The World's Best River Cruises

Drift past an elephant drinking from the Chobe, or choose a culinary tour on the Seine. There's a river cruise for everyone.

Photo By: Viking River Cruises

Photo By: Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection

Photo By: TripAdvisor

Photo By: Iakov Kalinin/Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection

Photo By: Tauck

Photo By: Crystal River Cruises

Photo By: Avalon Waterways

Photo By: American Cruise Lines

Photo By: Richard Mark Dobson/ Aqua Expeditions

Photo By: AmaWaterways

Eastern Europe River Cruise

Viking River Cruises offers a fabulous trip from Bucharest to Budapest aboard the Longship Aegir, named for the Norse god of the sea. Viking's longships are state-of-the-art, award-winning vessels with Nordic designs, floor-to-ceiling windows and all-outside cabins. The "Passage to Eastern Europe" is an 11-day voyage that stops in Bulgaria before traveling through Serbia's Iron Gates, a spectacular, narrow gorge flanked by white limestone cliffs. The trip continues into Croatia and Hungary.

Northern Italy River Cruise

Explore art, architecture, local cuisine and fine wines on the "Gems of Northern Italy" tour from Uniworld. The 10-day trip starts with a city tour of Milan to see Da Vinci’s famous "The Last Supper" mural. From there, you'll head to Verona, known for Shakespeare's tale of "Romeo and Juliet," and then set sail in Venice. After more land excursions in Chioggia and Bologna or Ferrara (your choice), you'll visit several Venetian islands and disembark in Venice. Shown here: a stateroom on the River Countess, a ship in the Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection.

Chicago River Cruise

Don't have weeks or even a day for a sightseeing cruise? Try the Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise, a 75-minute tour that made the 2017 TripAdvisor list of the world's 10 most popular experiences. (It ranked alongside skip-the-line tours of the Vatican museums, the Sistine Chapel and the Roman Colosseum.) Tour highlights include some of Chicago's most famous skyscrapers and landmarks, including the Tribune Tower, Wrigley Building, Trump Tower and Marina City.

Seine, Saone and Rhone Rivers Cruise

Step onto the S.S. Joie de Vivre, a "Super Ship" from the Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection, and become a Francophile. The cabins and public spaces are furnished with fine French antiques and handcrafted furniture and feature colorful, chic Parisian accents. On the "Grand France" cruise, you’ll venture from north to south on the Seine, Saone and Rhone Rivers, while you explore the local cuisine, architecture, culture and history.

Rhone River Cruise

Prefer a more intimate cruise through France? Tauck’s 361-foot riverboat, the ms Emerald, accommodates up to 98 passengers (according to Tauck, similar ships hold about 160). Its nine-night journey, "Savoring France: Paris, Lyon & Provence," is ideal for food and wine connoisseurs who also enjoy a serving of local culture and history. The trip begins with a two-night hotel stay in Paris (included with the price), with dinner at Le Fouquet’s on the Champs-Elysees. After a culinary walking tour and a pastry class at Le Cordon Bleu Paris, guests board a high-speed train for Lyon and a seven-night cruise on the Rhone. Highlights along the river include wine tastings, cooking demonstrations and more.

Danube River Cruise

Vienna is the "The City of Music," known for its legendary composers, like Strauss, Mozart and Beethoven. You can almost hear the strains of "The Blue Danube" when you board the Crystal River Cruise ship, Mozart. Take a yoga class, enjoy the scenery from the French balcony of your suite or catch a fascinating lecture while you sail through wine country in Wachau Valley and on to the charming Old Town of Passau, Germany. The Mozart stops in the capital of Slovakia and in Budapest before returning to Vienna.

Rhine and Moselle Rivers Cruise

Avalon Waterways was a Cruise Critic Editors’ Pick for Best Cabins in 2017, thanks in part to its luxurious suites, which feature wall-to-wall windows that open onto balconies, giving the cabins an expansive, outdoor feel. Board the Artistry II for Avalon’s southbound Rhine and Moselle tour (a northbound option is also available). The ship stops in Cologne and Koblenz, Germany, before sailing on to Luxembourg and France; shore excursions include visits to France’s Maginot Line, Heidelberg Castle, the city of Strasbourg and the Black Forest. Guests disembark in Basel, Switzerland.

Snake and Columbia Rivers Cruise

One of American Cruise Lines’ most popular trips is the Lewis and Clark-themed cruise on the Columbia and Snake Rivers. After it departs from Portland, Oregon, an onboard "riverlorian" spins tales of explorers, fur traders and Native Americans as passengers travel through the beautiful Columbia River Gorge and on to scenic Hell’s Canyon, the deepest canyon in North America. In 2019, American will offer this tour on its new ship, American Song, an environmentally friendly vessel and the first in a highly anticipated series of modern riverboats.

Amazon River Cruise With Jean-Michel Cousteau

Renowned explorer and environmentalist Jean-Michel Cousteau hosted a series of Aqua Expeditions cruises in 2018. He shared stories of his own journeys, and discussed the amazing Amazonian ecosystem, aboard the Aria Amazon as it sailed along the Peruvian Amazon. Cousteau also led passengers on bike and kayak excursions into the jungle. The Aria offers three-, four- and seven-night cruises; watch for pink dolphins and giant waterlilies as you traverse the rivers and nearly-hidden, black water lakes. Visit the Aqua Expeditions website for information on health and safety concerns in the region.

Mekong River Cruise

Meet Khmer farmers, visit Chinese pagoda temples and explore the diverse cultures of Vietnam and Cambodia when you sail on Aqua Expeditions’ Aqua Mekong. The ship, which accommodates up to 40 guests, embarks from Siem Reap, Phnom Penh or Ho Chi Minh and follows the Mekong and Tonle Sap Rivers. It’s a floating, five-star hotel with designer suites and amenities that include an outdoor cinema, upper deck pool and fully equipped gym. Visit the Aqua Expeditions website for information on health and safety concerns in the region.

Chobe River Cruise

Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart, stars of the "The African Queen," a film classic from the 1950s, never had it so good. AmaWaterways’ Zambezi Queen, a luxury ship with a plunge pool, private balconies and other amenities, cruises Africa’s Chobe River. This eco-friendly vessel holds up to 28 passengers and is designed to allow close-up views of wildlife. It uses a water jet propulsion system and low-emission generators to help minimize any impact on animals and the environment.

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