Home Cruise Safely Best Luxury River Cruises

By Chris Gray Faust of cruisecritic.com

Some might argue that, with less than 200 passengers onboard, free wine at meals and included shore excursions, all river cruises are luxurious, compared to their mainstream ocean counterparts.

There are river cruise lines, however, that stand out as being more luxurious than others. These lines include more in the fare, such as specialty restaurants, custom mini-bars and full spirit packages; onshore events in gorgeous palaces or chateaux; exceptional service, sometimes with butlers; and spacious staterooms with posh linens and upscale amenities.

Take a look at the luxury river cruise landscape — and find the line that’s right for you.


Who: The river cruising arm of a luxury land tour operator, Tauck goes out of its way to make itineraries seamless.

Luxury Hotel Equivalent: Ritz-Carlton. Tauck’s luxury lies in its anticipatory service, the ships’ subdued sophistication and the “all-you-need-to-do-is-show-up” inclusions.

What’s Included: All alcoholic drinks and spirits; airport transfers to and from the ship; gratuities; all shore excursions in each port; special events, such as dinner in a castle; bikes for passenger use; in-room mini-bar (soda and water); Wi-Fi.

Special Touches: Tauck is so committed to making its trips hassle-free, the guides hand passengers local currency to use in port for lunch.

Crystal River

Who: Long a leader in luxury ocean cruising, Crystal River has branched into Europe’s waterways, first with refurbished Crystal Mozart and in 2017 with its first two new-builds.

Luxury Hotel Equivalent: Mandarin Oriental. Crystal River ships are flashy with their luxury, with Japanese toilets, multiple specialty restaurants and “wow factor” excursions.

What’s Included: Airport transfers to and from the cruise; all alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages; gratuities; choice of shore excursions in every port; special events, such as dinner in a castle; GPS guides for independent trips ashore; specialty restaurants; butler service; in-room mini-bar; room service; Wi-Fi (60 minutes per person, per day).

Special Touches: We’re not sure what to cite first. The much-larger-than-usual spa, salon and fitness center? The true open seating with meals cooked a la minute? The excursions to Michelin-starred restaurants? Crystal wants you to feel like you’re on the most luxurious ships on the river — and in many ways, you are.

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