River cruise ships are smaller than ocean-going cruise ships, typically holding 90-240 passengers (though there are ships that take only 5 passengers, and others can carry 1,000 passengers). Due to their smaller size and low draft, river cruise ships can go where ocean cruise ships cannot, and sometimes to where no other transport is practical: rivers are an excellent way to reach some attractions, for example in Russia, China and the Peruvian Amazon.
During river cruises the countryside is usually in view, so they are especially relaxing—and interesting—to those who prefer land nearby. River cruises usually last from 7 to 15 days, although some can last 3 weeks or longer.
Some river ships resemble 5-star hotels, with sun decks, dining rooms, lounges, fitness facilities, swimming pools, casinos and other entertainment. Accommodation, meals on board, entertainment and special events (holidays, festivals, contests, concerts, etc.) are usually included in the cruise price, while bar expenses, sauna, massage, laundry and cleaning, and phone calls are not.
Most cruises have a variety of onboard and onshore activities. The latter include guided tours to historic and cultural sites, visiting local attractions, museums and galleries, and other points of interest. Guides give a running commentary while sailing.
A river cruise provides travelers a unique way to travel. According to Douglas Ward, "A river cruise represents life in the slow lane, sailing along at a gentle pace, soaking up the scenery, with plentiful opportunities to explore riverside towns and cities en route. It is a supremely calming experience, an antidote to the pressures of life in a fast-paced world, in surroundings that are comfortable without being fussy or pretentious, with good food and enjoyable company."
Mr. Ward continues: "A river cruise is very different from an ocean cruise. For a start, you are in almost constant sight of land and stops are far more frequent than they are at sea. The vessels are like small, friendly, floating inns, whereas ocean-going ships tend to be bigger, flashier, busier and livelier, the crew practised in the art of moving up to 4,000 people from one port to another and getting them on and off the ship. In contrast, when your river cruise vessel docks you simply walk up the gangway and into the town or city—in many cases the dock is located right at the heart of things. Despite these differences, however, most people who enjoy ocean cruising and the relaxing rhythm of life afloat are attracted to river cruises as well."
Popular river cruises include trips along the Nile, the Amazon, the Mississippi, the Yangtze, the Mekong, the Danube, the Loboc River, the Rhine, the Seine, the Volga, the Douro or the Po river in Italy. There are several dozen river cruise companies ranging from single-ship businesses to large shipping companies operating dozens of river cruise ships.
From $4,599.00 (USD)
Ship: Viking Lofn
Sail to lands rich in traditionsSee Bucharest's 3,000-room Palace of Parliament. Make banitsa bread with a home cook in Vidin.
From $3,699.00 (USD)
Like a blue ribbon threading through the green Douro Valley, the River Douro carries you through some of Portugal's most legendary landscape...
From $3,299.00 (USD)
One of Europe's most legendary rivers awaits you on this exciting journey along the Rhine River, which begins in Switzerland and visits France...
From $8,538.00 (USD)
Ship: Tranquility II
Begin your vacation your way with a 3-night stay in the 'Golden City' of beautiful Prague.
From $4,948.00 (USD)
See the highlights of Eastern Europe on this Danube River cruise adventure through the Balkans!
From $2,599.00 (USD)
Ship: Viking Vali
Cruise to enchanting destinationsSoak up soothing steam at a Budapest thermal bath. Learn to waltz at a Viennese dance school.
From $2,399.00 (USD)
Ship: Viking Kara
Castles & cathedralsExplore one of Europe's best-loved rivers, the Rhine.
From $9,947.00 (USD)
Follow the graceful waterways from the Danube Delta through the Balkans, Hungary, and Austria with stunning views along your Danube River cr...
From $8,990.00 (USD)
Ship: ms Esprit
Explore two of Europe's most scenic rivers on a 14-night cruise between Basel and Amsterdam aboard one of Tauck's premium riverboats.
2024: Romantic Rhine with 1 Night in Amsterdam, Mount Pilatus, 1 Night in Lucerne & 3 Nights in Lake
From $5,157.00 (USD)
One of Europe's most legendary waterways-the Rhine River-takes you across Germany and touches in Holland, France, and Switzerland!
From $4,518.00 (USD)
Start your Danube River vacation with two nights in the exquisite city of Prague.
2025: The Danube from Germany to Romania with 1 Night in Bucharest and 2 Nights in Transylvania (WDO
From $8,247.00 (USD)
Embark on an 18-day journey from Germany to Romania, concluding with two nights in mysterious Transylvania.
From $11,998.00 (USD)
This enchanting European river cruise from Bucharest to Amsterdam is truly an adventure.
From $7,299.00 (USD)
From Amsterdam to Budapest, and in many exciting stops along the way, experience the culture of Central Europe in a unique way on this ti...
From $4,448.00 (USD)
Your 10-day river cruise vacation includes stays in Holland, Germany, France, and Switzerland-all beginning with your Avalon Rhine River cruis...
From $8,290.00 (USD)
Ship: ms Savor
Wind your way past medieval landscapes aboard Tauck's ms Savor or ms Joy to explore five European countries, visit castles and cathedrals, ...
From $5,537.00 (USD)
Celebrate this magical time of year with a Christmastime river cruise vacation starting in the Czech Republic, on through the beautiful vie...
From $3,299.00 (USD)
Ship: Viking Beyla
Journey to Berlin, Dresden & PragueDiscover Berlin's modern chic, Potsdam's rococo whimsy and Prague's Gothic exuberance.
From $3,299.00 (USD)
Ship: Viking Gersemi
Tis the season to be joyfulImmerse yourself in the spirit of Christmas as you journey through storybook villages.
From $2,899.00 (USD)
Experience views to awaken the senses on your Danube River cruise from Germany to Hungary.