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Best River Cruises in 2020

Our experts have researched 21 river cruise companies and recommend 10 of the best options.

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Top 10 Highest Ranked River Cruises For 2020

Taking a river cruise is an excellent way for adventurous seniors to see more of the world without having to deal with massive ocean cruise ships filled with thousands of passengers. River cruises are far gentler, and are ideal for first time cruisers or those who suffer from sea sickness. Furthermore, they stop at more ports of call to allow passengers to experience multiple cities and enjoy various pursuits amid them. For these reasons, many seniors find river cruising to be more relaxing than other types of travel. Here are the top ten river cruises for seniors for 2020.
  • Viking River Cruises - One of the best-known river cruises that is popular with seniors, Viking River Cruises offers extensive travel options at reasonable rates.
  • Avalon Waterways - Avalon offers both short and long river cruises in fantastic destinations, and they are the only river cruise line with panoramic windows on their Suite Ships.
  • Crystal Cruises - Crystal Cruises offers over-the-top journeys throughout the best of Europe with the typical passenger being 45 and up.
  • American Cruise Lines - Specializing in American coastal and river tours, American Cruise Lines offers hassle-free cruising onboard a small fleet of ships, paddle-wheelers and riverboats.
  • Tauck - As one of the most long-standing cruising companies in the world, Tauck River Cruises offer exceptional personalized service along their European journeys.
  • Uniworld - As a world-class tour provider, Uniworld River Cruises appeal to seniors looking for a unique boutique experience, and they offer tours up to a month long.
  • AmaWaterways - A cruise line that keeps things elegant but simple, AmaWaterways offers incredible deals for seniors on trips throughout Europe, Africa and other exotic destinations.
  • Vantage - Focused solo travelers and individuals over 50, Vantage River Cruises offers generous inclusions for their European River Cruise packages.
  • Amelia River Cruises - Those looking for short day cruises between 1-2.5 hours will love the pet-friendly tours at Amelia River Cruises in Fernandina Beach, Florida.
  • Emerald Waterways - Geared towards travelers 55+, Emerald Waterways is an excellent way to see the world from the comfort of first-class river cruising boats.

How We Chose Our Top List

21
Companies considered
2
Experts consulted
10
Companies selected
15
Hours of research
  • 1. Viking River Cruises
    Ease of use Excellent
    Service & Response Excellent
    Features & Tech Excellent
    Pricing Excellent

    This adults-only river cruise line is the largest and most recognized in the world. Viking River Cruises has a fleet of around 70 ships sailing the rivers of Russia, Europe, China, Ukraine, Vietnam, Egypt and Cambodia. There are numerous itineraries and ports of call in fabulous locations such as Hungary, Portugal, Romania and France to choose from. Depending on the itinerary, there are several types of boats that Viking uses including longships, baby longships and some that are refurbished to exude a more authentic feel during the journey.

    Pros
    • Prices include a guided excursion onshore at each port of call
    • 20 years of experience in the river cruise industry
    • Reasonable all-inclusive prices
    • Upgraded rooms available on most tours
    Cons
    • Travelers need to be aware of smaller boats for Mekong and Nile River cruises
    • Cancellation policy is strict after certain dates

    Pricing

    7-14 day cruises average between $2000-$5000, but pricing will vary depending on where you are sailing and during what season you are traveling. There are upgrades available such as romance packages and cabin upgrades that can affect overall pricing. Consider getting the trip insurance in case cancellation is necessary

    The Bottom Line

    Seniors often choose Viking River Cruises because they offer exotic destinations in addition to other more typical tours of places that may be on the bucket list. With simple, all-inclusive packages, year-long cruises and an 18 and older policy, Viking is highly appealing to seniors looking for a quiet vacation experience.

  • 2. Avalon Waterways
    Ease of use Excellent
    Service & Response Excellent
    Features & Tech Excellent
    Pricing

    Avalon Waterways operates 16 ships within European waterways along with other vessels that traverse the Amazon, Nile, Galapagos, Mekong Delta, Yangtze River and even Myanmar’s Irrawaddy River. Avalon has introduced a new option that allows passengers on their European cruises to choose between three types of excursions daily: Classic, Discovery or Active. What seniors will love about choosing a journey of one of Avalon’s Suite Ships is that the Panoramic staterooms are 30 percent larger than average and boast floor-to-ceiling windows that offer incredible views.

