The Best River Cruises In All Of Europe, According To Reviews

Travelers looking to experience a destination usually keep away from ocean cruises, as these massive ships holding thousands of people make it difficult to see the best of a place, so most of what they see is the cruise's deck and buffet line. That's fine for relaxation, but not so great for true exploring. However, that's not the same for river cruises. River cruises offer the best parts of ocean cruises — like easy boarding, inclusive experiences, a crowd of people eager to meet others, and great food — combined with the benefits of a travel-ambitious trip. If you aren't sure which type of cruise is best for you, it might be time to give the river a chance.

River cruises offer an array of excursions to choose from, so tourgoers can create their own customized trip. As the ship sails, you'll have the opportunity to experience small villages that otherwise wouldn't make it to your itinerary. That's what intrepid adventurers will find on these European adventures, which are undoubtedly some of the best river cruises in the world. Although the river cruise marketplace is a big one, these cruises offer interesting itineraries with one-of-a-kind experiences, excellent value, and high-end accommodations. Let's get started.

AmaWaterway - Taste of Bordeaux

Bordeaux is a beautiful epicenter of food, wine, and gastronomic excellence, and that's exactly what cruisers will see — and taste — if they embark on AmaWaterways' seven-day Taste of Bordeaux cruise that travels both the Garonne and Dordogne rivers. The trip heads through Bordeaux, Libourne, Blaye, Bourg, Cadillac, and Cussac Fort Médoc, and other cities (such as San Sebastián and Bilbao in neighboring Spain) can also be added. On the journey, travelers can expect to hike a vineyard in Libourne, take a tour of a 17th-century citadel recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, visit a medieval castle that looks largely untouched despite its long history, and, of course, taste plenty of Bordeaux wine. Perhaps the best part of this cruise is its ability to customize, as travelers can choose which excursion they would like to do nearly every day.

The Taste of Bordeaux cruise, which starts at $3,700, earned 4.5 stars on Cruise Critic. One previous customer said, "The only way to describe it is 'marvelous.' The itinerary is filled with great moments. The chateaus, the wine tastings, the scenery." Visitors see the Bordeaux region from the AmaDolce ship, which is specifically tailored to the Taste of Bordeaux cruise with its red-colored lounge as a nod to red wine, a cozy, wood bar perfect for enjoying a glass after a long day, and a chef's table restaurant ideal for bringing French flavors to life.

APT - Magnificent Europe

There's no more efficient way to see the best that this European region has to offer than to take APT's Magnificent Europe cruise, which ventures to 14 destinations along the Rhine and Danube rivers. On this trip, you'll venture to world-famous locales such as Amsterdam, Salzburg, Budapest, Bratislava, Vienna, and many more. The 15-day trip can even be extended further to Prague, making for a total of 19 cities and six countries. No matter which you choose, European charm and excitement await, as most of these cities offer a selection of several excursions such as a gondola ride in Rüdesheim, a visit to Namedy Castle in Andernach, an exploration of Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, and a tour of Budapest's many iconic sights, making this cruise the perfect way to admire the beauty of Hungarian capital.

APT has secured several exclusive experiences that only river cruise guests get to enjoy, such as a special "Sound of Music" performance in Salzburg and a private classical concert in Vienna. With all that it has to offer, the trip netted 4.8 stars on Global Journeys, with reviews from nearly 60 customers. "So many wonderful things about this cruise," said one tourgoer. "Some fantastic sights that you stop and see along the way. Highly recommend this to anyone young or old."

A-Rosa Cruises - Seine Culinary Highlights

If you're a wine and food connoisseur, then there's no better way to taste and drink your way along the Seine River than with A-Rosa Cruises' Seine Culinary Highlights tour, an eight-day cruise that starts at 2,047 euros ($2,234) and ventures to Paris, Vernon, Rouen, Les Andelys, and Caudebec-en-Caux. Foodies will enjoy two wine tastings prepared by French winemakers, a cheese and oyster tasting paired with wines, a cider tasting, and more. Don't worry; you'll still get to travelerblog the must-see sights of the area when you're not sitting down with a glass.

