Europe river cruise sunset in Budapest
River cruising in Europe

River Cruises - Best Tours & Trips 2019

River cruising is quickly becoming one of the fastest growing and most popular modes of leisure travel. The ships are much smaller and more intimate than larger ocean-going ships and onshore excursions are usually included in the price. Then there's the continuous sights all along the riverfront, not just in port stops. Stride can help you navigate smoothly to the right river cruise for you.
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Trip Type Trip Type Classic Tour Groups are between 25-60 people, typically ~30-40. Usually there will be many opportunities to split off and enjoy meals and excursions in smaller groups. This is the most economical way to travel, saving up to 40% versus booking the same itinerary yourself.
Small Group Guided Experiences Small groups are usually defined as between 10 and 24 travelers, often less. If you're the kind of person who enjoys more intimate experiences and personal service this is a good choice. All else being equal you will pay a premium for this style vs a larger group tour.
River Cruise These vessels are smaller than most ocean cruisers, limiting which amenties are available. Passenger counts can vary. One of the biggest advantages of a river cruise is the ability to dock at smaller ports and local villages.
Small Ocean Cruise Small ship cruises usually have a max passenger count of 500. The primary purpose of these trips is to spend time off the vessel in local ports (e.g. Mediterranean) or experiencing nature (e.g Galapagos or Antarctica). Cabins can vary from budget to luxury.
Private Tour Private tours give you the undivided attention of a guide, and often involve special access to sites and unique experiences not available to larger groups. This is a great option for families, couples, and small friend groups. Expect to pay a bit more for the extra service.
Independent Package A travel company plans your itinerary and arranges all the logistics including lodging, local activities, and transportantion. You have the flexibility of a solo trip while still getting the convience and time savings of expert planning. Get 90% of the benefits of a tour, without a guide.
Vacation / Holiday Package Similar to a self guided tour, this usually involves a home base, such as a hotel or resort, with packaged activities and day tours as a part of the stay.
Large Ocean Cruise This is the "floating city" experience, with multiple ways to enjoy your vacation aboard the ship as much as on land. Ships are multiple floors, provide several activities, culinary, and shopping options. They often make fewer stops and have less time available for shore excursions.

Tour Styles

Lodging Level Lodging Level Camping Typically involves most nights sleeping in tents (sometimes permanent tented sites) or in rustic cabins and lodges.
Basic - 2 star You'll stay in no-frills, but clean and comfortable, hotels or guesthouses. A 'Basic' trip might also involve a few nights of camping.
Value - 3 star Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels.
Premium - 4 star 3 to 4 star western hotel equivalents. While not all lodging will be 'luxury' they will be quite comfortable by western standards.
Luxury - 5 star The highest level of comfort and service. All accomodations are in four or five star hotels, boutique lodges or high-end homestays.

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$ 0 $ 10,000+

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Physical Level Physical Level Very Easy Minimal walking - motor vehicles available for all major parts of trip.
Easy Normal generally flat walking in urban or suburban environments.
Moderate Walking or physical activity half to most of day - no carrying equipment.
Strenuous All or most of day hiking or biking, hills included.
Extreme Very challenging all day hiking and backpacking carrying significant equipment.

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Solo Friendly Solo Friendly Good for Singles Trips that specifically cater to travelers looking to meet other singles.
No Single Supplement Trips where single supplement is usually not required for solo travelers.

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Top River Cruises Experiences and Attractions

Top River Cruises Experiences

Wine tasting along the Rhine River

Cruising down the Nile River through the sites of ancient Egypt

Exploring Normandy’s WWII history on the Seine River

Experiencing Vietnam’s culture on the Mekong River

Taking an Amazon River cruise, encountering old ruins and unbelievable wildlife

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River Cruises Trip Reviews

114 River Cruises Tour Reviews - Summary 98% Recommend

4.8 out of 5
Excellent 91
Great 21
Average 0
Disappointing 0
Terrible 2
Value
4.8
Guide
4.8
Activities
4.8
Lodging
4.8
Transportation
4.8
Meals
4.8

Tour Reviews Write a Review

Looking fwd for more camps...

