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Best Luxury River Cruises in Europe

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Civilization was built on the banks of Europe’s mighty rivers, and today luxury river cruises invite travelers to experience millennia of diverse cultures as you navigate these vital arteries through the ancient and modern wonders of Europe. 

While these rivers have helped spread cultures far and wide for thousands of years, river cruising is a relatively new option for travelers, and more cruise lines are added each year. As each company tries to carve out its niche, it’s best to keep in mind that you get what you pay for, and cruises with cheap price tags usually mean lower quality experiences. 

Our hand-selected menu of cruises is all-inclusive, with shore excursions, meals, and drinks, and guides all wrapped into what you pay. We have done our best to curate unique cruise experiences for travelers of all interests - from history buffs to active explorers…and everyone else!

We feature a long list of excellent operators, so a good place to start is figuring out which river will host your cruise. The Rhine, Main, and Danube Rivers stretch through Central and Eastern Europe. The Moselle, Rhone, and Seine Rivers wind through romantic France. And the Douro River will take you from Portugal into the heart of Spain. 

Here’s our take on the best luxury river boats through Europe:

Ama Waterways 
Since 2003, AmaWaterways has been leading the way in European river cruises. With a fleet of 23 ships that grows each year, food and personalized experiences couple with comfortable to luxurious appointments to create a unique onboard experience that complements the daily activities. Founded by three visionaries from Ireland, Germany, and Austria, the owners are still involved in the operations of the cruise line today, emphasizing service and design. Suites feature French and full balconies, and lower numbers of passengers help keep the dining rooms, restaurants, and lounges feeling spacious. Free drinks accompany lunch, dinner, and cocktail hour. And a fleet of complimentary bicycles, guided hikes, and other activities highlight each day.

CroisiEurope is another trendsetting cruise operator on Europe’s rivers. It was one of the first companies to pioneer affordable river cruising that made it accessible to more than just the wealthy. With 50 ships owned by the company and five chartered vessels, CroisiEurope has crafted itineraries traveling through the main waterways of Europe like the Danube and Rhine with all of their major attractions, as well as a unique menu of itineraries that navigate some of the lesser-visited rivers like the Rhone, Douro, and other smaller tributaries. Cabins and suites onboard vary by ship, but comfort is always a guarantee, as you explore the many countries across all regions of Europe where CroisiEurope goes. 

Avalon Waterways
With the addition of the Avalon Envision, consider cruising with one of the youngest and most enthusiastic river cruise operators on the waterways of Europe with Avalon. Focusing on comfortable luxury, guests will enjoy genuinely spacious suites that feature balconies and panoramic windows, onboard WiFi, and even an Adventure Center, where you can gear up with bikes and other equipment for active exploration of each European destination. Guests will also enjoy some of the finest menu items prepared fresh with premium local ingredients and a Sky Deck that includes a whirlpool and deck games. 

European Waterways
The smaller ships of European Waterways offer travelers a more intimate onboard experience, akin to a luxury boutique hotel - the passenger to crew ratio is maintained at 1:2, and the ships invite between just 6 and 20 guests aboard to guarantee impeccable onboard service. Their ships are all hotel barges by design. They feature an open bar, complimentary bicycles for the guests, and various other luxury facilities, coupled with an all-inclusive menu of gourmet meals. 

Emerald Cruises
Since its debut in 2013, Emerald Cruises has established an award-winning reputation as a leading small ship cruise line, putting innovation and the EmeraldVALUE guarantee at the forefront of all they do. Enjoying your holiday is all you need to think about when traveling aboard one of their river Star-Ships, ocean superyachts, or chartered vessels. Emerald Cruises holidays are full of extras, from excellent cuisine, exciting excursions, and first-class services such as the infinity-style pool and Sky Bar. Sixth Star-Ship to sail on Rhine, Main, Danube & Moselle rivers in 2021 is Emerald Luna, setting the bar for innovation and integrating modern design aspects, from a heated pool that turns into a movie theater to more than 90 generously-sized suites and cabins. 

Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours
An Australian company celebrating 35 years of innovation takes all feedback carefully and prioritizes the guest experience first. Travel the iconic waterways of Europe on board one of its 15 luxury Scenic Space-Ships, so named for the generous cabins and public spaces. Scenic Diamond, designed to access small ports and towns, can accommodate 149 guests throughout the French waterways. Private butler service, unlimited complimentary cocktails and spirits, full-size private balconies, several dining options, transfers, port charges, and gratuities are all included in the price of your 5-star luxury river cruise. This all-inclusive promise means there’s no need even to bring your wallet; all you have to do is relax and enjoy the trip of a lifetime.

Vikings Cruises
Viking Cruises, headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, provides destination-focused itineraries catered to seasoned travelers who value geography, culture, and history. As part of its cultural curriculum, all ports offer shore excursions that include music and art performances, cuisine demonstrations, educational lectures, and guest lecturers. Since its inception, the company has received several awards from industry experts and passengers alike, with a fleet of more than 70 vessels. Viking Longships sail Europe's legendary rivers, including the Rhine, Main, Danube, Seine, Rhône, Douro, Moselle, Elbe, Garonne, and Gironde in two-room suites with full-size balconies. Sun deck, bar, lounge, and al fresco dining are just a few of the ship's many amenities. The ship's "green" features include solar panels and an onboard herb garden.

Adventure Life's Trip Planners are here to help you craft the best European river cruise for your specific interests, budget, and schedule, no matter which river and operator you choose.


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