Tourists can add on excursions of their choice for additional costs, such as a visit to Claude Monet's Giverny home, an evening at a Parisian cabaret in Paradis Latin (which has a stage designed by the same man who designed the Eiffel Tower), an exploration of the City of Light's famed art district Montmartre, and a bike ride through Normandy. No matter which excursions or packages you choose, you'll always have free access to e-bikes, Wi-Fi, the ship's sauna and gym, room service, and drinks and meal buffets. On TourRadar, the cruise earned 4.1 stars through more than 60 reviews.

Avalon Waterways - Active & Discovery on the Rhône

Avalon Waterways' Active & Discovery cruises are designed to take tourgoers off the beaten path and immerse them in travel experiences, and there is plenty of magic waiting on the company's eight-day Rhône cruise that travels to cities such as Lyon, Avignon, Arles, Port-Saint-Louis, and more, for as low as $4,400. Travelers can enjoy one-of-a-kind activities like a tour of public and private terraces of Lyon for amazing panoramic views, a wine tasting inside a cave in the Gorges de l'Ardèche, a demonstration on how essential oils are made inside a Provençal farmhouse, and a class on how to paint in the style of Vincent van Gogh. They can also choose from several excursions each day, creating an individually tailored itinerary for each guest.

The activities will take place in an intimately-sized group, as the ship — the Avalon Poetry II — has just 52 suites and 12 staterooms. Visitors can choose from luxury 200-square-foot suites with panoramic views, floor-to-ceiling windows, and delightful balconies, so you can breathe in the Rhône River air whenever you desire. One previous traveler shared that the Avalon Waterways' Active & Discovery on the Rhône cruise was the best river cruise she had ever done, writing on Solo Traveler that "The trip was well paced with excursions that were included in the price of the cruise every morning. I was impressed with the values demonstrated by Avalon Waterways and staff."

CroisiEurope - Hamburg to Berlin: Discover The Medieval Charms of Hanseatic Cities

If value is what you're after, then you won't find a better river cruise than CroisiEurope's seven-day Hamburg to Berlin: Discover The Medieval Charms of Hanseatic Cities, which starts at just $1,776 per person. From the MS Elbe Princesse, which has an ambiance that mirrors that of Northern Europe, just 77 passengers can see all that the region has to offer through oversized windows, French balconies, panoramic views, and a sun deck. The view is just the beginning, as tourgoers will travelerblog Berlin, Brandenberg, Magdeburg, Wolfsburg, and Hamburg (among others) up-close on the Elbe River, one of the most important waterways on the continent.

In these famous cities, patrons will enjoy activities like admiring Frederick the Great's former home and garden at Sanssouci Palace, exploring a German amusement park devoted to car innovation, touring Lüneburg, which looks much as it did in medieval times with its classic brick buildings, and taking a guided tour of Hamburg's market, stock exchange, and historic center. The tour has clearly impressed TourRadar users, who give it 4.3 stars through more than 300 reviews. "A wonderful tour where the staff did all they could to make our experience memorable," said one tourgoer. "The food was amazing and the journey along the Rhine at Christmas something we shall never forget."

Emerald Cruises - Sensations of Lyons & Provence

Emerald Cruises' Sensations of Lyons & Provence tour winds through Southern France's Rhône and Saône rivers, taking visitors to Lyon, Tournon, Viviers, Avignon, Arles, Nice, and more, stopping for cheese, wine, and olive oil tastings, along with bike tours, and hikes. The trip starts at $3,245 and takes place aboard the Emerald Liberté, which features a three-floor atrium, a heated pool that transforms i­­­­nto a theater at night, and a variety of suites and cabins to accommodate 180 people. It's also home to Reflections Restaurant, where guests will enjoy their meals, including one presented by French chef Fabien Morreale spotlighting authentic Provençal flavors.

