The Top 10 River Cruise Lines
Imagine sailing the Seine on an intimate ship that pays homage to France in all the right ways: think champagne, decadent cheeses from Normandy, and tasteful aquatints that depict 19th-century Paris.
Uniworld’s Boutique River Cruise Collection’s Joie de Vivre reflects France in all those ways — and more. It’s one of the many reasons T+L readers love this river cruise line, which took the No. 1 spot this year. Uniworld emphasizes the destination in the décor and programming of its 18 unique vessels. “The Joie de Vivre really carries the flavor of France with its fine artwork, décor, and alternative bistro dining,” said one fan. “The greatest part was arriving back in Paris our last night to watch the lights of the Eiffel Tower come alive. It was truly magical.”
Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe—to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated individual cruise ships on their cabins/facilities, food, service, itineraries/destinations, excursions/activities, and value. Those assessments were combined to generate results for the cruise lines in five categories, including river cruising.
Related: The 2018 World's Best Awards
Not far behind at No. 2 was Viking Cruises, which has an astounding 64 ships in its fleet worldwide. One fan who sailed the Danube with Viking last year loved the experience enough to quickly book a two-week cruise to Russia for 2018. Said that traveler, “I have friends who have sailed as many as ten times with Viking, and they all say it is the absolute best!”
Smaller lines also proved to be popular with our readers. Aqua Expeditions (No. 4) has only two ships in its fleet. One sails the Mekong between Vietnam and Cambodia, the other, remote stretches of the Amazon in Peru. “Not the usual cruise line or boat,” said one reader. “Very small, wonderful food and service.” Crystal River Cruises (No. 6), which launched its river cruise brand in 2016, now has five ships, all in Europe. The sleek vessels feel modern, the cabins extra spacious (what traveling couple doesn’t love a double vanity in the bathroom?). “Crystal has taken luxury to a whole new level,” said one fan. “The best of the best,” added another.
Read on to see how these lines stacked up this year in the rankings.
9. Avalon Waterways
8. Vantage Deluxe World Travel
7. Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours
6. Crystal River Cruises
5. Grand Circle Cruise Line
4. Aqua Expeditions
1. Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection
With ships that sail the Danube, the Rhine, the Ganges, and more, this all-inclusive river cruise line delivers a luxurious experience with a sense of place. “It is like being on a floating five-star hotel, with the added benefit of visiting multiple amazing locations,” wrote one fan. And the excursions — be they wine-tasting outings in Austria’s Wachau Valley or visits to Normandy’s D-Day beaches — are carefully planned and executed. Said one reader, “They have a wide variety of activities to satisfy all personalities.”
See all of our readers' favorite hotels, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2018.