What Are the Best River Cruises in the World?

What Are the Best River Cruises in the World?

In this blog, you’re going to discover the nine best places to go on a river cruise. River cruising is a great way to travel! As you explore in small ships, largely everything’s included, like drinks, food, and excursions. And it’s a rather relaxed way of seeing parts of the world.

These are the nine best river cruises to go on.

Best River Cruises – Rhine

First, the Rhine. This is the most popular river cruising destination right now. The Rhine is a 900-mile-long river, starting in Switzerland and eventually emptying into the North Sea. It passes through six countries, Austria, France, Germany, Lichtenstein, the Netherlands, and Switzerland.

The reason the Rhine is so popular is it is just steeped in beautiful scenery and phenomenal history. As you pass along the Rhine, you sail past fairytale castles and beautiful vineyards. A big part of the Rhine, which you pass through on a river cruise is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it’s called the Upper Middle Rhine Valley. It’s a beautiful part of the world, and it’s between Rudesheim and Koblenz. And you see magnificent castles set amongst beautiful scenery.

The Rhine is a great place to go on a river cruise, and there’s huge amounts of choice of lines that do this route.

What Are the Best River Cruises in the World?

Best River Cruises – Danube

The second incredible river to cruise on, and my favourite in Europe, is the Danube. The Danube is a long river. It’s over 1,800 miles long and the second-longest river in Europe after the Volga. It passes through an incredible eight countries, starting in Germany and ending in the Black Sea.

It passes through Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldavia, and finally, the Ukraine.

The most popular stretch is between Germany and Hungary, between around Passau and ending in Budapest in Hungary. On this cruise, you see phenomenal scenery, pass through many locks and you visit fantastic places, including Melk, where there’s an incredible cathedral, Linz, Vienna, and Salzburg. Really iconic and famous places.

Again, most river cruising companies offer cruises on the Danube.

Best River Cruises – Rhone

The next great river to cruise along is the Rhone. The Rhone is one of France’s most magnificent and mightiest of rivers. The Rhone is perfect for people who love food and drink because it passes through the gastronomic and wine making heart of France.

On a Rhone cruise, you cruise through places like Burgundy and Provence, and visit cities like Lyon, which is the gourmet capital of France, and see historic places like the fortified city of Avignon.

The reason though, that most people go on a cruise on the Rhone is because of the food and the wines.

What Are the Best River Cruises in the World?

Best River Cruises – Douro

The next great river to cruise is the Douro, which will take you through Portugal and Spain. The Douro Valley is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This is not as well-known as many of the other rivers in Europe but worth considering. Most of the cruises start in Porto and wind their way along the Douro, normally ending back in Porto.

As you sail along the Douro, you’ll pass picturesque vineyards and charming mediaeval villages.

Best River Cruises – Loire

My fifth suggestion of the best river cruisers in the world is the Loire in France. I love this one. The reason that it is fantastic is it’s also one of the quietest rivers for river cruising. It’s a shallow river, so it’s quite difficult to navigate. CroisiEurope, for example, created a very specific ship, which has paddle wheels on either side to be able to sail on the Loire.

The Loire is magnificent because you go to visit incredible chateaus, see beautiful scenery, and historic towns. It’s much less commercial than many of the other rivers, which are very busy.

Best River Cruises – Seine

My next suggestion is the Seine in France. The cruises travel between Paris and Honfleur, which is down on the coast near the Normandy landing beaches.

The Seine is a great river cruise if you want to see some of Paris, because often the cruises include some time to see Paris at night, and you’ll get a chance to visit Versailles. You will go through the beautiful French scenery down to Honfleur. And particularly if you’re interested in history and the Normandy beaches, there’s some great excursions.

There are many options of places to cruise on rivers in Europe. But I want to look at some of the other rivers of the world, which I think are among some of the best river cruises that you can do.

Best River Cruises – Mekong River

The first of those, and one of the most popular and growing ones is the Mekong River. One of my moist memorable trips ever.

The Mekong River will take you through Vietnam and Cambodia, and many of the big European river cruise operators operate in the Mekong.

The three big city highlights include Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City. Although many will go include seeing the remarkable Angkor temples and the beautiful temple of Angkor Wat. One of the excursions is normally going to this big, sprawling temple at sunrise.

On these cruises there’s usually lots of cultural immersion, so chance to really understand the culture of Vietnam and Cambodia.

The river cruise boats tend to be slightly smaller than the ones in Europe to be a little bit nimbler because of the nature of the river.

Best River Cruises – The Nile

My next suggestion is the Nile. This is one of the oldest forms of river cruising, going right back to the days of the Pharaoh. The Nile is an incredibly long river. It’s over 4,160 miles long. Though, the river cruises on the Nile tend focus on 120 mile stretch between Luxor and the Aswan Dam. And this is really the most important part of historic Egypt.

In Luxor, you get to see the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens, and other significant finds. And then you cruise down to the Aswan Dam, where there are some excursions where you can go see some of the very significant sites there, including the incredible Abu Simbel.

The Nile is a magnificent place to cruise, though as it gets incredibly hot in Egypt the best time to go is between November and March.

Best River Cruises – Mississippi River

The other great place to go cruising is along the Mississippi River in the United States of America. The Mississippi River is a magnificent historic river. And you can go on river cruises and really explore the old history of the South, the Civil War, slavery. And also just take in the beautiful scenery of the old plantations.

For music fans, you can also, on many of the cruises, go to Memphis and, of course, visit Graceland, Elvis Presley’s home.

There are two big companies that offer cruises along the Mississippi, which are the American Queen Voyages and the American Cruise Lines. They sail a mixture of paddle steamers with the big wheels at the back, and more modern style river ships.

Of course, there are many more rivers of the world that you can go cruising. And all the time, companies are finding ways to go on more and more rivers. It’s a beautiful way to go and see a part of the world. Intimate as the river cruise ships, by their nature are small. A leisurely approach – it’s just a great way of immersing yourself and seeing parts of the world.



Gary Bembridge

I grew up in Zimbabwe, but I have been based in London since 1987. My travel life spans more than three decades and that includes more than 95 cruises. In 2005, I launched Tips for Travellers to make it easy and fun for people to discover, plan and enjoy incredible cruise vacations. And the rest, as they say, is history. I have the largest cruise vlogger channel currently on YouTube, with more than 3 million video views per month.

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