What is the best European river cruise company?
This is usually the first question we are asked about river cruises. Our answer: They all are good, but there are some big differences between companies. Most folks have heard of Viking, since they advertise heavily and have 50% of all the river cruise vessels on Europe’s rivers. The other lines may not be as well-known, but offer great vacations. So let’s explore the 7 river cruise companies that fit best with the U.S. market.
The best way to determine which cruise line is best for your taste is to compare them on these 7 factors. They are: 1) Quality of the vessels, 2) Accommodations, 3) Cuisine, 4) Service, 5) Shore Excursions; 6) Extras (what is included or not included in the price), and 7) Cost—are you getting the value for your money? Then match the features that are most important to you to get the right cruise.
Many folks rate the river cruise lines and it is important to understand that most ratings are only personal opinion. Every major river cruise line has won some sort of award from a travel industry group, or by reader poll, so that is not the best criteria to use to judge a river cruise line. Probably the most objective source we have found is the Berlitz River Cruising in Europe guide book by Douglas Ward. He does not directly address a whole company, but he has rated over 280 individual river boats and has spent 45 years appraising ocean and river cruises. Good enough for us! We have used his ratings when possible to compile our best list.
What Companies to Consider
What are the 7 companies we are going to examine? They are (in alphabetical order): AmaWaterways, Avalon Waterways, Emerald, Scenic, Tauck River Cruises, Uniworld and Viking.
For a more in-depth analysis of 5 of these companies please click here.
Our Thoughts About Who is Best
Here is a brief summary of our thoughts about matching your personal priorities to a specific river cruise line (while this evaluation is based on considerable personal research and certification by the individual riverboat companies and taking 7 river cruises, some of this evaluation is just our personal opinion):
Best Overall AmaWaterways, Scenic, Tauck
Best Food & Wine AmaWaterways, Scenic
Best Shore Excursions Tauck, AmaWaterways
Best Resolution of Problems Tauck, AmaWaterways
Best Minimalist Cruise Avalon, Viking
Best Cabins Views Avalon, AmaWaterways (dual balconies)
Best Unique Cabins Uniworld
Best Low Cost Cruise Emerald, Viking (although you may have to pay full fare earlier than others)
Best All Inclusive Tauck, Scenic, Uniworld
Best Ship Design AmaWaterways, Viking
So How Do You Decide?
As you can see, there is much more than these brief thoughts to select the right cruise line for your vacation. The most important criteria to determine which cruise line to use is that the river route and what you want to see is available on the cruises lines you are considering. There are just too many routes for this subject to be covered properly in this short article. I will write another general description of the major river routes in another post. Once the right route is selected, then it is time to choose which cruise lines matches your priorities. But never worry—we are here to help you get the best possible river cruises based on what is important to you! Please give me a call 713-397-0188 (Hank) or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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