• Newsletter
  • Write a Review
  • Boards
  • Deals
  • Find a Cruise
  • Reviews
  • News
  • Cruise Tips
You may also like

What's New in River Cruising for 2018

Executive Editor, U.S.
Chris Gray Faust

Oct 10, 2019

Read time
9 min read

The B (Photo: Cruise Critic)

River cruising continues to evolve in 2018, with lines adding active excursions and doing more to differentiate themselves from each other, while still expanding their fleet. U by Uniworld debuts in spring 2018, becoming the first line to cater exclusively to millennials (and those slightly older; programming on the line's ships, The A and the B, are designed for passengers ages 21 to 45). Next year also marks the year that American Cruise Lines brings modern riverboats -- as opposed to the more traditional paddlewheel -- to American rivers. New river cruise ships for 2018 also include Viking's foray onto the Nile River with its own ship (as opposed to a charter) and expansion on Asia's rivers, particularly the Mekong (both upper and lower).

Just about every river cruise line is improving shore excursion choices in 2018, focusing on activities that either keep passengers active with biking, hiking or canoeing or in-depth experiences, like culinary tours. Theme programming remains popular, with wellness and gardening cruises joining wine, art, Jewish heritage and more.




Amadeus River Cruises

Amadeus Queen

Spring 2018; Rhine, Danube, Main, Dutch and Belgium waterways




Spring 2018; Rhine, Danube


American Cruise Lines

American Constitution

April 2018; coastal itineraries


American Song

Fall 2018; Mississippi River; Columbia & Snake


Avalon Waterways

Avalon Saigon

Fall 2018; Mekong River




Spring 2018; Seine


Van Gogh

2018; Rhone and Saone


Elbe Princesse II

2018; Elbe River


Crystal River Cruises

Crystal Ravel

Spring 2018; Rhine, Danube, Main


Crystal Debussy

Spring 2018; Rhine, Danube



Sabei Pandaw

November 2018; Upper Mekong (Laos)



ms Treasures (refurb)

Spring 2018; Rhine, Main, Danube


ms Esprit (refurb)

Spring 2018; Rhine, Main, Danube


U by Uniworld

The A

April 2018; Rhine


The B

April 2018; Seine



S.S. Beatrice (refurb)

April 2018; Danube



Viking Ra

March 2018; Nile


Amadeus River Cruises

The Austrian line Amadeus continues its expansion with its 15th river cruise ship, Amadeus Queen, debuting in the spring. The 162-passenger ship will have the same features as the line's new Silver ships, with spacious walk-in closets, an onboard hair salon, themed party night and late-night snacks -- and in a new move for the line, an indoor pool (the area is used for movies and lectures in the evenings). Amadeus also has an a la carte shore excursion program, making it a popular choice for do-it-yourselfers.

The Pool on AmaLea (Image: AmaWaterways)


Launching in spring 2018, AmaLea will be the next in the series of dual balcony river ships from AmaWaterways; the 152-passenger vessel will also have connecting rooms for groups and families traveling together. New for 2018 is the line's Sip and Sail cocktail hour, with included soft drinks, beer and wine, and spirits. AmaWaterways is also expanding its wellness theme cruises from one ship to six vessels in 2018; sailings will have healthy dining options, active excursions and fitness classes onboard. Finally, the line is continuing to court new river cruisers with wine theme sailings; a culinary cruise with PBS star Joanne Weir and itineraries for Spanish-speaking passengers.

American Cruise Lines

With the help of its affiliated Maryland shipyard, American Cruise Lines is expanding with new coastal and river cruise ships. American Constitution, a twin to American Constellation, will debut in spring 2018 with Chesapeake Bay sailings that focus on the American Revolution; the ship will later transit to New England and the Hudson River. American Song, coming in fall 2018, will represent a new concept for American river cruising: a river ship with a modern design (instead of the more traditional paddlewheel). It will begin sailing on the Mississippi River in 2018 and then move to the Columbia & Snake rivers in 2019.

American Queen Steamboat Company

While American Queen Steamboat Company doesn't have a new ship for 2018, the line will continue to offer its round-trip Nashville cruises on the Cumberland River on American Duchess, its boutique-style vessel that debuted in 2017. Many river cruises offered by the line have city stay packages available in places such as Memphis, Nashville, New Orleans, Chicago, Portland, Spokane and Minneapolis.

Avalon Waterways

Avalon will expand in Southeast Asia with Avalon Saigon, its new 36-passenger ship. Avalon builds its exotic river cruise vessels with the same panoramic French balconies that are on its European ships, so great views are guaranteed. The line is also expanding its Active Discovery cruises to the Rhine River in 2018. New theme cruises include a sailing on the Dutch waterways for gardening enthusiasts, and a sold-out author cruise with Outlander writer, Diana Gabaldon. Avalon has also teamed up with sister Globus company Monograms to offer pre- and post-cruise city stays that are personalized for traveler interest.


