Top 5 Best River Cruise Lines

Far from the 20-story behemoths sailing the seven seas, river cruise ships offer a cruise vacation full of relaxation, enrichment and discovery. Many cruisers prefer the slower pace, focus on high-end amenities and impeccable service that comes with a river cruise. Porthole Cruise readers in particular have strong opinions about the best river cruise lines, and their firsthand knowledge of the different lines, ships and rivers is second to none!

Here’s our list of the top five river cruise lines based on our annual Readers’ Choice Awards. Click on the link below to jump to each section!

  1. AmaWaterways
  2. Crystal River Cruises
  3. Viking River Cruises
  4. American Queen Steamboat Company
  5. Uniworld Boutique River Cruises  


Though they’re headquartered in Calabasas, California, AmaWaterways specializes in river cruises all over the world. Founded in 2002 by Rudi Schreiner, AmaWaterways operates a fleet of 23 luxury river ships on rivers in Europe, Asia and Africa. The company made headlines with their newest ship, AmaMagna, currently the largest river cruise ship on the Danube River in Europe. The goal of the cruise line is to curate vacations that they themselves would enjoy, and they always get rave reviews from Porthole Cruise readers. From the cuisine to the service, AmaWaterways is truly a cruise line dedicated to their guests. Make sure you try their famous German Chocolate Cake

AmaMagna in Bratislava | Photo: AmaWaterways

Crystal River Cruises

When luxury cruise line Crystal Cruises launched their river brand in 2016, we knew right away the venture would live up to the Crystal reputation for excellence. Considered one of the top river cruise brands sailing today, Crystal Cruises operates four ships sailing European rivers. With a focus on luxury accommodations, superb cuisine and a level of service that would make the Queen envious, it’s no surprise that Crystal Cruises continues to impress year after year. Anyone who hasn’t experienced a European river cruise would do well to look into Crystal Cruises before they book. 

Crystal Cruises

Crystal Mozart | Photo: Crystal Cruises

Viking River Cruises

When it comes to cruising, few lines have name recognition like Viking. With more than 20 years of experience and a fleet of more than 70 luxury river ships, you can book a Viking River Cruise in North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. The cruise line curates immersive river itineraries where culture, cuisine and enrichment captivate guests. Viking River ships all hold fewer than 200 guests so the attention to detail and level of personalization and service from the staff is on display everywhere on board and on the many excursions. 

Viking Cruises

Viking Akun | Photo: Viking Cruises

American Queen Steamboat Company

Did you know you don’t have to fly to Europe to take a luxury river cruise? American Queen Steamboat Company operates cruises in three unique regions of the country so you’re never far from a fun and relaxing cruise vacation. Known for their gorgeous paddlewheelers, American Queen Steamboat Company curates itineraries which show off the best of American’s famous rivers like the Mississippi. Enjoy high-end service, delicious cuisine and shore excursions steeped in the history and culture of each region. Amenities like 24-hour room service, private balconies and nightly entertainment vault American Queen Steamboat Company to the top of the river cruise line rankings! 

American Queen Steamboat

American Queen | Photo: American Queen Steamboat Company

Uniworld Boutique River Cruises

You’ve probably come across the term “all-inclusive” when researching your next cruise vacation, but one river cruise line takes it to a whole new level. Uniworld Boutique River Cruises believes that letting their guests truly relax means removing even the slightest hassle from the process. Dining, drinks, fitness classes, enrichment programs and more are all included in the price of the ticket so once you’re on board, you can leave your wallet in your stateroom and enjoy your cruise to the fullest. The cruise line operates river cruises all over the world on board their 21 ships and the line even offers complimentary airport transfers. If you’ve ever wanted to cruise in exotic locales like Cambodia, Egypt or China, a Uniworld Boutique River Cruises can bring you there! 

A Uniworld cruse on the Danube | Photo: Uniworld

Which river cruise line is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!