    Pros
    • Suite Class ships boast panoramic, retractable windows
    • Locally sourced foods and wines onboard
    • Cruises available between 3 and 14 days
    • Passengers can choose their level of daily engagement in activities
    Cons
    • Most ships are not well-equipped to serve those with mobility challenges
    • Itineraries are somewhat limited in location choices

    Pricing

    Three and four night cruises start at around $900 and go up depending on the location. Longer excursions between seven and 14 days average between $2500 and $7000. Avalon Waterways trips are all-inclusive with five-star dining, accommodations and an array of entertainment onboard. Extras like cabin upgrades or special requests will incur additional charges on the overall package price.

    The Bottom Line

    Seniors looking for unique river cruises onboard luxury ships will appreciate Avalon Waterway’s options amenities. This is also an excellent line to choose for those looking for a short river cruise, first time river travelers and those on a budget. However, if you have mobility issues it’s essential to speak to an agent before booking to see which tours are available.

  • 3. Crystal Cruises
    Ease of use Excellent
    Service & Response Excellent
    Features & Tech Excellent
    Pricing Excellent

    Crystal Cruises boasts the best crew-to-passenger ratios among competitors, and their ships feature more personal space for passengers than average. While their river cruises currently specialize in European locations, they venture to some of the finest and most iconic destinations one could hope to explore. Seniors will appreciate that Crystal has the only all-suite, butler serviced river ships with accommodations that feature private balconies, plush king-sized beds and exceptional personalized service.

    Pros
    • Luxurious, oversized quarters with private balconies
    • Private butler service for every passenger
    • Multiple enrichment programs, free lessons, and guest speakers
    Cons
    • River cruises are limited to European destinations

    Pricing

    Pricing for Crystal River Cruises range between $2000 and $4500 on average and are all-inclusive. However, personalized onshore and onboard activities can be arranged for passengers at an additional cost. Crystal often runs great specials, making them a good deal for those on a budget who want to explore Europe by river.

    The Bottom Line

    With so many amenities and luxurious quarters, Crystal River Cruises are favored by seniors seeking to travel around Europe’s waterways. Perks such as the Crystal Visions Enrichment Programs, free lessons from pros and an array of classes makes these tours an exceptional deal for the money. Furthermore, passengers tend to be more seasoned travelers on Crystal Cruises.

  • 4. American Cruise Lines
    Ease of use Excellent
    Service & Response Excellent
    Features & Tech Excellent
    Pricing Excellent

    As one of the first American coastal cruising companies, American Cruise Lines began in the late 70’s by offering small ship coastal and river tours in the US. They currently have over 35 unique itineraries that traverse through 25 states. Seniors who are seeking authentic paddle-wheelers and riverboats will appreciate American’s USA made ships that are US-crewed and flagged. Those who want to have a more intimate experience enjoy the 200-passenger capacity on these river cruises. Popular itineraries include the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, the Mississippi River, New England experiences, and Maine to Florida coastal tours.

    Pros
    • Ships and boats are fully stabilized to minimize seasickness
    • USA made boats and staff
    • Affordable itineraries
    • Large cabins with balconies
    Cons
    • Trips are only in the US and along the coast
    • Ships aren’t designed for families with younger travelers

     

    Pricing

    American Cruise Lines offers journeys along American rivers and coastal waterways starting at around $1000 and going up to $4000 or so. Pricing depends on the trip chosen. For example, sailing on the Snake and Columbia Rivers and the Alaska tour is highly in demand, so prepare to pay more for these journeys. Those opting for off-board activities will also need to pay extra charges by activity.

    The Bottom Line

    With a solid reputation and US made boats, American Cruise line is popular with seniors looking to get away with very little hassles. Each boat is true to style and boasts large cabins replete with balconies that offer panoramic views. If an American destination is on the bucket list, American River Cruises is an ideal solution.