Besides highlighting the fine wine and cuisine that Southern France is known for, the cruise also brings the area's history and culture to life through excursions such as a tour of one of the oldest churches in the country, visits to several UNESCO World Heritage sites (including Roman monuments and the Palais des Papes), an onboard wine tasting featuring local brews, and a bike ride through the gorgeous French countryside. The cruise finishes with a stroll through Arles down the same paths that Vincent van Gogh once walked. The tour has garnered 4 stars on Cruise Critic through over 150 reviews, with customers remarking, "There was an inclusive excursion at every stop, with local top notch tour guides provided. Every town/city was interesting."

Lüftner Cruises - Saar & Moselle Fairytales

If you love wine and chocolate, you can't miss the chance to cruise the region famous for the two along the Rhine, Moselle, and Saar rivers. Lüftner Cruises' eight-day Saar & Moselle Fairytales river cruise will introduce travelers to the German cities of Cologne, Cochem, Saarburg, Saarlouis, Trier, and one of the smallest states on the continent — Luxembourg — all while exploring age-old vineyards, medieval castles, and historic churches aboard the Amadeus Brilliant. The trip starts at just 1,689 euros ($1,846) per person, making for a luxury trip at a great value. Vacationers can then add on excursion packages starting at 152 euros ($165) per person, which include everything from walking tours to chocolate tastings. Plus, excursions can be added on a la carte, so you can completely customize your Lüftner Cruises trip and stick to whichever excursions are best for your desired activity level and budget.

Tourgoers can choose from staterooms with French balconies and floor-to-ceiling glass doors from which to enjoy the German scenery. Once docked, they'll select excursions such as visiting Reichsburg Castle in Cochem, exploring a medieval market and home in Bernkastel-Kues, seeing a 60-foot waterfall in the middle of Saarburg's town center, and tasting German chocolates in Saarlouis. The trip earned 4.5 stars on TourRadar through more than 130 reviews, with comments such as, "A lovely experience! Relaxed ambience, very good cruise directors, wonderful cabin, friendly staff, superb food."

Scenic Luxury Cruises and Tours - Delightful Douro with Madrid

The Douro River is the heartbeat that hums through the north of Portugal, and Scenic Luxury Cruises and Tours' Delightful Douro with Madrid river cruise takes travelerblogrs through the region via the largest river in the Iberian Peninsula. An 11-day trip that stops in Porto, Régua, Pinhâo, Pocinho, Barca d'Alva, and the Spanish capital of Madrid, this cruise gives tourists the time they need to fall in love with each destination. It all takes place aboard the Scenic Azure, an upscale ship that offers everything from oversized staterooms to suites with private balconies. As the ship can only accommodate up to 96 guests, it offers an intimate and personalized experience that is sure to leave you with newfound friends. There is one staff member for every two guests onboard, so you're bound to have the best customer service that a river cruise can offer.

Starting at $5,360 per person, Delightful Douro offers a range of excursions that suit every activity level and interest. That includes a private concert for river cruise guests at São Francisco Church in Porto, a visit to the charming village of Provesende, the chance to travelerblog the Royal Palace of Madrid, and wine tastings at some of the region's many vineyards. According to TourRadar users, the trip warrants 4.3 stars thanks to more than 30 positive reviews. Portugal should be on everyone's bucket list, and this cruise is a fabulous excuse to visit.

Tauck - Impressions from the Seine: Paris to Normandy

From the historic beaches of Normandy to the cultural mecca of Paris, there is much to see along the Seine River — and Tauck's Impressions from the Seine: Paris to Normandy gives cruisers a taste of it all. The eight-day cruise, which starts at about $5,000 per person, brings travelers to Versailles, Paris, Normandy, Rouen, Giverny, and Caudebec-en-Caux upon the 98-person ms Sapphire, known for its spacious cabins and suites, some with French balconies opening up to views of the Seine. A whopping 85% of the ship's suites have floor-to-ceiling windows, and 70% of the ship's cabins are 225 square feet or bigger. They even have walk-in closets, so it's easy to look the part for your day in the city, an important part of experiencing Paris like a Parisian. At mealtime, patrons will dine at The Compass Rose, the ms Sapphire onboard restaurant, or Arthur's, a casual onboard eatery.

