Think of luxury river cruises in Europe and images of gourmet cuisine, white-glove service, private excursions and swanky cabins all likely come to mind. Sure, river ships are smaller in stature than their ocean-going counterparts, but luxury European river cruises provide everything from pools and fitness centers to massage, hair and beauty salons plus a choice of restaurants and lounges.
Luxury cruises on Europe's rivers also generally offer more inclusions than mainstream lines. Think: all-inclusive drinks and in-cabin mini-bars, premium shore tours and, in many cases, included gratuities. If that's not enough, do the words Champagne, four-poster beds or Buckingham Palace-ready butlers spark joy in you?
The Uniworld name has long been synonymous with luxury river cruises in Europe. Uniworld is part of the Travel Corporation, which owns legendary hotels like Ireland's Ashford Castle, and that rarefied air is transported directly to Uniworld's river cruises in Europe.
Uniworld's European fleet of 12 boutique vessels are decorated with original artwork, antiques, posh Asprey toiletries, opulent hand-finished details in gold leaf and lavish suites, including some with four-poster beds and brocade drapes.
But it's royal-level service that just might define Uniworld's luxury river cruises in Europe. That means white-gloved butlers trained at the Ivor Spencer Butler School to the standards required by London's Buckingham Palace. The noble treatment extends to shore excursions, which can include a cocktail reception hosted by Princess Anita von Hohenberg -- a descendant of the Habsburg dynasty -- at Artstetten Castle, her Austrian home.
Tauck's luxury European river cruises are offered across a fleet of nine ships. Out of the 67 cabins on the 130-passenger vessels there are 22 suites -- the most on any European river ship of the same size. Each Tauck suite measures 300 square feet and features a spacious balcony for amazing views of the shores along the Rhine, Danube, and more.
Tauck uses the word "lagniappe" to describe the unexpected extras passengers receive on their luxury river cruises in Europe. This might be a glass of Champagne on a tour of Baden-Baden's glam casino, a tasty waffle in Holland or flowers to put on the graves of veterans at Luxembourg's American Military Cemetery. And if any tour takes place over lunchtime, guests are given money to buy something to eat. On each sailing there will also be a special highlight event, such as a private dinner or concert in a castle or historic building.
For a luxury European river cruise with a contemporary vibe, take a look at Scenic's eight river ships. The line's all-inclusive river itineraries provides a high-end experience with a more relaxed atmosphere than others on this list. For instance, while butler service is provided for every cabin on a Scenic cruise, the attendants don't wear formal butler uniforms.
Design innovations on the ships include mid-tier Balcony Suites where drop down windows turn a small sunroom into a proper balcony at the push of a button. However, it's the line's Junior and Royal Suites that really enhance the luxury cruise experience. Expect in-room breakfast service, daily canapes or sweets and invitations to Table La Rive -- the line's exclusive fine-dining restaurant.
In addition to Table La Rive, the luxury European river cruise experience continues with a choice of restaurants including smaller specialty venues L'Amour or Portobellos (dependent on whether the ship is sailing in France or the rest of Europe).
Plan Your Cruise: Scenic vs. Viking: Which RIver Cruise Line Is Right for You?
Riverside Luxury Cruises is a new name on the river cruise scene in Europe in 2023. The line, which is part of the long-established European hospitality group Seaside Collection, consists of five vessels that were previously owned by Crystal Cruises, a storied name in luxury cruising.
The most eye-catching vessel in the Riverside fleet is Riverside Mozart, the former Crystal Mozart. Carrying just 150 passengers, the ship provides a big luxury European river cruise experience on the four-deck vessel that's 77 feet wide, double the width of standard river ships in Europe. Riverside is also different as it offers a flexible "a la carte" pricing policy. Passengers can select cruise-only fares or fully inclusive tariffs including air travel, drinks and excursions, allowing them to customize the level of luxury that they'd like.