In recent years, more and more travelers are discovering the beauty, culture, relaxation and comfort that are part of luxury river cruises. It’s an experiential way to see multiple destinations within one itinerary – all from the unique vantage point of the water.
PIQUE Travel Design has been sending clients on luxury cruises through aboard some of the best ships in the world. We’re proud to recommend smaller, more intimate ships where accommodations are 5 star, amenities are differentiating and the service is impeccable.
River cruises through Europe, China, Southeast Asia, Russia and parts of Africa are some of the most amazing travel experiences you may ever have. View Budapest at night from the Danube. Visit quaint fishing villages along the Mekong. Cruise the Nile to Luxor to see some of most mysterious temples of all time. Where will the rivers take you?
Top Pick: AMAWaterways
One of AmaWaterways’ philosophies mirrors ours at PIQUE – they don’t want you to simply visit a destination, they want you to experience it. With 15 custom-designed vessels and itineraries in Europe, Russia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Egypt, AmaWaterways continues to provide travelers with those experiences, which lead to lasting memories.
The luxury cruise ships of AmaWaterways are known for their inspiring designs and unparalleled services that include step-out and French balconies, premium stateroom amenities, massage and beauty therapists, onboard entertainment and warm, personalized service.
Some of our favorite AmaWaterways luxury river cruises include:
Russian Waterways – Voyage through the heart of Russia from Moscow to St. Petersburg. You’ll start in the bustling, iconic city of Moscow (Red Square, St. Basil Cathedral, History Museum, Lenin’s Tomb and more). Cruise north to the Golden Ring cities of Uglich and Yaroslavl before cruising through Europe’s two largest lakes (Onega and Ladoga). You’ll end your journey in the picturesque city of St. Petersburg (see the State Hermitage, Nevsky Prospect, Palace Square, St. Isaacs Cathedral, among other sites).
Themed Cruises – One of the offerings we love most about AmaWaterways is their themed cruises. Among the most popular are the wine-themed routes, many of which travel the Danube to places including Paris, Luxembourg, Budapest and Nuremberg. Other choices include a venture on the Seine River in France through its vineyards, exploring the Douro River Valley through Spain and Portugal, and the Rhine River through France, Germany, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. AmaWaterways also hosts several cruises focusing on Jewish Heritage. Cruise through the heart of Austria, Czech Republic, Germany and Hungary to visit key historic, cultural and religious sites.
Vietnam, Cambodia & the Riches of the Mekong – This trip offers the best of both worlds: some great time on land to see some of the iconic temples and history in places such as Hanoi and Siem Reap, coupled with a beautiful river cruise experience on the Mekong River. While cruising you’ll visit rural villages, historic pagodas, floating markets and a Buddhist monastery.
Uniworld River Cruises
With over 500 departures and 40 itineraries, Uniworld is truly the benchmark in luxury river cruises. It shares 13 rivers around the world with its guests, exploring Europe, Russia, Egypt, China, Vietnam and Cambodia.
In recent years, Uniworld has partnered with Red Carnation Hotels to oversee every detail of the ships. The ships have seen dramatic upgrades in their interiors and decor, additions to their distinct amenities and have redefined what boutique cruising is all about.
Uniworld is known for providing comfort and style while you’re on board. With an average capacity of just 130 guests and a ratio of one staff member to every three guests, there’s no doubt you’ll feel a personal connection to every destination you explore.
Some of our favorite Uniworld luxury river cruises include:
Paris and Normandy – The Seine River is a beautiful way to see the countryside of northern France. This cruise takes you from Paris, through Giverny, Les Andelys, Caudebec-en-Caux and other ports up the Seine until you disembark and fly to Normandy for an amazing and emotional historical experience.
Grand European River Voyage – If time is not a concern for you, this 27-day is an amazing way to take in many of Europe’s finest destinations and beautiful wonders. The Danube River is your gateway into Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Germany and the Netherlands. Travelers will relish ancient historic sites, glorious cathedrals and castles, scenic villages and much more.
Jewels of Egypt, the Nile & Lake Nasser – Few places on earth will have you marveling like that of Egypt and the Nile. This boutique river cruise will take you to the awe-inspiring Pyramids and mysterious Great Sphinx of Giza, the majestic Temples of Karnak and Luxor, the splendidly preserved Temple of Edfu, and Wadi El Seboua, the “Valley of the Lionesses.” The ship will also cross the stunning Lake Nasser (the world’s largest artificial body of water) where you’ll encounter Nubian treasures and the 3,500-year-old Abu Simbel complex.