Patrons will enjoy offerings unique to Tauck, like dining at a private château in Normandy and exploring Monet's former home and garden while no other tourists are present. Customers can also look forward to taking a tour of Louis XIV's Versailles, seeing Joan of Arc Square, and tasting cider and Calvados at a Normandy farm. The trip received 4.2 stars on Travelstride, and a traveler who took the cruise during the pandemic took to Tripadvisor to say that "Their local guides were very informative and highly personable."

Uniworld River Cruises - Enchanting Danube

The modern nations of Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Slovakia don't just comprise part of Central Europe — they also mark the center of important international history, all culminating around the Danube River. On Uniworld River Cruises' Enchanting Danube cruise, cruisers will learn this history from a front-seat view and receive local insight and unprecedented access, as the trip offers exclusive experiences like a private viewing of the Kunstkammer Vienna museum artworks. That's likely part of the reason that the cruise has garnered acclaim from reviewers on sites such as TourRadar, on which the cruise earned 4.7 stars. "An amazing holiday," said one reviewer, "Organization, staff, food and excursions were all wonderful and we will definitely book another cruise with Uniworld."

The Enchanting Danube cruise, which starts at $3,000 and lasts eight days with an option to extend one more day to Prague, heads to Budapest, Bratislava, Vienna, Dürnstein, Melk, Linz, and Passau. It includes all meals, unlimited drinks (including alcohol), excursions every day, and accommodations inside the S.S. Maria Theresa or the S.S. Beatrice. No matter which ship you take, both offer rooms with 100% Egyptian cotton sheets and a menu of pillow options. When you're not enjoying the room's luxuries, expect activities like a visit to Budapest's Franz Liszt Academy, a hike to beautiful Bratislava Castle, a wine tasting at the oldest winery in Austria, and a hike along the banks of the Ilz River.

Viking River Cruises - Portugal's River of Gold

Portugal is a mix of the old and the new, thanks to its happening restaurants and innovative art galleries that combine seamlessly with historic sites, traditional recipes, and unbeatable winemaking methods. On Viking River Cruises' 10-day Portugal's River of Gold cruise, which travels along the Douro River and also stops in Spain, patrons will see this Portuguese and Spanish culture in action from the view of a "baby longship." These ships are smaller than Viking's other ships because of Portuguese rules, but visitors can still enjoy features like Scandinavian-style décor and floor-to-ceiling views of the Douro River. The cruise garnered 4.4 stars on Cruise Critic with customers saying things like, "The only thing bad I can say was that it ended too soon." The cruise line is also one of the best for a romantic couples getaway, according to reviews

The $4,000 cruise takes patrons through Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal; Porto, the birthplace of Port wine and a spiritual epicenter; Pinhâo, a laid-back Portuguese village; Barca d'Alva, a river town near the Spanish border; and Salamanca, a Spanish city over the border that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Throughout the cruise's stops, visitors will head to Mateus Palace for a wine tasting, learn how Port wine is made, check out a medieval fortress, travelerblog a sacred town and admire a Baroque-style chapel, and experience the "Golden Age of Discovery" at structures like the Jerónimos Monastery.

Methodology

With stunning rivers such as the Rhône, Seine, Danube, Douro, Elbe, and more, the European river cruise scene is a vast one, with countless companies and ships to choose from. We travelerblogd the market to determine the best of the best based on customer reviews (all of these cruises have more than 4 stars on river cruise review websites), itineraries (all offer busy itineraries with tons of options to suit any traveler), value, and luxury, as these all showcase high-end experiences to make your vacation memorable. Websites like Tripadvisor, Cruise Critic, TourRadar and more were used for further confirmation of quality.