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Uniworld's S.S. Antoinette passes a castle on the Rhine River.

Courtesy of Uniworld River Cruises

Uniworld's S.S. Antoinette passes a castle on the Rhine River.

8 river cruises to try right now

Travel + Leisure recommends, & we'll help you book, your dream escape

In this month's Travel + Leisure magazine, writer Sherri Eisenberg lays out all the reasons why a river cruise is a completely different kind of experience than an ocean cruise.

 
  RIVER CRUISING
 
Helping you decide
 
 

The ships are smaller and more intimate — you'll get to recognize familiar faces after a while. While you won't find theatrical extravaganzas, onboard zip lines or rock climbing walls, you will find complimentary guided walking tours of ports, free Wi-Fi and wine that's included with lunch and dinner.

Here are some of T+L's top river cruise picks, along with our Editorial team's consumer reviews as well as booking information if you're so inclined. 

Crystal Mozart
Courtesy of Crystal CruisesCrystal Mozart offers cruises along the Danube. (Click to enlarge.)

Crystal Mozart

 

Crystal Cruises

 
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Crystal Cruises debuted its first luxury river ship, Crystal Mozart, in July, bringing Crystal's reputation for high-end luxury to the river cruising arena. Crystal Mozart features the largest river suites of any river cruise line as well as the highest passenger-to-crew ratio, with 158 guests receiving service from 92 crew members. One of the largest river ships, the ship was designed to fit the wider locks of the Danube. She features multiple dining rooms, a wrap-around promenade, luxurious spa and fitness center, an indoor pool, beauty salon and more.

T+L take: “With gorgeous public spaces and chic staterooms, it’s easily the most elegant choice in the region.” 

Wanna go?: Please email a Cruiseable travel advocate or call 1-877- 322-3773 for more info or to book a cruise on this ship at the best price.

 

AmaViola, designed in partnership with Adventures Disney, sails the Danube.
Courtesy of AmaWaterwaysAmaViola, designed in partnership with Adventures by Disney, sails the Danube.

AmaViola

 

AmaWaterways

 
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Designed in partnership with Adventures by Disney, the158-passenger AmaViola from AmaWaterways debuted in May 2016 offering family-friendly tours with designated Disney-hired guides and special kid-friendly activities.

T+L take: “This ship sails the Danube, with opportunities for bike trips along the banks and castle tours for the whole gang.”

Wanna go?: Please email a Cruiseable travel advocate or call 1-877- 322-3773 for more info or to book a cruise on this ship at the best price.

 

Scenic Aura sails the Irrawaddy River in Myanmar past centuries-old temples and pagodas.
Courtesy of ScenicScenic Aura sails the Irrawaddy River in Myanmar past centuries-old temples and pagodas.

Scenic Aura

 

Scenic

 
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The 44-passenger Scenic Aura from Australia-based tour company Scenic explores the mystical waterways of Myanmar (Burma). The ship provides an intimate environment with just 22 all-balcony suites, a choice of dining venues offering fresh local produce, a vitality pool and bar area, a spacious bar and lounge, sun deck with open air cinema, complimentary beverages, butler service for all guests and an almost 1:1 guest-to-staff ratio. Aura sails Myanmar’s Irrwaddy River from Yangon to Pagan, visiting temples in Mandalay, the monasteries of Sagaing and the floating temples of Inle Lake.

T+L take: “While this ship has a small passenger count, it also has more amenities and services than most large vessels, including a pool, complimentary laundry, 24-hour room service, and an open-air movie theater.”

Wanna go?: Please email a Cruiseable travel advocate or call 1-877- 322-3773 for more info or to book a cruise on this ship at the best price.

 

A suite on S.S. Antoinette. Uniworld is renowned for its lavish staterooms. (Click to enlarge.)
Courtesy of Uniworld River CruisesA suite on S.S. Antoinette. Uniworld is renowned for its lavish staterooms. (Click to enlarge.)

S.S. Antoinette

 

Uniworld Boutique River Cruises

 
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The elegantly appointed, 154-passenger S.S. Antoinette from Uniworld is offers passengers tours of historic castles and homesteads of European royalty along the Rhine River as well as visits to classic Christmas holiday markets (now's a perfect time to book). Her over-the-top interiors are designed to look like France's Chateau de Versailles during the late 1700s.

T+L take: “This is the rare river ship to offer an onboard, indoor movie theater—a blessing on rainy days.”

Wanna go?: Please email a Cruiseable travel advocate or call 1-877- 322-3773 for more info or to book a cruise on this ship at the best price.

