What to Expect on a River Cruise Ship

Plus, four ships that you’ll want to sail on this year.

Intimate and stylishly appointed, river cruise ships are like floating boutique hotels. Small by necessity (so they can pass through locks and under bridges), most ships carry fewer than 200 passengers.

The top deck is a popular gathering place to enjoy the sun and the passing sights and scenery. Downstairs, hotel-like amenities await, including rooms with free Wi-Fi, cozy European duvets and sliding glass doors opening to French balconies.

Here’s a closer look at four of the coolest ships plying European rivers.

S.S. Beatrice

river-cruising-ships-beatrice Uniworld

Cruise line: Uniworld

Rivers: Danube and Main

Guests: 152

Vibe: Sophisticated elegance

The decor on board the S.S. Beatrice evokes a yacht-like feel—all light wood and blue-and-white finishes. Marble floors, a white Murano glass chandelier with blue shades, and a signature grand staircase made of nickel and black iron grace the ship’s renovated lobby. Keep an eye out for artwork by masters such as Pablo Picasso and Alexander Calder. The S.S. Beatrice’s four fine-dining restaurants—Mozart’s, Wolfgang’s, Schubert’s and Max’s—were inspired by renowned Austrian composers. There, guests can participate in hands-on cooking classes alongside the chef. There’s a spa, a fitness center and a sun deck for taking in the scenery, and all staterooms come with river views, some with French balconies.


river-cruising-ships-amamagna AmaWaterways

Cruise line: AmaWaterways

River: Danube

Guests: 196

Vibe: Spacious luxury

Because the AmaMagna sails only on the Danube—where the locks are wider than on other European rivers—the ship is twice as wide as traditional European river cruise vessels. All that extra space gives guests plenty of room to spread out, especially in their staterooms. More than half of AmaMagna’s accommodations are suites with their own full balconies. Most are 355 square feet, but there are six 474-square-foot Grand Suites and a luxurious Owner’s Suite with 710 square feet of space. There are four restaurants, including the Main Restaurant, The Chef’s Table, the family-style Jimmy’s, and Al Fresco Restaurant, which boasts retractable windows and a vegetable-forward menu.

The B

river-cruising-ships-the-b U River Cruises

Cruise line: U River Cruises

River: Rhine

Guests: 120

Vibe: Modern relaxation

The B’s sleek black paint job and vivid neon exterior lighting set it apart from other river cruise ships—and the feel onboard is just as fresh. The ship is packed with public spaces that encourage mingling: Grab a drink and watch the sunset, or grab a mat and join in a morning yoga class at the Rooftop Lounge. Make new friends during a silent disco at the Ice Bar, or recaffeinate at the 24-hour Mugs coffee bar. There’s a gym, a restaurant with communal dining tables and farm-to-fork cuisine, and even a DIY laundry area. All staterooms come with waterfront views, built-in Bluetooth speakers and plenty of USB ports.

Viking Longships

river-cruising-ships-viking-longships Viking

Cruise line: Viking River Cruises

Rivers: Rhine, Danube, Main, Elbe and more

Guests: 190

Vibe: Scandinavian refinement

Viking’s fleet of 53 Longships plies the waters of Europe’s rivers with sleek sophistication. Onboard, the Scandinavian decor is highlighted by design techniques that reflect methods used by Viking boatbuilders centuries ago. Look for the bar built with clinker construction, with overlapping planks like the hull of a real Viking longship. The state-of-the-art river cruise vessels also incorporate innovative concepts, like ecologically friendly hybrid engines, solar panels and onboard herb gardens. The open-air top deck provides 360-degree views (plus putting greens and a walking track for active types), and the Aquavit Terrace lets guests dine alfresco amid the ever-changing scenery.

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