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River Cruise Prices: A Primer for the First Timer (Photo: Viking River Cruises)

River Cruise Prices Explained: How Fares Compare to Europe, the U.S. and Beyond

River Cruise Prices: A Primer for the First Timer (Photo: Viking River Cruises)
Contributor
Melinda Crow

Last updated
Oct 24, 2023

Read time
6 min read

River cruise prices tend to be higher than mainstream ocean cruises, though the cost can vary widely around the world. There are also distinct differences in what your river cruise price will get you depending on where you're traveling. That's why we've broken down the basics of river cruise prices from European rivers -- which are the most popular waterways -- to the U.S. and other river cruising hotspots around the globe.

Keep in mind that pricing can fluctuate, but all were accurate at the time of publication. Read on for our primer on river cruise prices and get inspired to plan your next cruise vacation.

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European River Cruise Prices Run the Gamut From Purse-Friendly to Budget Busting

Danube River Cruise Tips (ID: 1723) (Photo: Feel good studio/Shutterstock)

European river cruise prices start around $250 per person, per night for budget river cruises. However, prices can soar up to $1,500 per person, per night, for an all-inclusive luxury experience or depending on your itinerary and the time of year you're cruising. Seven-night Rhine River or Danube River cruise prices are the most affordable, while France tends to have the most expensive river cruise prices in Europe. However, as Europe is the most popular destination for river cruises -- served by almost every cruise line and with the highest number of vessels in their fleets -- there is a lot of competition, which also means there are often good deals to be had.

If you're hoping to cut down your river cruise fare, look for shoulder season itineraries in late March and fall. Mid-May through late September are the most popular months for European river cruises, and sailings during that time are usually 15 to 20 percent more expensive, though you'll find relative summer bargains in July and August (though you might also find restaurants, bars and cafes closed in some cities and towns) .

Holiday Christmas market cruises in November and December are priced lower than those during any other time of the year, offering the best deal in Europe overall -- though these are also becoming more expensive as they gain in popularity. With the notable exception of Viva Cruises, there are no sailings in Europe in January or February.

U.S. River Cruise Fares Are Typically More Expensive

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River cruises in the U.S. can sometimes be more expensive than cruising the rivers of Europe. However, U.S. residents won't have to cough up extra for international flights or deal with passport and visa issues.

By and large, the same rules for scoring deals and prices apply in the U.S. as they do in Europe. On average, U.S. river cruise prices start around $300 to $400 per person, per night. Inclusions between the three main players vary, though, and it's important to examine what the line you've chosen will offer.

American Cruise Lines' prices cover many excursions, all pre-cruise hotel accommodations, airport transfers, all meals and soft drinks, beer and wine at lunch and dinner, and complimentary evening cocktail receptions. American Queen Voyages' (formerly American Queen Steamboat Company) prices include complimentary wine and beer with dinner, all shore excursions, bottled water and soda, and a one-night stay in a deluxe hotel in the city of embarkation. Viking's U.S. river cruise prices on both the Mississippi and St. Lawrence include beer, wine and soda at lunch and dinner onboard, at least one shore excursion in each port, complimentary Wi-Fi and all port charges. Pre- and post-cruise hotel packages are available at an additional charge through Viking, as are air arrangements.

It's also important to note that U.S. river cruises are not limited to the Mississippi, as many think. American Queen and American Cruise Lines offer Columbia and Snake River cruises, eastern U.S. river cruises (at prices comparable to the Mississippi) as well as coastal cruises.

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Nile River Cruise Prices Aren't Cheap, But Offer Variety of Lengths

Cruise ship on the Nile River (Photo: erichon/Shutterstock.com)

Nile River cruise prices aren't cheap. On average, they start between $350 and $500 per person, per night. But Nile cruises come in a variety of itineraries. You might find a tour that couples a three-day Nile River cruise with seven days based in Cairo or vice-versa.

Tauck offers Nile river cruises, as do other lines like Viking, Avalon, Uniworld, Scenic and AmaWaterways. Peak Nile river cruise season is between October and early January, with shoulder season spanning from mid-January through early April. Booking as far in advance as possible is necessary just to get a stateroom as these cruises are popular. Low season is between May and the end of September, but expect scorching temperatures. Keep in mind that Egypt requires a visa, which can be obtained at Cairo airport upon arrival for $25. It's also worth noting that many Nile River cruises require a short domestic flight in Egypt between the Upper Nile and destinations like Luxor and Aswan.

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Amazon River Cruises Are Among the Most Expensive River Cruises in the World

TA Aria Amazon Observation Deck

How much does an Amazon river cruise cost? Per-person, per-night fares start around $500 per person, per day for small chartered vessels. For example, an Amazon river cruise with Oceania starts around $500 per person, per day, while you can expect rates of well over $1000 with a line like Seabourn. Truth be told, Amazon River cruises are the most expensive river cruises in the world. You'll also need to factor in transportation costs of getting to and from the region.

It's essential to do an apples-to-apples comparison with Amazon river cruises. Lindblad Expedition, Avalon Waterways and even Uniworld charter small luxury Amazon river cruise vessels that were built to navigate remote areas of the river through Delfin Amazon Cruises and Aqua Expeditions and chartered by a myriad of tour operators. These small boat Amazon river cruises spend days on the river itself.

Seabourn and Oceania offer Amazon river cruises that are two weeks or longer. However, you should note that these take in far more destinations than the river-centric tours offered by Aqua Expeditions or Delfins. They also primarily offer Amazon-region exploration via shore excursions from oceanside ports. Additionally, Aqua and Delfins offer a more immersive style of travel and an experience more akin to a proper river cruise.

Amazon cruises take place all year long, and prices are generally steady throughout the year. The best way to snag savings? Look for wave season promotions at the start of a new year.

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Asia River Cruise Prices Often Factor in Land-Based Stay

A Giant Buddha Statue Looking to Mekong River (Photo: Knot Mirai/Shutterstock)

The vast Yangtze and Mekong are two of Asia's wonderful river cruise destinations, but there are other cost-adding factors you'll need to consider here that aren't the case in Europe or the U.S. The most affordable time to cruise the rivers of Asia is between June and August, which is low season. Yangtze and Mekong river cruise tours can be had for as low as $300 per person, per night, during low season, climbing to $350 during peak travel times.

However, much like Nile river cruises, Asia river cruises in China, Vietnam and Cambodia also include a land component that's often longer than the cruise itself. For instance, a typical three- or four-night Yangtze River cruise is generally wrapped in a tour that lasts 10 or more nights taking in Beijing and Shanghai.

Since the tour includes a lengthy land component, it's prudent when calculating the value of the fare to research the quality of the hotels and excursions included. The Mekong is still a relatively new entrant when it comes to tourism development, so there are fewer choices for hotel rooms (and ships), though cities in both destinations will offer up well-known luxury brands like Sofitel and Shangri-La.

There are also other expenses to consider, like long-haul airfare and visa costs.

Publish date April 19, 2023
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