The best river cruise lines for 2022
By Cruise International | 11 Feb 2022
Discover our pick of the best luxury river cruise lines, combining superior service, magnificent ships and exceptional cuisine to explore the world’s most famous rivers.
The best luxury river cruise lines for 2022
River cruises are a leisurely way to discover the world, with plenty of opportunity to disembark and explore. Here are the best river cruise lines for 2022 and 2023.
The Scandi line goes stateside in June as its first Mississippi cruises cast off with new custom-built vessel Viking Mississippi, accommodating 386 guests. Summer also marks the launch of 80-passenger Viking Saigon, which has been built to cruise the Mekong River, while a third new river ship, Viking Osiris, sets sail on the Nile in September.
In Europe, a new Holland and Belgium itinerary between Amsterdam and Antwerp visits the famous flower-filled Keukenhof Gardens, and a number of Danube itineraries include the Oberammergau Passion Play, staged once every 10 years by the Bavarian village of the same name.
0800 319 6660; vikingrivercruises.co.uk
American Queen Voyages
This is the new name for American Queen Steamboat Company and Victory Cruise Lines after AQSC acquired Victory last September. It covers cruises across America’s heartlands, with evocative paddle steamer trips that splash along the Mississippi River in the Deep South and on the Snake and Columbia rivers through the pioneering lands of the Pacific Northwest.
There are also cruises on America’s Great Lakes and along the Eastern Seaboard to Canada and New England. This year marks a move into expeditions with Alaska sailings on two new ships – 200-passenger Ocean Victory, which joins the fleet in May, and Ocean Discoverer, which follows in 2023.
01223 568904; lightbluetravel.co.uk
TUI River Cruises
This marks the first full year of the holiday giant’s new river cruise arm after it unveiled its first river ship Tui Maya last August, followed by Tui Skyla in November. Its third ship, Tui Isla, is due to launch this spring. The adult-only vessels, carrying 155 passengers, will offer 30 itineraries on Europe’s main rivers of the Rhine, Danube, Moselle, Main and the Dutch and Belgian Waterways this year.
Highlights include a 14-night European Icons sailing from Amsterdam to Budapest, which takes customers through the heart of Europe and some of its most atmospheric cities, such as Cologne and Vienna.
020 3451 2688; tui.co.uk/river-cruises
The Australian company is unveiling five new river ships with the debut of luxury APT vessel Mekong Serenity and four more under its Travelmarvel brand: Polaris, Capella and Vega, which will cruise the Rhine, Main and Danube, and Apsara, which will sail the Mekong.
This spring the company embarks on its first season of Croatian coastal cruises between Opatija and Dubrovnik in the Adriatic on 34-passenger mega-yachts Lady Eleganza and Princess Eleganza. A new Christmas markets cruise on the Rhine and Moselle has been added, along with new private car tours that connect to cruises in Portugal and Croatia.
0800 012 6683; aptouring.co.uk
The luxury line has invested in new, lavishly appointed ‘Super Ships’, which had their first outings last year but will now operate a full programme of voyages in 2022. They include Sao Gabriel, which sails Portugal’s Douro River; Sphinx, which is on the Nile; and La Venezia, which cruises the Venetian Lagoon and Po River.
Other highlights include Uniworld’s first mystery cruises promising ‘over-the-top, unique experiences’, and new evening experiences ranging from a private classical concert in Vienna and after-hours tour of St Mark’s Basilica in Venice to a sunset canal cruise in Amsterdam with ‘surprise’ entertainment and a private evening reception at Cochem Castle on the Moselle River in Germany.
0808 168 9110; uniworld.com
Private wine tastings and in-depth tours are among the exclusive new excursions and activities added by the hotel barge company to its holidays across the UK and the Continent.
