies.
Here’s a closer look at four of the coolest ships plying European rivers.
Cruise line: Uniworld
Rivers: Danube and Main
Vibe: Sophisticated elegance
The decor on board the S.S. Beatrice evokes a yacht-like feel—all light wood and blue-and-white finishes. Marble floors, a white Murano glass chandelier with blue shades, and a signature grand staircase made of nickel and black iron grace the ship’s renovated lobby. Keep an eye out for artwork by masters such as Pablo Picasso and Alexander Calder. The S.S. Beatrice’s four fine-dining restaurants—Mozart’s, Wolfgang’s, Schubert’s and Max’s—were inspired by renowned Austrian composers. There, guests can participate in hands-on cooking classes alongside the chef. There’s a spa, a fitness center and a sun deck for taking in the scenery, and all staterooms come with river views, some with French balconies.
Cruise line: AmaWaterways
Vibe: Spacious luxury
Because the AmaMagna sails only on the Danube—where the locks are wider than on other European rivers—the ship is twice as wide as traditional European river cruise vessels. All that extra space gives guests plenty of room to spread out, especially in their staterooms. More than half of AmaMagna’s accommodations are suites with their own full balconies. Most are 355 square feet, but there are six 474-square-foot Grand Suites and a luxurious Owner’s Suite with 710 square feet of space. There are four restaurants, including the Main Restaurant, The Chef’s Table, the family-style Jimmy’s, and Al Fresco Restaurant, which boasts retractable windows and a vegetable-forward menu.
Cruise line: Tauck
Rivers: Danube, Douro, Rhine, Rhône, Seine, Maas, and Moselle
Vibe: Epitome of elegance
The Tauck fleet of custom-crafted riverboats are truly inspired by the destination and offer guests immersive, innovative and authentic travel experiences as they cruise Europe's great rivers and waterways. The ships allow for greater cruising flexibility and provide the utmost in spaciousness and contemporary design with fewer guests on board - river cruising at its best. The magic of Tauck’s award-winning European river cruises goes far beyond the riverboat. It's in the intimate ambiance and personalized service. The places you'll discover off the beaten path. And, in the uncommon access to local culture and exclusive destination driven experiences you can't get on your own, as you experience a true slice of European life and return home transformed.
Cruise line: Viking River Cruises
Rivers: Rhine, Danube, Main, Elbe and more
Vibe: Scandinavian refinement
Viking’s fleet of 53 Longships plies the waters of Europe’s rivers with sleek sophistication. Onboard, the Scandinavian decor is highlighted by design techniques that reflect methods used by Viking boatbuilders centuries ago. Look for the bar built with clinker construction, with overlapping planks like the hull of a real Viking longship. The state-of-the-art river cruise vessels also incorporate innovative concepts, like ecologically friendly hybrid engines, solar panels and onboard herb gardens. The open-air top deck provides 360-degree views (plus putting greens and a walking track for active types), and the Aquavit Terrace lets guests dine alfresco amid the ever-changing scenery.