  • 5. Tauck
    Ease of use Excellent
    Service & Response Excellent
    Features & Tech Excellent
    Pricing Excellent

    Tauck River Cruises is an all-inclusive, luxury-oriented cruise line that offers 15 European destinations with the opportunity to add more than 100 options to your package. Fares include all alcoholic beverages, outings and gratuities, and there are guaranteed to be at least three tour guides onboard to streamline passenger’s experience. Some starting cities that seniors frequently book include Austria, France, Hungary, Monaco, Switzerland, Germany, and Belgium. Those looking for luxury cruises in Europe will appreciate Tauck’s vast options and onboard amenities.

    Pros
    • Land packages can be tacked on to river cruises
    • 3 tour directors aboard every cruise
    • Packages are all-inclusive
    Cons
    • Cruises only European based
    • Limited departure cities and destinations

    Pricing

    Tauck River Cruises generally start around $3000 per person and go up from there depending on the destination and any extra cruise options. You will pay extra for laundry services and spa treatments, as well. However, everything else is included such as transfers, gratuities, onboard lectures and entertainment, Wi-Fi and much more.

    The Bottom Line

    Seniors seeking first-class quarters and a luxurious experience in Europe will love Tauck River Cruise’s exceptional options. They have an attentive staff that keeps the fun going that truly creates memorable trips. With options to increase land-based stays before launching and after departure, Tauck makes it easy to have the experience of a lifetime.

  • 6. Uniworld
    Ease of use Excellent
    Service & Response Excellent
    Features & Tech Excellent
    Pricing Excellent

    Capturing the European opulence of the old-world, Uniworld’s boutique river cruises are a delight for folks of all ages but are particularly popular with seniors. Uniworld River Cruises operates 500+ departures annually covering over 20 countries, and offers cruises ranging between seven days to one month extended tours. They boast quite a few intriguing tour options and add-ons and also offer themed cruises such as holiday and cultural celebrations. Their newest riverboat is technically a super ship that has a pool, dinner club and live music.

    Pros
    • An ultra-luxurious boutique cruise experiences
    • Cruises available in India, China, Cambodia and many other intriguing countries
    • VIP Home Departure Service
    • A huge variety of tour options available
    Cons
    • Some may find the super ship to be overwhelming
    • Uniworld cruises must be booked through their partner UK Titan
    • Packages can be pricey

    Pricing

    Uniworld offers Classic, Deluxe, French Balcony, and Suite packages that run anywhere from $2400 for a Classic excursion to well over $12,000 for luxury suites. However, their month-long river cruises can reach into the tens of thousands of dollars, but are still a considerable value for the service and amenities one receives. Of course, destination and the time of year you travel will affect the bottom line pricing.

    The Bottom Line

    With opportunities to travel in style along rivers in China, India, Russia, Portugal and so many other fascinating places in the world, Uniworld River Cruises can be a senior’s source to experiencing the outside world. These trips are all-inclusive, making booking a package simple and stress-free.

  • 7. AmaWaterways
    Ease of use Excellent
    Service & Response Excellent
    Features & Tech Excellent
    Pricing Excellent

    This 2002 California-based cruise provider has more than 20 ships sailing the waterways of Europe Asia and Africa. AmaWaterways predominantly focuses on cruises on European rivers such as the Danube, Rhine, Seine, Mosel and Rhone. However, they also offer elegant cruises in France, Vietnam, Africa and Cambodia. Most guided port stops and cuisine are included in the fare in addition to wine and non-alcoholic drinks. Bikes can be borrowed for tours in port stops. Passengers fare includes in-cabin entertainment, WiFi access and well-designed accommodations. Most ships are mobility-friendly and feature elevators and handicap access points, making it ideal for seniors with certain needs.

    Pros
    • Many unique locations to choose from
    • Most onshore excursions and bike loans included
    • Some boats feature family friendly cabins
    Cons
    • Some offshore activities will cost extra
    • Cocktails are not complimentary, only wine and beer

    Pricing

    AmaWaterway River Cruises average $1800—$5000 for one week cruises, and two week cruises average between $9000 and $15,000 depending on cabin choice, date of travel and the destination. Be prepared to pay extra for alcoholic beverages beyond beer and wine, and laundry services will also incur additional costs.