5.0
Trailblazer tours India Company Reviews
  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0

My daughter had gone to bhandardara near nasik with the trailblazer team...she had a very nice time..and it was first time I had send her ...so looking fwd for more camps...

Read more
Operator Trailblazer tours India

A knowledgeable, interesting and friendly local guide

5.0
  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0

Travelsphere never let us down. Over the past 15 or so years we have travelled with them 8 or 9 times, on short breaks to Paris and Germany, and longer ones to Canada, Italy and America. Our latest was last weekend on the "Experience Riga" trip....it was wonderful, we had a terrific Tour Manager in Gerry, a knowledgeable, interesting and friendly local guide in Gita and they ensured that our trip to this fantastic city was a triumph. I want to go back there as soon as possible!

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Operator Travelsphere

Awesome experience

5.0
  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0

My friend and I hired Jakada Tours to plan our overnight trip from Cairo to Luxor. They picked us up from our hotel in Cairo and drove us to the airport to take the flight to Cairo. Arriving in Luxor, we were greeted by our Egyptologist and guide Mr. Ahmed faued and driver. They drove us to our Hotel than informed us about our tour the next morning.
We visit The Valley of Kings, the tombs of King Tut and Ramses VI, Queen Hatshepsut temple, Luxor and Karnak temples.
Mr. Ahmed is a very knowledgeable Egyptologist, he showed us all the sites and told us all about the history behind all the historical site we've visited.
Thanks to Jakada Tours and Mr. Ahmed, we had the best trip ever and everything was so perfect from beginning to end!

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Operator Jakada Tours

What a holiday!

5.0
  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0

I was lucky enough to have 7 wonderful nights on the American Queen ... Along with 17 of my friends and family... From Memphis to New Orleans..Wow !! ... Cannot speak highly enough of the staff and anyone involved with this Majestic Queen of the River... Many thanks to Captain Brent for taking such great care of us rowdy lot !!..
It is my hope we get to take another trip on this fine Lady again .... We are from Australia ...... Such a great time...
So many positives to speak of....
What a holiday !...

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Operator American Queen Steamboat Company

The most amazing river trip in Europe

5.0
  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0

Traveling from Belgium through 6 countries to Switzerland is one of the most amazing travel experiences in Europe, especially if traveling with Grand Circle Travel. The ship's crew and staff are the most professional and personable folks that I've ever had the fortune to travel with. Not only have I traveled European rivers with these folks once, but have done so several times. For a single traveler, traveling with Grand Circle is a great bargain, as there is very seldom an extra charge for traveling solo and if their is, the price is very modest. You can't go wrong with these folks.

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Operator Grand Circle Cruise Line

Amazing days of wonderful excursions

5.0
  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0

Just got off a fantastic trip on the Red River on RV Angkor Pandaw. It was an amazing 10 days of wonderful excursions, delicious food & an AWESOME crew. THE guides Tifo &Vu were so knowledgeable & informative as well as being wonderful, warm & courteous. The ship crew headed by Purser Saroun were absolutely outstanding! I highly recommend this trip. It was our first with Pandaw & look forward to taking another one soon.

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Operator Pandaw

River Cruises Tours and Travel Guide

River Cruises Attractions & Landmarks Guide

River cruising is quickly becoming one of the fastest growing and most popular modes of leisure travel. The ships are much smaller and more intimate than larger ocean-going ships and onshore excursions are usually included in the price. Then there's the continuous sights all along the riverfront, not just in port stops. Stride can help you navigate smoothly to the right river cruise for you.

As has been true across the globe, many of the great cities of Europe -- Paris, London, Rome, Florence, Budapest, Vienna, and Cologne to name just a few -- grew up along rivers, which have served as water-borne trade and transportation routes for thousands of years (and still do).

Rivers have also served as the lifeline for atmospheric European small towns and villages, many of them seemingly right out of the Middle Ages. So when you take a European river cruise, it’s a wonderful way to view both grand cities and picturesque towns that you often won’t experience by driving, walking -- or by ocean cruising.

