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Best River Cruise Line (2021)

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River cruising has been exploding in popularity in recent years, and it's easy to see why. You check in, unpack your bag and let your floating hotel take you on a journey of discovery down some of the world's great waterways, with experiential guided excursions along the way. 

  • Viking River Cruises

    Viking River Cruises

    Founded in 1997, Viking River Cruises plies the waterways of Europe, Russia, China, Southeast Asia and Egypt with its fleet of more than 60 vessels. While Viking has also launched an award-winning ocean cruise line, the company built its reputation in river cruising. These all-inclusive cruises feature outside staterooms, WiFi, wine and beer with meals, shore excursions in every port and Viking’s signature Culture Curriculum program.
    Photo courtesy of Viking River Cruises

  • Avalon Waterways

    Avalon Waterways

    River cruisers in Europe will find the largest standard staterooms and suites aboard Avalon’s fleet of luxurious ships. Onboard amenities include fitness centers, a Sky Deck with a whirlpool and shade system, free WiFi, flat screen TVs and a self-serve beverage station. The Avalon Choice program allows cruisers to customize the details of their experience, ensuring each vacation is a perfect fit.
    Photo courtesy of Avalon Waterways

  • Uniworld Boutique River Cruises

    Uniworld Boutique River Cruises

    Luxurious river ships with an average capacity of 130 guests and one of the best staff-to-guest ratios in the industry ply the waters of Europe, Russia and Asia under the Uniworld name. Passengers on Uniworld vessels enjoy gourmet cuisine, immersive shore excursions and many all-inclusive benefits. The ships themselves are each unique, complete with sumptuous staterooms and original art commissioned exclusively for Uniworld.
    Photo courtesy of Uniworld Boutique River Cruises

  • American Cruise Lines

    American Cruise Lines

    Guests plying America’s waterways with American Cruise Line enjoy some of the newest and most environmentally friendly small ships and riverboats on the continent. Professional chefs cook up delectable meals from locally sourced ingredients, while musicians, naturalists and historians come aboard to enhance the cruising experience. Spacious staterooms feature private balconies for stellar views no matter the itinerary – there are 35 of them throughout the U.S.
    Photo courtesy of American Cruise Lines

  • Riviera River Cruises

    Riviera River Cruises

    U.K.-based Riviera River Cruises offers more than 13 itineraries in Europe that appeal to value-conscious travelers. The fleet of 13 ships feature extras like tea and coffee-making facilities in all cabins, as well as fares inclusive of meals and excursions.
    Photo courtesy of Riviera River Cruises

  • European Waterways

    European Waterways

    A departure from the usual European river cruise, European Waterways operates a fleet of luxury hotel barges – often described as floating inns – that explore the continent's inland waterways at a leisurely pace. With a maximum of 20 passengers aboard, the experience is decidedly intimate, and it's not uncommon for families or groups to charter an entire barge. The slow and easy pace is paired with fine cuisine and wine pairings.
    Photo courtesy of European Waterways

  • American Queen Steamboat Company

    American Queen Steamboat Company

    American Queen Steamboat Company specializes in Mississippi River cruises ranging from five to 23 days. These all-American, all-inclusive itineraries include pre-cruise hotel stays, wine and beer with dinner, regional cuisine and shore excursions in each port of call. Themed voyages dive deeper into topics of interest, like wine, bourbon, Mark Twain, Civil War, Elvis or Big Band.
    Photo courtesy of American Queen Steamboat Company

  • AmaWaterways

    AmaWaterways

    Many of the staterooms in AmaWaterways’ fleet of river ships feature a French balcony and a full outside balcony, providing guests stellar views of the passing scenery. Joined by no more than 163 fellow passengers, guests find plenty of room on board to spread out and relax. Shore excursions are included in the fare, and in many ports of call, guests can choose from several options. A fleet of complimentary bicycles on board allows guests to explore destinations in a more active, leisurely way.
    Photo courtesy of AmaWaterways

  • Abercrombie & Kent

    Abercrombie & Kent

    Abercrombie & Kent's canal and river cruising itineraries are almost totally all-inclusive, with things like gratuities, alcohol and shore excursions coming at no extra cost. The company specializes in luxury European cruises and barging with small groups of no more than 24 guests and resident tour directors on board the chartered vessels. Abercrombie & Kent also cruises the Amazon and the Nile.
    Photo courtesy of iStock / ecarql

  • UnCruise Adventures

    UnCruise Adventures

    While UnCruise Adventures is most famous for its small-ship itineraries in off-the-beaten-path destinations like Alaska, Hawaii and the Sea of Cortez, they also cruise the Columbia, Snake and Willamette Rivers of the Pacific Northwest. These roundtrip itineraries from Portland feature heritage guides, wine tastings and tours and immersive shore excursions, each breathing life into the region’s Lewis & Clark legacy.
    Photo courtesy of UnCruise Adventures

The top 10 winners in the category Best River Cruise Line are as follows:

  1. Viking River Cruises
  2. Avalon Waterways
  3. Uniworld Boutique River Cruises
  4. American Cruise Lines
  5. Riviera River Cruises
  6. European Waterways
  7. American Queen Steamboat Company
  8. AmaWaterways
  9. Abercrombie & Kent
  10. UnCruise Adventures

A panel of experts partnered with 10Best editors to pick the initial nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote.

Congratulations to all these winning cruise lines!

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AlertThe Experts

Don and Heidi Bucolo

Don and Heidi Bucolo

Don and Heidi Bucolo

Danielle Fear

Danielle Fear

Danielle Fear

Sherry Laskin

Sherry Laskin

Sherry Laskin

Jason Leppert

Jason Leppert

Jason Leppert

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