China, Tibet & the Yangtze – This itinerary is a great way to do a “grand sweep” of ancient and modern China. You’ll spend some of your days on land visiting the thriving, modern cities of Beijing, Xi’an and Hong Kong, and marvel at the Great Wall and Terra Cotta Warriors. Then sail the amazing Yangtze River. You’ll relax in awe as you view its spectacular gorges, shrines and rock formations.
Abercrombie & Kent
Abercrombie & Kent offers some of the most amazing, private cruise opportunities available in Europe. In typical A&K fashion, the accommodations, cuisine and overall itineraries are meticulously prepared so guests have little cares or worries when in their hands. The ships are intentionally intimate, most welcoming four to 18 guests.
In addition to cruising some of Europe’s most beautiful rivers, A&K’s ships venture on small, picturesque canals – something many other cruise companies are unable to offer.
Some of our favorite A&K river and canal itineraries include:
Burgundy, France – This 7-day itinerary aboard the Amaryllis luxury barge is perfect for a small group (8 maximum) looking to travel in comfort. Guests will spend time exploring the Burgundy Canal, River Saone and Canal du Centre, cruising between Dijon and St-Leger-sur-Dheune or Vandenesses-en-Auxouis and Dijon. Four spacious cabins, en suite marble bathrooms and a heated pool on deck are just a few of the amenities guests will enjoy while watching the world cruise by.
Caledonian Canal, Scotland – The Scottish Highlander cruises its way through lochs and down the scenic Caledonian Canal on this 7-day voyage. Past ancient castles and stunning highland country, guests will enjoy a visit to the battlegrounds of the Jacobite Rebellion and a stop at Glen Nevis distillery for a few whiskey-making secrets. Maximum group size is eight.
Canal du Midi, South of France – Enchante cruises the picturesque tree-line Canal du Midi in the South of France. A 7-day cruise route takes guests into the heart of popular French towns including Carcassonne, Minerve, LaGrasse, Le Somail, Narbonne and others. The ship features a spacious salon and a demonstration kitchen, where guests can watch as the on-board chef prepares exquisite meals. Maximum group size is eight.
Holland – On board the Panache, a quaint group of 12 or fewer will enjoy seven days of flower-filled Holland from the comforts of the deck. Guests visit the flower auction in Aalsmeer (where 17+ million cut flowers are sold each day!), embark on a walking tour of Keukenhof Gardens, cruise to Delft to learn how its signature blue and white porcelain is made, and much more.
With a worldwide reputation for life-enriching travel, attention to detail and access to extraordinary destinations, Tauck is a go-to partner for Travel Beyond. In river cruising, it means some of the finest ships in the industry, well-choreographed shore excursions and cultural experiences that are often unparalleled.
Personalized attention and service throughout the river cruises is an important aspect to Tauck’s offerings. With three Directors and one Cruise Director on board each ship, the atmosphere is intimate and comfortable (118 guests is the most any Tauck riverboat welcomes at one time).
Tauck was recognized in 2012 as the World’s Best River Cruise Line For Families by Travel+Leisure magazine. There are many Tauck river cruises we recommend but here are a few of our favorites:
The Rhine and Moselle – From the Netherlands to Switzerland, through Germany, France and Luxembourg, this 12-night cruise will have you in awe at the Rhine and Moselle rivers. Witness the marriage of French and German culture in Strasbourg. Mingle with jet setters in Baden-Baden. Explore the ancient university town of Heidelberg. Pay tribute to those who fell in the Battle of the Bulge at Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial. Enjoy regional specialties, local wines and folk traditions. It’s all waiting for you aboard the ms Swiss Jewel.
Christmas Markets Along the Danube – Few experiences in the world give you the true tradition and grandeur of the holiday season than a river cruise through Germany and Austria. This sensory-driven 8-day river excursion with have you smelling gingerbread, tasting famed sausages, hearing the carolers from afar, touching the work of glassblowers and witnessing millions of holiday lights adorn the streets.
Timeless Treasures: Egypt & Jordan – A two-week tour combines a Nile River cruise and exploration of Egypt’s antiquities with visits to Jordan’s biblical sites, the Dead Sea and the amazing city of Petra.
France Family River Cruise –One of Tauck’s newest additions in a family cruise through France. Spend two nights in Paris, then seven nights cruising along the historic Rhone River. When you’re a family, learning means experiencing so be prepared for a scavenger hunt in the Louvre, chocolate tasting, exploring castles, cooking and more.
