River Cruises

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Review of River Cruises

The CruiseMapper's "River Cruise Tracker" offers information on river cruising vacations via two free of charge services. Our cruise tracker provides detailed itinerary and prices information by riverboat. Our live AIS ship tracking service provides you with real-time positions of ships sailing on rivers in Europe, USA and Russia.

Our river ship database is constantly growing. We add new destinations, lines/companies and new boats on a regular basis. Each riverboat has its own page showing its current-year itinerary program plus all scheduled itineraries for the next year. These are all departures officially announced by the cruise shipping line (often also a shipowner). Our cruise schedules additionally show the cheapest prices Per Person (double occupancy rates) on the boat's lowest cabin grade available for booking. This is an unique opportunity for comparison of both itineraries and prices on a single webpage. This allows you to choose departure dates, itinerary ports (visited ports, cities and towns, usually with land tours included) and the rates.

River Cruise Travel

River cruises are a great and relatively inexpensive way to travel to some of the most historic cities in the world. The itineraries offer scenic voyages along major rivers and inland waterways in Europe, Asia, North and South Africa, South America's Amazon, Australia, USA and Canada. In all visited ports, there are many sightseeing scheduled activities. Often between ports, there are land tours and bus travel excursions ranging from major cities to small towns and villages.

River Cruises - CruiseMapper

The greatest challenge about planning a river cruise travel vacation is to identify the proper itinerary. Most of the itineraries are operated with one week deals, but more exotic voyages can stretch up to two weeks. Grand Danube cruises in Europe connect Holland to Black Sea, and last three weeks. All river cruise itineraries usually start from a beautiful “big and famous” city with location on the river. This type of travel deals are usually inclusive of most of the scheduled land tours (which are guided) and pre- and/or post-cruise hotel stays. In most destinations (especially in Europe), the river cruising season runs from April through October. Depending on the itinerary, some European and USA itineraries could be “Christmas Markets” themed voyages (in December).

While most of the organized shore excursions are price included, some companies additionally offer optional extra-fee tours, hotel packages and cheap flights from UK or USA. Travel cruising on rivers offers an intimate experience which allows exploring all the places part of the itinerary.

Riverboats as sizes are smaller than sea and ocean ships, allowing them to navigate the river's shallow waters and tighter beds. This means these passenger vessels offer far fewer entertainment options, enrichment programming (mostly lectures by local experts) and amenities. In comparison to sea-going passenger shipping vessels, the river cruise accommodations tend to be smaller.

Balcony staterooms are usually rare. Cabin bathrooms are more functional and less "spa". However, the offers on new river cruise ships are "more luxury" and more sophisticated, with larger cabins and a variety of spacious suites. This type of travel vacations are often advertised as great "value for money" deals. In general, from the passenger point of view, river cruising demands a greater value, with higher expectations of service and quality at inexpensive to really affordable prices.

Safety issues

River cruises are generally dependent on water levels and river locks functioning. Due to unpredictable water levels (both high and low) or delays during lock and bridge passages, sometimes the ship changes its scheduled itinerary and travel procedures. In extreme cases, when the planned river route is impassable, the cruise shipping company organizes alternative routes or means of transportation. In such cases certain cruise ports / destinations along the pre-scheduled itinerary are replaced or not visited.

Occasionally, on itineraries with border crossing may occur delays due to regulatory formalities. On smaller rivers (like Main, Neckar) are crossed some very low bridges. During the crossing, ship's crew takes appropriate precautions by dismantling most Sun Deck structrures (railings, windscreen) and hydraulically sinking the Wheelhouse to ensure safe passage. During the bridge crossing, the sundeck area is temporarily closed / blocked to both passengers and crew.

Excepting large riverboats with Infirmary (resident doctor), most river cruise ships have only a small first aid kit for cases of medical emergency. If medical care is required, the ship contacts a general practitioner or clinic. Purchasing foreign health insurance is recommended, as well as prescribed medicines to be taken on the ship in adequate quantities.

On most river cruise boats, Internet costs extra, being provided via satellite. Connections and speeds could be limited, depending on destination and ship's current position. Large files, audio-video streaming and voice-video chat can't be transferred.

Pets are not allowed on river ships.

River cruising market

River cruising is the travel industry's fastest growing sector. It is also a changing one, since the market gets increasingly wider as vacation experiences (new ships, new amenities, themed cruises, popular itineraries). Statistics show that in 2014, around 139,500 travelers from UK book a river cruise, which was a 6% rise on the 2013's UK bookings.

In 2016, a total of 23 new river ships are scheduled for launch. Most of the new riverboats are equipped with a gym, spa and even a top-deck swimming pool. Many offer complimentary bikes for shore exploration and also on guided tours. In the last years, the typical age group was also changed. River cruise companies like Emerald and Scenic report about an increased number of bookings made by holiday travelers in their 40s.

