Unlike on an ocean ship, having a pool on a river cruise ship is not a given. Why's that? For one thing, the vessels are relatively small and narrow, putting space for a pool at a premium. For another, river cruise ships usually sail through Europe's notoriously wet and cloudy shoulder seasons of spring and fall, as well as Christmas Market sailings in chilly December so the times when you could use an outdoor pool are limited to a few hot weeks.
Still, pools are an amenity that's growing in popularity, as lines compete to stand out from the competition. After a hot day of summer excursions, a pool is a fabulous way to cool off. And as more river lines develop itineraries for families, pools provide welcome relief to kids -- or anyone, really -- who might be having sightseeing overload.
Keep in mind that pools on river ships are much smaller than their ocean counterparts, for the space reasons cited above. In many cases, you'll simply get a plunge pool or a hot tub. Still, when you're ready to relax, what more do you need?
Take a look at our picks for best river cruise pools.
True pool? Yes, on all ships.
Indoor or outdoor? Indoors, with a retractable roof (except Radiance).
Why you'll like it: A pool on a budget-oriented ship? Yes, indeed. The lower-priced sister line to Scenic has a heated pool complex on each ship's aft, complete with a retractable roof on most, which can open on nice days, and a nearby bar. Some nights during the cruise, the pool is covered and the area becomes a cinema, showing classic and contemporary films.
Indoor or outdoor? Indoors, and enclosed, at the aft of the ship.
Why you'll like it: On its two newest "Super Ships," Maria Theresa and Joie de Vivre, Uniworld has installed an enclosed heated resistance pool on its aft, complete with deck chairs and a bar. The area is conveniently located near the spa and fitness center, creating a wellness area of sorts. At night on Joie de Vivre, the area transforms into Claude's, a French supper club, or a cinema, depending on scheduling.
True pool? Yes, as well as a hot tub.
Indoor or outdoor? Both are indoors and enclosed at the spa.
Why you'll like it: While the pool area on Crystal Mozart is small, it feels like a true relaxation area, with padded loungers and modern rocking chairs. Separate men's and women's changing rooms each have their own sauna and steam rooms.
True pool? Depends. Heated pools are found on all Ama ships except four -- AmaCello, AmaDante, AmaDolce and AmaLyra -- which have hot tubs instead.
Indoor or outdoor? Ama's pools are all outside, on the sun deck behind the wheelhouse.
Why you'll like it: The larger pools on Ama's newest ships have a swim-up bar at one end of them, although bar service is usually only available at certain times. The pools are also a draw for the kids taking the family cruises run by Adventures by Disney.
True pool? No. The Vitality pools are more like larger hot tubs. You can find them on Scenic Jasper, Scenic Opal, Scenic Amber, Scenic Diamond, Scenic Emerald and Scenic Sapphire.
Indoor or outdoor? Scenic's hot tubs are all outdoors on the sun deck, in front of the wheelhouse.
Why you'll like it: All drinks are included on Scenic, and bar service is prompt. If you like to unwind with a glass of Champagne after a long day of excursions, you'll love a sip and a soak.
True pool? No. All of Tauck's ships have Jacuzzis.
Indoor or outdoor? Outdoor, on the aft of the sun deck.
Why you'll like it: Tauck adds a few luxurious touches to your hot tub experience with huge pool towels, soft slippers and big fluffy bathrobes to use before and after a dip.