 

Take a river safari aboard the Zambezi Queen to see wildlife and take in the rustic vistas along Africa's Chobe River.
Courtesy of AmaWaterwaysTake a river safari aboard Zambezi Queen to see wildlife and rustic vistas along Africa's Chobe River.

Zambezi Queen

 

AmaWaterways

 
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The 28-passenger Zambezi Queen from AmaWaterways lets you go on a floating safari through  Botswana’s Chobe National Park. These short two- or three-day cruises will give you a taste of Africa with a river twist. The ship docks daily and passengers are led on tours by guides in search of lions, elephants, buffalo, leopards and rhinos. The animals are also visible from the ship.

T+L take: “There’s a gorgeous white whirlpool tub on the bow — the perfect spot to watch for animals on the shoreline.”

Wanna go?: Please email a Cruiseable travel advocate or call 1-877- 322-3773 for more info or to book a cruise on this ship at the best price.

 

Tauck's new river ship ms Joy launched in July 2016 with sailings on the Danube to ports such as Vienna, Munich and Passau, Germany.
Courtesy of Tauck River CruisesTauck's new river ship ms Joy launched in July 2016 with sailings on the Danube to ports such as Vienna, Munich and Passau, Germany.

ms Joy

 

Tauck River Cruises

 
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The 130-passenger ms Joy from Tauck debuted in July, carrying a maximum of 130 guests even though she's the same length as river ships carrying 190 passengers. Joy continues Tauck's tradition of providing the most space per guest on Europe’s inland waterways. She features 22 suites of 300 square feet. Each comes with two French balconies with floor-to-ceiling windows, roomy walk-in closet and spacious marble bathroom. Joy sails the Danube and offers special Christmas market cruises at the holidays.

T+L take: “We suspect the beds may be the most comfortable on these rivers, with goose down pillows, 400-thread-count sheets, and pillow-top mattresses.”

Wanna go?: Please email a Cruiseable travel advocate or call 1-877- 322-3773 for more info or to book a cruise on this ship at the best price.

 

Experience the spectacular Moselle River on a luxury cruise on Avalon Luminary, stopping in to visit quaint towns and palaces in Germany and Luxembourg.
Courtesy of Avalon WaterwayssExperience the spectacular Moselle River on a luxury cruise on Avalon Luminary, stopping in to visit quaint towns and palaces in Germany and Luxembourg.

Avalon Luminary

 

Avalon Waterways

 
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Sailing the Danube, Rhine and Moselle rivers, the 138-passenger Avalon Luminary from Avalon Waterways can glide by centuries-old castles and beautiful landscapes in the afternoon, then make an overnight port call at one of Europe’s overlooked gems. Whether tastes favor exploring charming historic neighborhoods and world-class museums, or indulging in fine cuisine or the vibrant nightlife of a city like Budapest, Avalon Luminary offers even seasoned travelers new opportunity to discover old and new Europe. 

T+L take: “While some cruises may feel too sedentary for active travelers, this river option is the best of both worlds. Guests can bike, hike, and canoe along the Danube, or check out ice caves and underground salt mines, or mountain climb.”

Wanna go?: Please email a Cruiseable travel advocate or call 1-877- 322-3773 for more info or to book a cruise on this ship at the best price.

 

Viking Forseti sails France's Bordeaux region.
Courtesy of Viking River CruisesViking Forseti sails France's Bordeaux region.

Viking Forseti

 

Viking River Cruises

 
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The 190-passenger passenger Viking Forseti from Viking River Cruises was built as a Viking Longship with a clean, modern Scandinavian design. Viking Forseti is a "green" ship because of energy-efficient hybrid engines, solar panels and an organic herb garden. Where Forseti stands out is her itinerary: She sails eight-day cruises in France’s Bordeaux region, traveling the Dordogne, Gironde and Garonne rivers. Passengers can tour the area's chateaux and participate in wine, Cognac and oyster tastings.

T+L take: “The ship’s sun deck has solar panels, an herb garden, and a putting green, too.”

Wanna go?: Please email a Cruiseable travel advocate or call 1-877- 322-3773 for more info or to book a cruise on this ship at the best price.

Other ships

Other ships that Sherri spotlighted include Aqua Expeditions’ 40-passenger Aqua Mekong; Nour El Nil’s Meroe, which sails the Nile and tours Egypt’s iconic pyramids, and the eight-passenger Belmond Pivoline, launching in spring 2017 in France's Champagne region.

How about you? What's your favorite river cruise ship? 

JD Lasica
I'm co-founder, Editor and chief cat herder at Cruiseable. Follow your cruise bliss to any land where it may lead. Let's connect! I'm @jdlasica on Twitter.

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