According to CLIA's official reports, there is a gaining popularity of the family river cruising vacations. It means that the new generation riverboats (and the river ship travel in general) is attracting younger and more active passengers. To meet the new demand, some of the world's largest lines (such as Uniworld) increase the number of their multi-generational themed itineraries, offering such sailings also in the summer and during the winter school holidays. A-ROSA Flusskreuzfahrten's deals offer free travel for kids under 15. In 2015, Walt Disney started a partnership with AmaWaterways for family-themed Danube cruises on the ship AmaViola.

Contributing to the family river cruising popularity are the boats' new designs, including cabin configurations, connecting staterooms and larger suite accommodations for families. Many land tour activities are also family orientated, featuring cycling, history-themed games, cooking lessons, scavenger hunts.

CLIA's 2016 report said the European river cruising market grew 2.7% over 2015, with over 1,36 million booked passengers. Among those, the majority were North Americans (38,7%) followed by Germans (28,4%).

USA River Cruises

Among the most booked US river cruise deals are the following itineraries:

USA river travel experiences include unspoiled and glorious riverside scenery, popular outdoor activities (biking, hiking, kayaking), visiting famous wineries, themed food (locally sourced cuisine and nightly wine tastings on the ship), winery tours and wine tasting (ashore).

Snake and Columbia River Cruises in USA

Columbia and Snake river cruises are among the best options for vacation travel in Northwest USA. The route includes ports in Oregon and Washington states. Itineraries are tailored to maximize daytime cruising travel for optimal viewing of iconic highlights, such as Columbia River Gorge, local museums, forts, wineries. Cruisetour deals on major companies are inclusive of all shore excursions, offered in each port along the route.

Columbia River cruises are operated with either roundtrips from Portland Oregon or one-way (eastbound / westbound) itineraries between Portland and Clarkston Washington. These voyages offer nearly 1600 km (1000 ml) of river travel. The best companies serving the routes are American Cruise Lines and UnCruise Adventures. Their fleets include newbuild riverboat replicas, all-American staff and crew (dressed in period clothes and uniforms), first-class onboard enrichment programs (with expert historians, guest lecturers, media presentations).

Generally navigated with big-sized ships (including paddlewheel riverboats), Columbia is the largest river in USA's Pacific Northwest. It starts in Rocky Mountains (BC Canada), flows northwest, then south into Washington (USA), then turns west and forms most of the Oregon-Washington border line, and finally flows into Pacific Ocean. Columbia River's length is 2000 km (1240 ml), and its largest tributary (Snake River) has length 1735 km (1080 ml).

The following map shows all Snake and Columbia river cruise ports along the itinerary from Portland to Clarkston.

Snake and Columbia river cruise ports map (USA)

Mississippi River cruises in USA

Mississippi River rus entirely within the USA, its source is Lake Itasca (northern Minnesota) and flows south for approx 3730 km (2320 ml) to Mississippi Delta (Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea). Mississippi is ranked the world's 4th-longest and 15th-largest (by discharge). Mississippi either borders or passes through the US states Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana.

River's embayment is one of USA's most fertile agricultural regions. Before early 20th century, Mississippi was also the most important waterway serving both passenger travel and cargo trade.

Best deals with several big-capacity boats (paddlewheelers) are offered by American Cruise Lines. Itineraries are grouped as Upper Mississippi (between St Louis Missouri and St Paul Minnesota), Middle Mississippi, and Lower Mississippi (between Memphis Tennessee and New Orleans Louisiana). Music-, history-, food and wine themed cruises are also available for booking seasonally.

In addition to Mississippi River, voyages on its tributaries (the rivers Ohio, Tennessee and Cumberland) are also operated.

  • The 8-day "Cumberland River Cruise" (Nashville to St Louis) visits Lake Barkley (Kentucky), Clarksville (Tennessee), Dover (Tennessee), Paducah (Kentucky), Cape Girardeau (Missouri), Chester (Illinois) and ends in St Louis (Missouri).
  • The 11-day "Ohio River Cruise" (St Louis to Pittsburgh) visits Cape Girardeau (Missouri), Paducah (Kentucky), Henderson (Kentucky), Louisville (Kentucky), Cincinnati (Ohio), Maysville (Kentucky), Marietta (Ohio) and ends in Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania).

The following map shows all Mississippi river cruise ports along the itinerary from Minneapolis–St Paul to New Orleans. The route also includes several popular plantation houses in Southern US.