The French line CroisiEurope continues investing in its fleet, with two existing ships -- Van Gogh and Renoir -- getting bow-to-stern renovations that bring them from "four anchor" vessels to "five anchors." In addition, the line is expanding on its success on the notoriously difficult Elbe River by building a second shallow-draft paddlewheel, Elbe Princesse II, to debut in the spring. The line is also adding a second ship on the Chobe and Zambezi in Africa; trips offered by the company will include cruises on African Dream II in conjunction with Croisi's new land accommodations. Finally, the company is building a river cruise ship for the St. Lawrence Seaway; that Quebec-based itinerary, however, will likely be geared toward French speakers.

Crystal Bach (Photo: Cruise Critic)

Crystal River Cruises

Crystal River Cruises will complete its five-ship fleet in spring 2018 when two more of its newbuilds, Crystal Debussy and Crystal Ravel, arrive on the Rhine, Main and Danube. The line is adding more choices and more active excursions for 2018; Crystal has vowed to cap tours at just 15 people. The line will also hold a Signature Event during its cruises, such musical performances in iconic places such as Vienna's Belvedere Palace and Rudesheim's Monastery Eberbach.

Emerald Waterways

While Emerald Waterways doesn't have any new ships in 2018, the line continues to deliver on value, with EmeraldPlus cultural and EmeraldActive excursions included in the fare. (Discover More optional excursions are also available for a fee.) Emerald Waterways has also added new itineraries for 2018, including a Rhine cruise that visits Xanten, a town known for Roman ruins, and a Holland/Belgium cruise. Like sister company Scenic, Emerald Waterways offers a guarantee that gives direct refunds for extreme wind or water issues.

Grand Circle Cruise Lines

Although it isn't adding any of its own ships to the lineup, Grand Circle is chartering several new vessels and adding itineraries to its existing small ship fleet. In 2018, the company will offer Nile cruises on a 16-passenger yacht, The Asiya. Other new small ship itineraries include a Norwegian fjords cruise on a Hurtigruten ship; a Chilean fjord cruise on 90-passenger Skorpios III; and various cruises on Grand Circle's own vessels, Clio and Corinthian.


Specializing in unusual Asian river cruises, Pandaw will expand its initial foray into ocean cruising in 2018 with more itineraries on Andaman Explorer, a 10-cabin motor yacht that will sail around the Mergui Archipelago, islands off the far south coast of Myanmar (formerly Burma). The line also continues to focus on the Upper Mekong in Laos, adding a third new ship there in November 2018; Sabei Pandaw will have 14 cabins. And finally, Pandaw -- which already has more Myanmar itineraries than other river cruise lines -- debuts a new voyage that focuses on the Irrawaddy Delta.

Scenic Sapphire (Image: Scenic)


While Scenic doesn't have any new ships coming in 2018, the line is debuting a new partnership with National Geographic. Called National Geographic River Cruises, the sailings will use Scenic ships and carry all the line's inclusions, plus a focus on enrichment. Each cruise will have a National Geographic expert onboard, as well as a Nat Geo photographer to help passengers hone their photography skills. The excursions will also be more "experiential" and unusual than what you typically find on the river itineraries.


In 2018, Tauck will be completing the refurbishment of its older river ships, making almost every cabin larger, reducing the number of passengers and adding the popular Arthur's alternative restaurant. (Sapphire and Emerald received the updates in 2017; in 2018, it will be time for Treasures and Esprit to get a facelift.) Tauck is also adding more active choices to its shore excursions, giving passengers the opportunity to kayak or bike. Additionally, the line is adding more enhanced tours, such as an after-hours tour of the Louvre or a pre-opening to Versailles and lunch at the Alain Ducasse restaurant on the premises, Oro. As always on Tauck, everything is included in the fare.

U by Uniworld

Uniworld's much-anticipated "millennial" line will set sail in April with two ships that have been completely refurbished for the new brand, The A and The B. Both vessels now have black exteriors, revamped decor inside, a few triple cabins for friends who want to travel together, a craft cocktail bar and rooftop lounges. The shoreside experience is also different, focusing on late-night trips to nightclubs and bars, and interesting excursions such as the rooftops of Paris tour. Programming, developed by sister company Contiki, is exclusively geared to people aged 21 to 45.


Uniworld itself is also refurbishing one of its older ships, turning River Beatrice into the latest "super ship," S.S. Beatrice. The bow-to-stern redo will add new suites, including an Owners Suite, and several connecting cabins suitable for families.


No new ships are in the works for Vantage in 2018. The line is focusing on its pre- and post-cruise extensions, adding more options and concentrating on UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Also in 2018, the line will include all tipping for local guides and drivers in its fare. In 2017, Vantage joined the list of river cruise lines with bikes on board, and by 2018, all ships will have several high-end bikes that can be booked by the hour or (for a fee) the entire cruise.


While none of the company's signature Longships are coming out next year (those are saved for 2019, when the line will add seven more), Viking is making a renewed push into Egypt with Viking Ra. (Viking has offered Nile River cruises for numerous years, but those trips have taken place on chartered vessels, not a ship that the company owns.) Viking is also expanding its active excursions in 2018, adding for-fee options such as bike and e-bike tours and canoeing.

Updated October 10, 2019
How was this article?
About UsCruise DestinationsFirst Time CruisersFind A Cruise

International Sites

© 1995—2023, The Independent Traveler, Inc.

  • Privacy and Cookies Statement

  • Terms of Use

  • Site Map