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2023 U.S. Editors' Picks Awards: Best Cruise Lines

See the lines and ships that best represent excellence in ocean, luxury, river and expedition cruising, chosen by Cruise Critic's international team of editors

Best River Cruise Lines

Best River Cruise Line


Viking has earned its reputation as the leader on Europe’s rivers, where it sails with an enormous fleet designed in serene Scandinavian style. Ships are consistent and instantly feel like home, whether you’re sailing for the first or 100th time. Ships' staterooms are thoughtfully designed, and cruises are inclusive of things like excursions and drinks at mealtimes. Viking’s expansion – including to places like the Mississippi River and Egypt – means there’s an itinerary for everyone.

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Best New River Cruise Ship

American Cruise Lines

American Cruise Lines’ American Serenade takes top prize this year in the river cruise category – the first time we’ve awarded Best New River Ship to an American vessel. With extra-large staterooms and suites, trendy interior décor, an innovative hydraulic bow and retractable ramp, and one of the most gorgeous sun decks we’ve seen on a river-going ship, American Serenade sets the bar for domestic U.S. river cruising high.

Best for Active Cruisers


AmaWaterways has been leading the way for wellness on river cruises for years, but it never rests on its laurels. Instead, it innovates and creates new options for active guests that are fun and challenging. Each ship sails with a wellness director, who leads multiple fitness class daily, somehow making them accessible to all skill levels. Active excursions are offered, and ships have fleets of bikes available for borrowing. AmaMagna even offers a pickleball court.

Avalon Waterways

Avalon Waterways carefully considers each element of every cabin, and it shows. The Panorama Suites are its flagship, offering queen-sized beds that enjoy serene views through the floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors and open-air balconies. All cabins are comfortably spacious. Small touches like soundproof walls, adjustable in-cabin tables and an abundance of USB ports make every cabin feel almost like home.

Best Dining

Riverside Luxury Cruises

In its first year sailing, Riverside Luxury Cruises proved that it’s a powerhouse with its food and wine on Europe’s rivers. Meals are locally inspired, with luxury ingredients and techniques, and beautiful execution. Cheese courses change nightly, again with local inspiration. The wine selection onboard is top notch. Oenophiles will want to try the extra-fee Vintage Room, where you’ll drink your fill of exceptional wines, specifically matched to the menu.

Best Enrichment


Exclusive dinners in remote chateaus. Behind-the-scenes tours. After-hours stays at the Louvre. All are part of the stunning enrichment program Tauck rolls out on its European river cruise journeys – and all are done with considerable flair. These are experiences you couldn’t buy your way into or arrange on your own, and they add significant value to Tauck’s European river cruises by simply providing authentic experiences unlike any other you’ll find elsewhere.

Best for Families

Adventures By Disney

The Adventures by Disney experience is 100% dedicated to making sure families have fun together – on and off the ship. That might include a trip to a stately home with magical, hidden water jets, or family-centric fun in Salzburg's hidden salt mines. The onboard team are exemplary, making sure kids and adults are always entertained – from scavenger hunts to family karaoke, and, when necessary, giving parents an opportunity for a well-earned break, too.

Best for First-Timers


Viking wins Cruise Critic's top choice for a first-time river cruise experience simply because of all the things the line does right. Its Longship fleet of ships is beautifully designed, and its crews are attentive and friendly. Food often has nods to regional specialties, and first-time river cruisers will no doubt love Viking’s attention to the little details, like heated bathroom floors and plenty of cabins with full, step-out balconies.

Uniworld Boutique River Cruises

No matter where you are, Uniworld will deliver an outstanding luxury experience. While the ships are exceptional, with each decorated uniquely to match its location, it’s the service and surroundings that make Uniworld stand out. Dining relies on local inspiration, and enrichment onboard highlights the destination. Excursions are one of a kind, which can be hard to find in river cruising. Uniworld’s crew do their best to ensure an atmosphere that is still fun, never stuffy.


For the world’s biggest river line, the consistency and quality of service never wavers – whether you’re in Europe, Asia or on the Nile. From the cabin stewards, to waitstaff, servers and the hotel director, service is front and center on every Viking ship – be it remembering your favorite after-dinner tea, sitting you in your preferred spot at meals or going out of the way to source a local wine. The crew onboard a Viking river vessel are simply exemplary.

Best for Solo Travelers

Avalon Waterways

Avalon Waterways makes solo cruising not only simple and enjoyable but also highly affordable. Avalon waives the single supplement fee so solo cruisers can enjoy river cruising like anybody else. Plus, they can enjoy the roomy staterooms and suites on their own, without the need to stay in a cramped single cabin, which is customary on other lines. With several communal locations, ease of mingling and exciting excursions, solo cruisers thrive while when sailing with Avalon – without having to break the bank.

Best Value for Money

Emerald Cruises

River cruises aren’t known to be inexpensive, but that doesn’t mean they can’t provide good value. And Emerald Cruises ticks all the boxes by including gratuities, Wi-Fi, mealtime drinks (beer, wine and soft drinks), airport transfers to and from the ship, and daily excursions in your base fare, with prices typically on the lower end of the scale for river cruises. What’s more, Emerald often offers deals like 2-for-1 fares on river itineraries.

View More Editors' Picks Awards

Best Ocean Cruise Lines

Best Expedition Cruise Lines

Best Luxury Cruise Lines

Best River Cruise Lines

See More Cruise Critic Awards

Cruisers' Choice Awards

Get to know the best cruise ships in a variety of categories, based on member review ratings for cruises taken in the last year.

Cruisers' Choice Destination Awards

View top-rated cruise destinations and lines around the globe according to cruisers, based on member review ratings for trips taken in the last year.

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