3 River Cruise Lines “A Brief Comparison”

One of AmaWaterways River Cruise Ships, the AmaKristina

There are 3 major river cruise companies that my clients seem to love the most. I shop others too but I find these to be the most popular so far. I thought it may be helpful to give you a river cruise comparison of the top 3 river  cruise companies that I use.

River cruising in Europe has exploded in the past several years and continues to grow in popularity.  It makes sense because you can visit many different beautiful cities without having to pack and unpack everyday.  All of the cruise lines that I work with provide all your meals and drinks with meals. Some do cover all alcoholic beverages and some don’t. Some river cruise fares cover your airfare, pre-night hotel, transfers, taxes, fees, shore excursions, gratuities, and some don’t.

In general, all of my river cruise lines do serve authentic meals  from the region that they are in. The chefs will shop in the very markets that you may visit at your port.  Keep in mind that these river cruise ships can hold 130 to 200 people.  It is a very intimate setting where there are no assigned dining times or assigned seating.

This allows flexibility when you meet fellow passengers that have the same interests as you to dine with each other without disrupting the cosmos.  Overall, whichever river cruise you choose to experience, you will feel like you’re on a real vacation.

Did you know that if you use the airfare offered by the river cruise company, they may charge you if you deviate from their sailing dates? What if you wanted to go a few days early or return a few days after the cruise ends? Now your trip is more of a custom trip and you need hotel, transportation, tours, activities, inter flights and maybe rail passes.  The river cruise companies cannot help you with that… But I can!

Viking River Cruise Longship
Viking Longship Kvasir along the Rhine River near the town of Kaub with Pfalsgafenstein Castle on the riverbank and Gutenfels Castle above on the hillside.

Okay, let’s start with Viking River Cruise. They are the most recognized river cruise line and they hold 50% of the market at this time.  Their ships are decorated in simple, Scandinavian and understated elegance. They also describe themselves as comfortable and serene.

Viking River Cruise French_Balcony_Stateroom
This is a Viking Longship 135 sq ft French Balcony Stateroom

The majority of the fleet they use is what they call their Viking Long Ship.  It holds 190 passengers, is 443 ft long, 4 decks high and a total of 95 staterooms.  Some of the features are a library, lounge, walking track, herb garden, bar, sun deck, restaurant and an al fresco dining area too.

Things you won’t find on these ships are a gym, spa and hot tub/pool among a couple of other differences from other river cruise lines.  So you just have to decide if these things are important to you when traveling throughout Europe.

Secondly, we will talk about AmaWaterways. They are one of the most recognized river cruise companies after Viking River Cruises.  AmaWaterways has about 17 ships in their fleet compared to 60 for Viking.  You will find that AmaWaterways will hold less passengers, closer to 160 or less depending on the particular ship.

AmaWaterways AmaBella BABB
AmaWaterways AmaBella Stateroom BA/BB category with French Balcony and Outside Balcony.

A main reason for that is because they don’t use every square foot on their ships for staterooms. AmaWaterways does offer a gym, spa, sun deck pool with swim up bar and even bikes on board! AmaWaterways does seem to promote a more active experience and a wellness lifestyle. So you will find fitness classes, guided hikes, bike excursions and more!

Their style is more classic with warm elegance.  I like to think of them as my floating luxury hotel on the river. Even though AmaWaterway’s ship size is mostly the same as others, their fleet does have different ship classes and variations for each ship. The rivers in Europe only allow river cruise ships to be so wide and long due to the size of the rivers and locks that they have to pass through during a sailing.

Finally, we have Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection. Uniworld’s style is super elegant and posh. Think of them as your floating castle on the river.  It’s very ornate and very much inspired by the history, colors, beauty, and culture of the places they visit.

Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection on the Rhine River


Each Uniworld ships are limited editions.
Uniworld ships are refined and lavish.

Uniworld is considered the most all-inclusive river cruise line beginning with the airfare, transfers, excursions, gratuities and more. Believe it or not, Uniworld pricing isn’t necessarily higher all of the time. You can find very comparable pricing to other river cruise companies. I know because I’ve priced each of these myself many times and was very surprised to see the value was much greater even.

Granted, you need to consider the differences still in overall experience, guest to crew ratio and levels of services. Uniworld also boasts active experiences and health & wellness activities. For example, they have the bicycles, helmets and Nordic walking poles for onshore use.

These are not one-size-fits all river cruises. You can truly find the perfect river cruise for you after you’ve talked with a travel advisor because there are more river cruise companies to choose from. I didn’t even touch on cuisine, shore excursions, Wi-Fi access, special onboard programs such as lectures or cooking demonstrations and which would be best for your small group or family trip.

I can help you get the most out of your travels, when on a river cruise and you’re wanting to extend your trip before or after your sailing dates.

If you’d like more information on this and to see if I can help you, please email me at Cristina@cultivatedescapes.com or call me at 480.290.1889 and I’ll be glad to set up a free consultation.

Buen viaje,