    The Bottom Line

    Seniors looking for an exciting trip with a reputable river cruise line will appreciate AmaWaterway’s solid reputation and lovely fleet line. While there are some limitations on what’s included in their packages, they make it easy to pursue your own endeavors during port of call stops. Overall, these river cruises are considerably more affordable than many competitors without sacrificing onboard and off-board services.

  • 8. Vantage
    Ease of use Excellent
    Service & Response Excellent
    Features & Tech Excellent
    Pricing Excellent

    Vantage River Cruises predominantly focuses traveling with solo adventurers and those 50+ looking for a unique river experience in Europe. They offer solo cabins and roommate pairing opportunities are available for those on a budget. Vantage’s river ships sail the Rhine, Danube, Main, Seine and Moselle Rivers while also offering exclusive charter boats on Portugal’s Douro River. Cruise range from smaller boats and expedition vessels to boutique style luxurious yachts. Most cabins boast French balconies and all feature glorious views of the coastline. Most journeys offer ship-wide Wi-Fi, meals, wine and beer with dinner, onboard entertainment and several sightseeing tours through their Cultural Connections Program.

    Pros
    • Well-appointed cabins, many with French balconies
    • Incredible cultural endeavors on and off board included
    • Headphones provided to passengers during events and lectures
    • Sightseeing tours included
    • Cornell University trained concierges
    Cons
    • Premium alcoholic beverages aren’t included
    • Predominantly geared towards solo travelers
    • Destinations are somewhat limited

    Pricing

    Vantage isn’t clear about their pricing unless you select a date and tour, but the general average ranges between $2200 and $5,000. They also offer frequent specials online and through travel agents. Those seeking solo-only tours will find Vantage’s prices to be more reasonable than comparable companies. Be sure to read the cancellation policy carefully, as Vantage River Cruises often charges more than competitors.

    The Bottom Line

    Senior couples and singles appreciate Vantage River Cruise’s quiet cruises free of children. They offer an array of European cruises that last from one week up to one month grand tours of the region. Sightseeing excursions and cultural connection activities are always included in the price, and Vantage maintains a 4 to 1 guest-staff ration on all its riverboat cruises. If are looking to truly immerse yourself in local cultures at ports of call, these cruises are a great choice.

  • 9. Amelia River Cruises
    Ease of use Excellent
    Service & Response Excellent
    Features & Tech Excellent
    Pricing Excellent

    Amelia River Cruises offers several short daytime and sunset cruises that head out from downtown Fernandina beach and travel down the inter coastal waterway to the Cumberland Island National Seashore. Trips range between one and two and a half hours depending on the tours. Available tours include a Cumberland Island pass-by, where travelers can view the wild horses still wandering the grounds today along with other wildlife and countless seabirds. Other tours include Family Friendly tours, Adults Only BYOB Sunset Cruises, Beach Creek Tours and seasonal Eco-Shrimping Tours. Most tours are also pet friendly, and guests can bring their own food and drinks on these excursions.

    Pros
    • Pet-Friendly tours for leashed dogs
    • BYO food and drinks
    • Great opportunities to see wildlife in natural habitats
    Cons
    • No opportunities to depart the boat on islands

    Pricing

    In general, tours run between $22-$35 depending on the trip chosen and the age of the passengers. Leashed dogs are welcome at no additional fee. There are no food or drinks onboard, so guests can bring their own at no extra charge. Seniors receive a discounted rate of about $5 on all tours, so it’s a great deal all around.

    The Bottom Line

    Seniors looking for a gentle, short river cruise will appreciate Amelia River Cruises’ narrated journeys down the inter coastal waterway of Florida. While enjoying the views of Cumberland Island, one can expect to see dolphins, wild horses, sea turtles, spoonbills, osprey and much more. Pack a lunch, make a reservation (don’t forget the senior discount), and enjoy a fascinating daytime or sunset cruise with Amelia in Fernandina Beach, Florida.

