River cruise companies are incorporating unique elements into their ships, like onboard herb gardens, heated pools and innovative designs for private balconies. I've highlighted some of these features below. For more details on the ships, and to see the itineraries they sail along with departure dates and prices, click the applicable links.
Opulent fabrics, rich color schemes and fine art and antiques from auctions and private collections are used for the fleet of Uniworld Boutique River Cruises. No two ships are alike. The River Duchess displays artwork by Pablo Picasso and Jane Wells Loudon, while the S.S. Antoinette has a 10-foot blue Baccarat chandelier that once hung in New York's famed Tavern on the Green. The S.S. Joie de Vivre has a pool with a hydraulic floor that can turn into a dance area or outdoor cinema at night.
The Suite Ships of Avalon Waterways feature 200-square-foot Panorama Suites, which have nearly 11-foot-wide, wall-to-wall windows that slide open to transform your entire stateroom into one large, open-air balcony. Plus, beds face the windows so you'll always see the view.
The Longships of Viking River Cruises have the indoor/outdoor Aquavit Terrace at their bows, with retractable floor-to-ceiling glass doors. Longships sail with energy-efficient, hybrid diesel-electric engines and solar panels, as well as organic herb gardens. Two-room, 445-square-foot Explorer Suites have private wraparound verandas.
Several ships in the AmaWaterways fleet include staterooms with twin balconies: a French balcony with glass doors that open to a railing (but you can't step out), and a full balcony that you can walk out on. The AmaMagna is the line's largest ship to date, measuring at twice the width of traditional European river ships. It features a water-sports platform stocked with Zodiac boats, canoes and other recreational equipment.
American Cruise Lines' riverboats sport modern designs and airy, light-filled spaces. All staterooms have private balconies, even the single cabins for solo travelers. Top suites provide separate living and sleeping areas and verandas with private dining areas. The bow of each ship opens so a retractable gangway can extend to the riverbank or dock for easy disembarkation.
Though they offer all the comforts of contemporary cruising, the paddle wheelers of American Queen Voyages were designed to resemble the riverboats of the past, with fluted stacks, gingerbread trim and large red paddle wheels. The American Queen is the largest steamboat operating overnight cruises on the Mississippi River and its tributaries. It serves as the company's flagship and features a beautiful steam calliope on board.
Cabins aboard the Space-Ships of Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours can be transformed into weatherproof "sun lounges." If the weather is chilly, just press a button and a glass pane will rise to create an enclosed space. The Scenic Diamond and Scenic Sapphire offer Scenic Culinaire, outfitted with cooking stations for classes, and the Salt Lounge in the spa, constructed of handcrafted salt bricks and said to provide therapeutic benefits.
Emerald Cruises' Star-Ships combine comfort and innovation with sophisticated styling and modern amenities. They have heated swimming pools with retractable roofs (this space converts to a movie theater on some evenings), as well as balcony suites that open to the outdoors with the push of a button. The fleet is equipped with bicycles that guests can use to explore ashore.
Five Monarch ships sail in Europe for Gate 1 Travel, carrying 136 to 146 passengers each. They are outfitted with sundecks, cozy bars and lounges, fitness rooms, self-serve coffee and tea stations and other amenities for a comfortable and relaxing trip.
The ships of Riviera River Cruises display an understated elegance, with marble floors, hardwood furniture, polished brass and copper, and leather and Italian fabrics. More than half the fleet was constructed in 2017 or later. The MS Douro Splendour is designed to sail through the locks of the Douro River in Portugal; its upper-deck balcony cabins come with windows that slide down halfway to create a small balcony-like area within your stateroom.
CroisiEurope strives to make its ships as eco-friendly as possible. Among its fleet are the 16-passenger African Dream, which sails in southern Africa and has balcony cabins and a rooftop patio with a pool, and the modern two-deck MS Elbe Princesse II, built to cruise shallow waters with two paddle wheels at its stern.
The MS Grace, Inspire, Joy and Savor from Tauck come with eight uniquely designed loft cabins on their lower decks. Each has a raised seating area with a high ceiling above, which permits the use of a tall window and allows natural light to stream into the cabin. Part of the window can be raised electronically to let in fresh air.