Best River cruise lines

River cruises have little in common with their ocean counterparts, and that’s a very good thing for travellers who prefer intimate vacations with a focus on culture and history rather than beach days and partying. The ships (aka river boats) are a small fraction of the size of an ocean vessel, most only carrying 100-200 cruisers on board with couples in their 50’s and over making up the bulk of the passengers. The onboard activities, dining, and entertainment options are limited, but the destinations are the real draw of a river sailing. While a typical river cruise itinerary will likely include a few major cities, many of the stops are quaint towns or villages rich in culture and history with plenty of museums, boutique shops, and authentic restaurants waiting to be explored.

AmaWaterways

Ranked #1 River Cruise Line by Cruiseline.com Users
4.7
122 Reviews

Set sail out on the worlds most famous waterways aboard the intimate ships of AmaWaterways. These mo...

Sails to:
Europe River Cruises - All River Cruises - China/Asia River Cruises - Europe

Top ship:
AmaCerto

Avalon Waterways

Ranked #2 River Cruise Line by Cruiseline.com Users
4.3
75 Reviews

Sail on the enchanted waterways of Europe, Egypt, China and Southeast Asia aboard the exceptional ri...

Best for:
Those looking for a comfortable, casual way to explore.

Not for:
Those who’d rather make their own plans and determine every aspect of what they see on their vacation.

Sails to:
Europe Galapagos Other (Asia/Africa/Middle East) River Cruises - China/Asia River Cruises - Europe River Cruises - South America South America

Top ship:
Avalon Tapestry II

Uniworld River Cruises

Ranked #3 River Cruise Line by Cruiseline.com Users
4.2
61 Reviews

For over 30 years Uniworld has been a pioneer in river cruising by escorting guests to the greatest...

Sails to:
Europe Other (Asia/Africa/Middle East) River Cruises - China/Asia River Cruises - Egypt/Africa River Cruises - Europe River Cruises - South America

Top ship:
S.S. Antoinette

Viking River Cruises

Ranked #4 River Cruise Line by Cruiseline.com Users
3.9
531 Reviews

Experience the great cities of the world aboard the intimate ships of Viking River Cruises. Sail alo...

Best for:
Those who want to see a region with some help and guidance, and relatively little effort.

Not for:
People who like to explore on their own, or those who like to change their itineraries spontaneously.

Sails to:
Europe River Cruises - China/Asia River Cruises - Egypt/Africa River Cruises - Europe River Cruises - Russia

Top ship:
Viking Emerald

American Cruise Line

Ranked #5 River Cruise Line by Cruiseline.com Users
3
2 Reviews
American Cruise Line Anonymous Photo

American Cruise Lines boasts the country's largest and most modern fleet of coastal ships and river...

Sails to:
Alaska Alaska - Inside Passage Coastal - West Coast River Cruises - United States U.S. U.S. - American Rivers

American Queen Steamboat

Ranked #6 River Cruise Line by Cruiseline.com Users
3.1
16 Reviews

Climb aboard an American Queen steamboat and you’ll truly feel as if you’ve stepped back in time. Th...

Best for:
Lovers of Americana, older couples, and groups looking to see domestic sights with ease.

Not for:
Adventurous, independent types or families traveling with children.

Sails to:
River Cruises - United States

Top ship:
American Empress

APT Cruising

Ranked #7 River Cruise Line by Cruiseline.com Users
0
1 Reviews

Whether you discover the cultural canvas of Europe; explore remote villages along the Mekong; or exp...

Sails to:
South America River Cruises - China/Asia Europe

Crystal River Cruises

Ranked #8 River Cruise Line by Cruiseline.com Users
4.5
7 Reviews

Crystal's winning formula - painstaking attention to detail, impeccable service, one-of-a-kind itine...

Sails to:
River Cruises - Europe

Top ship:
Crystal Bach

Emerald Waterways

Ranked #9 River Cruise Line by Cruiseline.com Users
5
5 Reviews

There’s nothing quite like an Emerald Waterways journey. From Europe to the Far East, Emerald Waterw...

Sails to:
Europe

Top ship:
Emerald Star