  • 10. Emerald Waterways
    Ease of use Excellent
    Service & Response Excellent
    Features & Tech Excellent
    Pricing

    Emerald Waterways is partnered with Evergreen Cruises, and together they allow passengers to enjoy an array of river cruise options around the world. While they specialize in European river cruises down the Danube, Rhone, Rhine, and Main Rivers for those 55 and up, they also offer thrilling options now that include sailing to Cambodia, Russia, Croatia, Africa, Vietnam, Egypt, South America, Alaska and Canada. A new option includes an option to link the Danube and River cruise packages. Most amenities are included such as meals, beer and wine with lunch and dinner, shore excursions, transfers, and most onboard entertainment.

    Pros
    • Signature heated pool and cinema onboard
    • Tips, meals and excursions included
    • Solid selection of destinations at reasonable rates
    Cons
    • Limited alcoholic drinks included
    • Suites tend to run small

    Pricing

    Emerald Waterway cruises range in price from $2400 to $5500 on average for tours ranging from seven to fourteen days. Cruises with stops in Paris tend to be on the higher end of the scale. Most drinks and all meals are included along with tips and shore excursions. However, port charges, airfare and some land activities may incur additional charges.

    The Bottom Line

    With so many touring options around the world, seniors will appreciate this company that primarily caters to their age bracket. While standard cabins tend to run small, upgrades are possible to make couples more comfortable. Onboard amenities and offshore activities are engaging for seniors seeking to learn something new or embrace other cultures.

What is a River Cruise?

River cruises are gaining in popularity with travelers of all ages—especially seniors—for a number of reasons. Many want to avoid the large ship cruise experience that takes them far out to sea where there’s nothing to see for days. On a river cruise, incredible views of landscapes are never far away, and these ships are much easier on the sea legs while offering a greater sense of intimacy than ocean liners. Many cruises are designed only for couples or families, and some are geared solely towards seniors. Furthermore, river cruises often feature a theme, so if you’re interested in history, a painting workshop on water or even making cheese—there’s likely a trip for that. Want to Christmas shop around the world? Holiday river cruises are very popular solutions for both a holiday getaway and unique shopping opportunities.

Where are Some Popular River Cruise Destinations?

River cruises are most popular in Europe, Italy, Asia, India and Russia because of their vast network of rivers with attractive scenery and an endless selection of interesting port cities. The Rhine River is a top pick for seniors who want to explore villages and communities in Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands. Cruises along the Danube are also very popular, as they allow passengers to explore the historic and bustling cities of Budapest and Vienna. Whatever river cruise you take, there are likely to be many port stops that allow you to explore a number of onshore destinations. Often, excursions such as guided tours off the ship are included in the cruise price.

How Long Are River Cruises?

River cruises can be short, mid-length or much longer. Very few cruise lines offer short three and four day cruises for those not ready for an extended trip. Most river cruises are one or two weeks long and include multiple stops in various cities along the route. However, there are multiple week cruises and month-long cruises for the more adventurous traveler. These experiences are best advised for well-seasoned travelers that already know that like river cruising.

How Much Do River Cruises Cost?

Many river cruises tout being all-inclusive, which typically includes daily meals, beverages, onboard entertainment, accommodations, WiFi and sometimes more. Most travelers opt to seek out an all-inclusive trip that also includes alcoholic beverages, so be sure your fees include unlimited, premium drinks if you choose to imbibe. Sometimes gratuities are also included, but additional tips are always appreciated by hard-working crew members and service providers. Be sure to look for any hidden fees such as laundry services, taxes, port fees and airfare, which may be separate.

Travelers will also want to protect their trip with travel insurance in case cancellation or delays or necessary. This coverage will also cover illness, injury or lost luggage during travels. Expect to pay between $150 and $250 per ticket to insure the trip. However, it’s wise to check with your credit card companies to see if they include perks like travel insurance, and then use a card that does to book your trip.

Booking river cruises early is advisable if you want to get the travel dates you want during busy seasons. You can also often land the best deals on cruises by buying early. Of course, there may be last minute specials available for those who can pick up and travel anytime. Travel agents can help you find deals, or you can contact cruise lines directly for guidance.