Mississippi river cruise ports map (USA)

Itinerary of River Cruises

CruiseMapper's AIS data source is VesselFinder (ship tracker), showing current locations of all our riverboats. Exceptions are the newest ships currently under construction (which don't have their MMSI numbers yet) and riverboats in Asia and South America (which either don't have MMSIs or AIS coverage). In both cases, the unknown vessel identification makes ship tracking impossible.

River cruise ship tracker

Ship tracking is based on the AIS technology (Automated Identification System). Cruise ship tracking is possible because the AIS is a mandatory equipment for all commercial (and passenger) ships with gross tonnage 300GT and above.

cruise ship tracking

The equipment's low cost (ranging between USD 150-500) helped all the AIS tracking enthusiasts to purchase such a receiving system and install it at home. These systems stream the received data to web based trackers. Live tracking of riverboats is a necessity for the shipowner. It also provides valuable info about the ship's current location and course, which helps families of the crew and also friends and relatives of the cruise passengers. And frankly speaking - ship tracking is fun!

List of river cruise ships (itineraries, prices, current location tracking)

In the following table, all new river cruise ships have the year of built added alongside their names. This way you can see how many and from the fleet of which line are the newest riverboats in the world.

The leader among all lines is the Viking company. It launches each year a truly impressive number of newbuild river ships of its patented "longship" design. In both 2014 and 2015, Viking Cruises set (and surpassed) its own Guinness Record for christening 12 (in 2014) then 16 (in 2015) new riverboats. The record is for most ships christened in a single day (24-hour period, actually). Introduced in 2012, each of the Viking longships has capacity of 190 passengers and features a patented design which allows a greater number of cabins, plus more balcony accommodations.

Among the biggest river cruise companies (passenger-shipping lines) launching new boats almost each year are Avalon, AMA, Uniworld and Scenic.

River Cruise CompaniesFleets

A-Rosa Cruises

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AmaWaterways

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American Cruise Lines

fleet

American Queen Steamboat Company

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French America Line

MV Louisiane
Avalon Waterwaysfleet
Century River Cruises (China)
CroisiEuropefleet
Crystal River Cruises
Emerald Waterwaysfleet

GCT (Grand Circle Cruise Line)

fleet

Luftner Cruises (Amadeus River Cruises)

fleet

Riseday Holding (Phoenix Reisen)

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Nicko Cruises

Pandaw Cruises (Asia)

Paukan River Cruises (Asia)

  • Paukan 1947
  • Paukan 2007

Plantours Kreuzfahrten

Reiseburo Mittelthurgau

Saga Holidays

Scylla Cruises

fleet

Select Voyages

River Cruise Line (UK)

  • mps Amsterdam
  • mps Lady Anne
  • ms Princess
  • ms Sherry

Scenic River Cruises (Scenic Tours)

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Trans River Line (Shearings)

Travelmarvel (APT Touring)

Vantage Deluxe World Travel

Victoria Cruises (Yangtze River, China)

  • Victoria Anna
  • Victoria Grace
  • Victoria Jenna
  • Victoria Katarina
  • Victoria Lianna
  • Victoria Sophia
  • Victoria Selina

Viking River Cruises

fleet

  • longships
  • Doro River ships
  • Ukraine-Russia ships
  • Asia ships

Uniworld (also charters ships in Asia, Egypt, Russia

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Russian river ships (largest river cruise shipping companies in Russia are Vodohod.Mosturflot, Infoflot)

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UnCruise Adventures

Heritage Line (Mekong)

Cruise and Maritime Voyages (riverboats under charter)

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Douro Azul (Portugal)

Hotel-barge cruise ships in Europe and UK. For convenience, CruiseMapper lists all hotel barges as part of the European Waterways fleet. However, some boats belong to other shipowners and/or are currently under charter (including CroisiEurope, Phoenix Reisen, Belmond Rivier Cruises, Douro Azul).

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Small companies and chartered riverboats

Nile River cruise ships in Egypt

River Cruise CompaniesFleets
The following ships are owned by "JAZ Hotels and Resorts"
  • Jaz Jubilee
  • Jaz Regency
  • Jaz Royale
  • Jaz Senator
  • Jaz Yakouta

The following ships are owned by "Sanctuary Resorts"

The following ships are owned by "Sonesta Hotels and Resorts"
The following ships are owned by "Steigenberger Hotels and Resorts"
For more information, go to CruiseMapper's Nile Cruise hub.

CruiseMapper's "River Cruise Tracker" was created to cover all riverboats operated by smaller companies and boat-chartering tour operators. Here are listed paddlewheel riverboats and steamboats, as well as luxury hotel barges and river cruise ships operating in Europe, Russia (Volga), USA, Asia (Yangtze, Mekong, Irrawaddy), Australia (Murray), Africa (Nile, Chobe) and South America (Amazon).

River Cruises related cruise news