Viking River Cruises
Perhaps one of the most experienced river cruise lines in the world, the people at Viking (with 175 years on the rivers) shares their love, heritage and expertise with every guest on board.
With an aspiration to develop some of the best crafted itineraries in the most inspired destinations, Viking takes painstaking measures to ensure your cruise is exactly what you hope it could be. It’s 1,800+ employees throughout the world, and Program Directors who were born and raised in the countries you travel through, give you a personal experience like some others may not.
Viking offers a range of luxury river cruise options throughout Europe, Russia, Ukraine, China, Southeast Asia and Egypt. Here are a few we’d recommend adding to your bucket list:
Tulips & Windmills – Springtime splendor: truly the definition of Holland in the spring. This 10-day river cruise through the Low Countries (and the cities of Amsterdam and Antwerp) showcases a rainbow of colors, ingenious windmills and the massive Delta Works project. Explore some of Belgium’s most beautifully preserved medieval cities.
Waterways of the Czars – It’s hard to think of Russia and not think of Moscow and St. Petersburg: two great cities that have both shaped and defined much of this intriguing land for the rest of the world. This 13-day itinerary includes multiple days in both cities to see such landmarks as Moscow’s Kremlin and Red Square, and St. Petersburg’s Hermitage and Catherine’s Palace. But perhaps one of the highlights for some travelers may be exploring the quant Golden Ring towns that only a river cruise can provide.
Roof of the World – A 16-day adventure that provides guests with a look at the many faces of China. See the imperial treasures of Beijing, including the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace. Meet several thousand Terra Cotta Warriors in Xian. Explore the ancient and contemporary sides to Shanghai. And, of course, enjoy a 6-day Yangtze River cruise. Experience Lhasa on the Tibetan plateau, set high in the Himalaya on “the roof of the world.”
Germany’s Vineyards & Vistas – Enjoy the picturesque landscape on this luxury river cruise as you spend eight days on the Moselle, Rhine and Main Rivers. The hillsides will leave you in awe, the German wines and beers will introduce you to new flavors and the medieval towns and castles will have you living in another time. Travel through Nuremberg, Bamburg, Wurzburg, Heidelberg, Rudesheim, Trier and more.
With luxury river cruise choices on four continents (including the youngest fleet on the rivers of Europe), Avalon opens a world of possibilities to those looking to travel.
The entire Avalon fleet is designed in contemporary elegance, offering the biggest views – thanks to panoramic windows in the common areas and floor-to-ceiling windows in nearly all of the staterooms. Their itineraries offer flexibility to truly make the cruise experience feel a bit like your own. A couple key points worth considering how you’ll spend time on the river.
Guests on Avalon have more than 100 package options to choose from, lasting from three nights to 24 days. Among the top on our list are:
Zurich to Vienna – Four countries. Three rivers. Twelve unbelievable days. Start in Zurich and end in Vienna with so much in between including guided tours in Strasbourg, Wurzburg, Bamberg, Nuremberg, Regensburg and Passau. Walking tours, a visit to the Benedictine Abbey, guided sightseeing through Vienna and so much more await you.
Art & Impressionist River Cruises – Among their long list of themed cruises, lies Avalon’s Art & Impressionist experiences. It’s an amazing way to appreciate Northern France. Whether its by selecting an 8-day Paris-to-Paris itinerary that takes you along the Seine out to Normandy’s Landing Beaches, or on a 16-day cruise showcasing the history, scenery and history between Cote d’Azur and Paris, France has much to offer through the beauty of its rivers.
The Fascinating Mekong River – To many, visiting Cambodia and Vietnam is like stepping back in time. The ancient ruins of Angkor, the Cu Chi Tunnels in Vietnam, the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Cambodia and many other unique experiences will give you a new appreciation for what is at the heart of this land. Seven nights of this 14-day itinerary is spent on a luxury cruise of the Mekong River. The full itinerary takes visitors from Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh City.
North Sea – Black Sea Cruise – Twenty-four days from Bucharest to Amsterdam aboard a luxury river cruise ship. It doesn’t get much better than that! If water is your preferred way to travel, look no further. The Black Sea, the North Sea and the rivers in between (Danube, Main and Rhine) are the focus of this memorable cruise experience. Highlights are plentiful: the National Art Museum in Bucharest, Belgrade’s Kalemegdan Fortress, the dramatic gorge of the Iron Gates and the stunning canals of Amsterdam.