The same is true for river cruises in other parts of the world as well. Manaus, Brazil, was settled along the Amazon; Cairo and Luxor in Egypt, flourished along the Nile; Mandalay, Myanmar, lies along the Irrawaddy; Shanghai, China, straddles the Yangtze; Calcutta (Kolkata), India, grew up along the Hugli River, an arm of the Ganges; Chiang Mai, Thailand, is set along the Ping River; and Memphis, Tennessee, St. Louis, Missouri, and Minneapolis, Minnesota are all situated along the Mississippi.

Top River Cruise Destinations

River Cruising is a delectable, luxurious, fun, and relaxing way to see the world. There are far more choices for destinations than ocean cruises which only traverse major ports and don’t manage the intimacy of a River Cruise, both literally and figuratively.

1. The Danube - One of the most classic and recognizable river cruise destinations in the world, the beautiful blue Danube is truly magical. You can travel the Danube several different ways - for most travelers who have a regular week or two week available, choosing a westbound or eastbound river cruise on the Danube is the only major decision you need to make.

The Danube is the second longest river in Europe (the first being the Volga), and as such many different directions to travel and things to see on a Danube river cruise. Westbound Danube River Cruises often begin in Budapest or Prague. You will typically hit Slovakia, Austria, and Germany. Eastbound Danube River Cruises often begin in Germany and travel through many of the Balkan States to end in Romania. There are many variations on these routes however.

2. The Nile - What could be more enticing than floating down one of the most ancient and historical significant rivers in the world. Nile river cruises are generally shorter than more traditional river cruises, and are often incorporated into tours of Egypt, Jordan, and the wider Middle East (rather than the other way around).

3. The Rhine - A river cruise on the Rhine is one of the best ways to see Germany (though the Rhine flows through Amsterdam and parts of Switzerland as well). Typically Rhine river cruises focus mainly in Germany. You’ll get a wonderful view of the country, including the food, culture, and architecture.

4. The Rhone - The Rhone is one of Europe’s smaller rivers by length, passing through France and Switzerland. On a river cruise down The Rhone you’ll be traveling on what was an ancient and important trade route during the time of the Greek and Roman Empires, and remains one today. You’ll also enjoy delicious food and wine from the wine region of the same name.

5. The Seine - A classic France experience, the Seine is beautiful and quintessentially European, lazily drifting by incredible historical landmarks and under spectacular bridges. River cruises tend to be history focused, visiting such incredible sights as Versailles, Notre Dame, and many significant regions from Avignon to Bordeaux to Giverny. Excursions to the Normandy beaches and tours that delve into their significance during one of the most important days of WWII, are also common.

6. The Amazon - Forgo the castles and medieval villages of Europe for an entirely different kind of river cruise experience all together when you enter the Amazon. The sounds of the jungle replace the sounds of church bells. And the mysterious, beautiful rainforest hides enticing secrets just beyond the banks.

The Amazon is the world’s largest river, stretching a whopping 4000 miles, across the northern part of South America from Peru to Brazil. River Cruises along the Amazon typically focus on specific sections, though they can last for up to 20 days, often encompassing a tour to the Galapagos as well.

7. The Ganges - The Ganges River in India is one of extreme contrasts, and has been gaining steam and popularity as a river cruise destination. The river is sacred to Hindi’s and one of the more mysterious and ancient rituals you will observe is people gathered on the tiered banks to wash themselves, gathered in large groups by the water.

Access to Ports 

Many great cruise port stops are only available via riverboats. Riverboats have the advantage of being much smaller and more intimate than most ocean cruise vessels, some of which are now the size of small cities. Most riverboats hold between 100 and 200 passengers, compared to up to 5,000 or more on the largest ocean cruise ships. That means you can get on and off the ships much faster -- especially since riverboats are usually able to dock right in the center of a city or town, which the ocean-going behemoths often cannot.

Port stops tend to be longer on river cruises as well, allowing for additional sightseeing time, while organized shore excursions and tours are usually included in the price (along with food and often drink). And there’s almost always something to keep your viewing interest -- whether it’s vineyards in Austria or temples in Cambodia -- while you’re on a riverboat, since you’re seldom far from shore. The chances of getting seasick on a river are also not nearly as high.