European Waterways, which has a fleet of 17 barges holding up to 20 guests, prides itself on seeking out hidden gems for clients, such as the medieval Chateau de Ratilly dating from 1270, where guests cruising the Canal de Briare on eight-passenger Renaissance can take part in a pottery class. July and August mark the return of European Waterways’ popular opera cruises in Venice, featuring performances at Roman amphitheatre Arena di Verona.
01753 598555; europeanwaterways.com
This continental-style river cruise company is set for a hallmark year as it starts to transform its fleet by enhancing the onboard guest experience and widening its international appeal. In May the line welcomes new ground-breaking river ship A-Rosa Sena, claimed to be the most eco-friendly cruise vessel on Europe’s rivers thanks to a hybrid propulsion system that enables it to switch to battery power when arriving at and departing from ports.
The 280-passenger vessel will be one of the largest on Europe’s rivers, and will include family-friendly facilities with cabins sleeping up to five guests, a kids’ club and children’s pool.
02922 672606; arosa-cruises.co.uk
Holland’s horticultural exhibition Floriade and the Oberammergau Passion Play in Bavaria are highlights of Avalon’s European sailings and included in several itineraries. The line’s popular Active & Discovery cruises, featuring biking, kayaking and hiking tours, are being expanded to the Moselle and the Seine for the first time, while additional itineraries are offered on the Danube, taking the total number of Active & Discovery options to six, with 47 departures.
Sex and the City author Candace Bushnell is one of a number of special guests who will be on board as part of Avalon’s Storyteller Series of celebrity-hosted sailings.
0330 058 8243; avalonwaterways.co.uk
The French company’s 2022 programme is its most expansive ever, featuring 53 ships on 16 major rivers and their tributaries, six French canals and Lake Kariba in Africa. There are new cruises on the Rhine, Elbe and along the Vltava River in the Czech Republic with a Prague, Dresden & The Castles of Bohemia voyage on modern paddle wheeler Elbe Princesse II.
The family-owned line has added more French barge holidays to appeal to British travellers in areas including Champagne, Burgundy and Provence, and broadened the scope of its themed cruises with new topics such as history, music and French art.
020 8328 1281; croisieurope.co.uk
New river ship Emerald Luna sets off on its inaugural voyage in April through Holland and Belgium and will then cruise the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers. The 180-passenger vessel will be the 10th in Emerald’s fleet. Other additions for 2022 include a wine-themed voyage through the Moselle Valley and a Danube sailing packed with spa, arts and cultural experiences.
Emerald has also added two-night stays in Amsterdam that can be tagged on to Rhine sailings, while five-day Christmas market trips on the Rhine and Danube have been introduced to appeal to customers wanting a shorter getaway.
0161 233 1983; emeraldcruises.co.uk
With 11 river cruise boats and five small coastal ships, the UK company offers sailings across Europe’s main rivers plus the Volga in Russia, the Nile in Egypt, the Mekong in Vietnam and Cambodia, as well as coastal cruises in Croatia and the Greek islands. This year it is pioneering half-board Cruise & Explore river sailings offering guests more flexibility to arrange excursions and dine ashore.
Selected Blue Danube cruises benefit from a new three-day hotel stay in Prague making eight or 11-day breaks. Other features include Riviera Plus, offering complimentary benefits to guests in premium cabins, while Local Flavours menus are themed on the regions the ship is visiting.
01283 742 300; rivieratravel.co.uk
The German specialist is expanding its fleet with the first of two new-build river ships – Viva One launches in April, followed by Viva Two in July. Two other vessels, Viva Voyage and Viva Gloria, are also being upgraded. The company claims to be the only river cruise line offering year-round departures, having added new art, cultural and wellness-themed sailings in January, February and March.
It is offering 238 departures in 2022 that include an expanded range of shorter four-night cruises from Dusseldorf, Frankfurt and Koblenz. This is also the first full year Viva is offering sailings on its new expedition ship, Seaventure.
