The Best River Cruise Lines in the World in 2016

river cruise
Photo: Courtesy of Uniworld

Rivers are all the rage. Travelers are increasingly interested in seeing the world on cruises through smaller waterways. A big selling point is the way river cruises allow guests to experience destinations in a deeper way. Sailing Myanmar’s Irrawaddy River, you get to explore a destination at a major turning point in its history; itineraries on the Rhine River let travelers take in the charming villages and towns that line the waterway. Trips are heavy on cultural offerings and insider access, with excursions to museums, villages, wineries, and restaurants. The ships—intimate and often luxurious—are also appealing. While you might not get jaw-dropping waterslides (and most lines, in fact, do not cater to children), many river ships offer cabins with balconies, premium dining experiences, and spas. On Viking Cruises, you can book an innovative Explorer Suite, which comes with a wraparound terrace and heated bathroom floors. 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 lines, 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. This year, top honors went to Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection—a line that stands out for its style and elegance. Staterooms are plush, bordering on opulent. Even its new ships, such as the Maria Theresa, launched last year, take design cues from the past. Uniworld isn’t the only cruise company adding to its fleet: at least 11 new river ships have already debuted in 2016. Lines like Tauck, Viking Cruises, and AmaWaterways have all recently added new ships. They’re expanding their itineraries, too. AmaWaterways has added wine-themed cruises—led by experts—in the Douro, Danube, Rhine, and Rhone rivers. Do as much tasting as you like; someone else is at the helm.

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No. 5: AmaWaterways

AMA Waterways
Courtesy of AMA Waterways

Score: 89.42

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No. 4: Grand Circle Cruise Line

GCCL 0803 SEN, Ship Bizet. France. Paris. Quai de L'Horloge
Jock Montgomery

Score: 91.62

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No. 3: Viking Cruises

viking river cruise
Courtesy of Viking Cruises

Score: 93.83

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No. 2: Tauck

tauck river cruises
Courtesy of Tauck

Score: 94.42

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No. 1: Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection

river cruise
Courtesy of Uniworld

Score: 94.46

Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection—which has 19 sailing vessels in its fleet—is known for having some of the most stylish ships at sea. “The cabins are like little jewel boxes,” one respondent said of the River Baroness. The new Maria Theresa, which sails the Rhine, Main, and Danube rivers, offers luxe interiors inspired by the Hapsburg Empire. But again, it’s more than just looks that draws people to river cruising. “Uniworld’s onshore excursions are unique, varied and well chosen, with a distinct accent on history and art."

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