Cabins Fill Fast

There are some things to keep in mind when booking a river cruise. Because of their popularity, river cruises -- especially the most coveted cabins -- can fill up fast. So it’s a good idea to book early, especially for European itineraries - such as a classic Danube river cruise. Lines like Viking River Cruises and CroisiEurope are adding ships as fast as they can, yet the demand is still greater than the supply on some routes.

If you travel during the rainy season at your destination, occasional flooding may make river travel difficult or impossible (in this case, passengers may have to travel part of the route on buses) -- though off-season travel does often bring good discounts, and the chances of severe flooding in any given year are fairly rare.

Be sure to check out our other river cruising guides as well: The Top 12 European River CruisesThe Top Seven Non-European River Cruises; and individual river guides including those to the Danube, Rhine, and Seine, among others.

River Cruising and Accessibility

River Cruising has a lot of positives. Only unpacking once, seeing the world in comfort, and getting to know everyone on board in a more intimate, personalized setting. However, if you have accessibility concerns, know that not all river cruise vessels are outfitted to properly host wheelchairs or other handicap assists.

This is due to a few factors. River Cruises are by nature smaller than ocean and small ship cruise vessels. Therefore, less space exists for implementing elevators, wider doorways, and larger bathroom space for example. Additionally, gangways from port to ship are often precarious, and very difficult to manage with a cane, walker, or wheelchair.

Many river cruise operators are beginning to add more handicap friendly accoutrements to their fleets, but if you’re not finding enough flexibility as a handicapped traveler, you may find that a small ship cruise provides better options for you.

Top River Cruises Travel Companies

Things to Know Before You Go

River cruising is an extremely popular mode of travel, especially among older travelers. It's perfect for a relaxing getaway that you can make as active or as laid back as you wish - participating in shore excursions, or simply staying on board watching the world go by from your balcony. 

Only unpack once, and enjoy the slow travel approach!

Classic River Cruise Destinations

Europe dominates when it comes to a “classic” river cruise experience. Sailing in luxury past forested banks, with castles and small villages poking out - enjoying fine european wines and in depth lectures aboard - this is the pinnacle vision of a classic European River Cruise.

Some of the most classic destinations for a European River Cruise include:

1. The Danube RiverWhen most people think of a river cruise, they probably think of the Danube. Among the longest rivers in Europe, the “Beautiful Blue Danube” covers 10 countries and is one of them most popular river cruise destinations for seniors and baby boomers.

Danube River Cruises are either eastbound, typically beginning in Germany and ending in Prague or Budapest, or westbound - departing from Prague or Budapest and ending in Germany.

2. The Rhine RiverRather than flowing in an east-west direction, the Rhine is great for travelers interested in a north-south view of western Europe. Covering 6 countries, the Rhine will visit Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany, France, and the Netherlands, the Rhine.

3. The Douro RiverPortugal's Douro is a great destination for wine lovers, especially port wine. It’s one of the shorter rivers travelers can choose for a river cruise, covering the Iberian Peninsula. Douro River cruises are usually heavily weighted in Portugal, with a little bit of time in Spain.

Exotic and Adventurous River Cruise Destinations

1. The Nile River - The Nile River is a popular river cruise destination for adventurous travelers who love history and are more interested in interesting port stops and archaeological tours than a luxury travel experience. When you travel down the Nile, be prepared to be transported as you pass by ancient sites, learning about the mysteries of Egypt and the essential role the Nile has played over the centuries.

2. The Mekong River - Flowing through the heart of Vietnam, travelers who take a river cruise down the Mekong are treated to many classic Southeast Asian views. You’ll see beautiful green rice paddies, small villages, and mountainous terrain, as well as visit major cities and cultural sites.

3. The Amazon River - The Amazon is another kind of river cruise all together, great for young adventurous travelers and anyone wishing to expand their comfort zone. You’ll encounter plenty of unique wildlife, both on the water and on the shore, and have the opportunity to learn about the Amazon’s incredible biodiversity from knowledgeable local guides.

All River Cruises and packages. Find the best guided trips and expert planned vacation and holiday packages. Average rating of 4.8 for all River Cruises trips.

583 trips from 97 tour companies with 114 reviews

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