0330 818 7271; viva-cruises.com/en
Fred River Cruises
Fred River Cruises represents Amadeus River Cruises, American Cruise Lines, Russian river cruise vessel Volga Dream and Indian tour and river company Far Horizon. Highlights for 2022 include the arrival of Amadeus’s new vessel, the 163 passenger Amadeus Cara, in June for Rhine and Danube cruises.
The line has also introduced three golf-themed sailings along the Rhine, Danube and Seine, giving guests a chance to play at some of Europe’s most spectacular courses with the services of an experienced golf expert and tour leader. American Cruise Lines welcomes two new ships, American Symphony and American Serenade, while its paddle wheeler ships have been remodelled.
0800 028 4272; fredholidays.co.uk
The five-star line’s fleet of 16 river ships – which include ‘Space-Ships’, so-called because of the extra space they offer passengers – cruise Europe’s rivers, while the Scenic-owned and operated Scenic Spirit sails the Mekong. Scenic is upping the ante on European cruises this year with new private tours and an enrichment manager on all cruises, responsible for immersive activities ranging from cookery lessons to wine tastings and lectures.
Also new are two culinary-themed river cruises in France. Its Mekong sailings in Vietnam and Cambodia include more curated experiences with an exclusive gala dinner at Angkor Wat and new dining experiences.
0808 278 7402; scenic.co.uk
Saga River Cruises
Having unveiled its first purpose-built river ship, Spirit of the Rhine, last September, Saga River Cruises is set to welcome its second virtually identical vessel, Spirit of the Danube, in March and together they will offer 91 departures. Thanks to the latest emission-reducing technology, both 190-passenger vessels are set to be among the quietest and most environmentally friendly ships on the rivers.
Other highlights include a one-week birdwatching cruise on the Danube Delta, starting with a two-night hotel stay in Bucharest followed by a five-night sailing, and cruises that feature the Oberammergau Passion Play in Bavaria and horticultural exhibition Floriade in Holland.
0808 239 3819; travel.saga.co.uk
Egypt casts its spell on AmaWaterways’ new Nile sailings following the launch of 72-passenger AmaDahlia last September, with 11-night packages that combine Cairo stays with a voyage between Luxor and Aswan. This year sees a new Impressions of the Seine & Paris cruise between Paris and Le Havre, while Dutch horticultural exhibition Floriade, held once a decade, is featured on seven itineraries where the line is offering complimentary excursions.
After partnering with genealogy company Ancestry, Ama is also offering the first in a series of voyages in July called Heritage on the River: Your Personalised Ancestry Experience, enabling guests to trace their family roots.
0800 520 2250; amawaterways.co.uk
Titan Travel’s new 176-passenger vessel River Discovery II makes its debut in April for sailings on Tulips and Windmills cruises in Holland. The company will be one of the first to visit this year’s horticultural extravaganza Floriade Expo, held once every decade, on its new Floriade and the Delights of the Dutch Waterways river cruise.
Also part of Titan’s 2022 line-up of debut sailings is an eight-day Dutch Waterways and Beauty of Keukenhof voyage and a two-week Eastern Europe Explorer sailing. Starting and finishing in Budapest, it travels through five countries and the Danube Delta towards the Black Sea.
0800 988 5800; titantravel.co.uk
Belmond offers the chance to escape, even from other cruise passengers, with a custom-made itinerary on a chartered barge in France. Not on cramped long boats but wider Dutch barges that have been so elegantly refurbished that some include heated pools, while others have antiques.
They offer accommodation ranging from two generously proportioned cabins with en suites for a maximum of four people, to six cabins and a capacity of 12. These ultra-relaxing getaways also come with a crew to welcome you on board with Champagne and supply hotel-standard meals in the sumptuous dining rooms.
Belmond has seven barges on French waterways in the Champagne region, Provence and on the Canal du Midi, offering itineraries that can be tailored to passengers’ interests – anything from playing golf to visiting some of the finest vineyards in the world.
0845 077 2222; Belmond.com