Best River Cruise Companies for Europe

Updated: Jan 1, 2021

A trip to Europe typically involves dozens of elements: hotels, lots of transfers or trains between cities, and a wonderful mix of cultural experiences. An all-inclusive river cruise is a fantastic way to still be able to enjoy a multi-destination trip to Europe without the hassle of getting to and from cities. 

When you think of river cruises, you may know of one or two brands, but often times when working with my clients, there are several river cruise companies that they have never heard of. Viking is, of course, one of the most recognized name brands in the river cruise industry - however, just like ocean cruising, there is a wide array of options in the market, each with its own unique attributes. 

Below I have listed many of the river cruise companies you should know about before selecting your next luxury vacation to Europe. 

Best for Active Travelers

river cruise bed facing the scenery
picture courtesy of Avalon Waterways
Avalon logo

While many of the river cruise brands have beds that face the wall, Avalon Waterways maximize the stunning views with the beds facing the floor to ceiling windows. Beyond that, they offer ways to customize your experience your way. Whether you want to enjoy a guided walking tour of one of Europe’s great cities, join a cooking class or paddle a canoe, Avalon Choice® selections of Classic, Discovery and Active excursions offer a wide range of possibilities. 

Avalon is an excellent option for travelers who enjoy hiking, biking, and being active during their vacation.

Best for Foodies

picture courtesy of Amawaterways

The first thing that comes to mind with Amawaterways is their award winning food. As a member of the prestigious international culinary society La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, AmaWaterways serves exquisite locally-sourced cuisine paired with complimentary free-flowing wine served with every lunch and dinner on board. The Chef's Table specialty restaurant (pictured above) is not to be missed.

Amawaterways is also one of the best kid-friendly river cruise options in Europe. Their ships like the AmaKristina which was ranked #1 Best River Cruise Ship in the industry, offers additional flexibility for families with their triples and quads - some that even connect. 

If you are looking for a specialized itinerary focused on wine, golf, or cuisine, Ama does a fantastic job in all areas. 

The genuine service you receive aboard a river cruise with Amawaterways will help create memories you will be telling your friends all about. The are one of the leading luxury cruise lines in the industry, so if food or service tops your list as important aspects of your trip, then Amawaterways is an excellent choice. 

Best for Luxury Hotel Lovers

photo courtesy of Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection

Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection is unlike any other river cruise company around. They are the boutique line of river cruising with one-of-a-kind ships modeled after their luxury sister company, Red Carnation Hotel Collection. The floating hotels offer inviting spaces, exquisite antiques, custom fabrics and original works of art. 

This is the most all-inclusive river cruise option currently available. Unlike many of the other brands, Uniworld offers unlimited premium drinks and wines, as well as all gratuities onboard and onshore.

See how Uniworld compares to other leading brands by downloading your cheatsheet: River Cruise Line Comparison

Best for Millennials & those Young at Heart

river cruise ship
U by Uniworld logo

U by Uniworld River Cruises are a fresh new take on river cruising. If you have a passion for exploring and seek authentic adventure, you will be delighted by the immersive experiences and fun activities available on U. This brand is for the young or young at heart. With a silent disco, rooftop yoga, paint & wine, mixology classes, karaoke and more, there is endless amounts of fun to choose from onboard, while stopping in some of Europe's coolest cities. 

Ready to Experience River Cruising?

If you are ready to pack your bags and enjoy the cultural exploration a river cruise can offer, let's chat about which river cruise company would be the best fit for you! Each of them are unique in their own way, so let a river cruise expert help you select the one that is right for you.


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