2018 UK Editors' Picks Awards: River Cruises

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

River Cruise Lines

Winning the top accolade for the third year running, Uniworld ships have the atmosphere of luxury hotels with individually designed vessels, each one unique in decor and atmosphere. Dining is exceptional, with an emphasis on regional cuisine and wines, and onboard facilities include swimming pools, cinemas, butlers and sumptuous cabins, including a number of stunning suites. Service is exemplary and intuitive.
U by Uniworld's The A and The B represent a fresh take on river cruising. Geared toward a younger crowd than most riverboats, the duo offers brunch, mixology classes, a silent disco and flexible shore excursions that allow passengers the freedom to plan their own days in port. Toss in well-appointed cabins, trendy decor and digital daily schedules that are shared via WhatsApp, and you've got something special.
S.S. Beatrice
Best Ship Refurbishment
Unrecognisable from its former glory as River Beatrice, S.S. Beatrice has been extensively (and expensively) overhauled -- from its sleeker hull and a new cafe at the bow to a second bar and restaurant at the stern. Most notably, the interior design is tastefully transformed and modernised to create a truly beautiful ship that rivals its newer fleetmates.
Best for Active Cruisers
In addition to shore excursions for all ability levels, each AmaWaterways ship offers a small number of bicycles for passenger use ashore. Vessels feature larger and more well-equipped fitness centres than those found in other fleets; some ships also offer the services of fitness instructors who host a variety of classes. Meanwhile, select sailings boast extra-active cycling components through land-based tour operator Backroads.
Crystal's cabins are among the most spacious on the rivers. Even its smallest staterooms come in at a cavernous 188 square feet. Every cabin feels like a boutique hotel suite, with modern furnishings, earth-inspired colour palettes and comfortable beds that feel luxurious. Crystal doesn't skimp on the amenities, either. Each cabin comes with impeccable butler service, high-end toiletries and large showers. Crystal has mastered the river cruise cabin.
A foodie's dream, Crystal raises the bar for onboard dining with made-to-order meals and elevated creative presentations. Open seating, sumptuous furnishings and tables for two make all dinners feel like date night. Casual dining is also spectacular, with to-die-for burgers at lunch and a global tapas dinner menu. The included wine list is excellent, and the Vintage Room is a decadent splurge for oenophiles.
On all Viking River cruises onboard entertainment is designed to help passengers understand the cultures and regions visited, with in-depth lectures, local musicians and themed dinners with regional food and wine. Professors from European universities lecture onboard, which cover a variety of subjects. Hands-on crafting demonstrations and cooking courses are often available, and will be tailored to the culture and traditions of the ship's itinerary.
The Tauck Bridges programme set the standard for family adventures, which translated seamlessly onto the river. Tauck's aim: for families to share experiences, whether that's apple strudel making in Vienna, geo-caching in Passau or getting drenched by secret fountains at Hellbrun Palace. Tauck is full of little touches for kids: collecting "Tauck bucks" to spend at the end in the onboard shop and giving away euros to spend at the funfair in Austria.
Emerald Waterway's relaxed, easygoing vibe and great price point make it a great line for first-timers. The bright, contemporary ships break the mould of more "traditional" lines with hotel-style features, such as a swimming pool with a retractable roof that turns into a cinema by night, as well as a hair salon, gym and bikes onboard.
Name a destination with a river, and chances are Viking has a ship on it: Vietnam, China, Russia, Ukraine and almost all European rivers. Viking offers consistency and interesting programming on ships that are brand new. And even when low water levels affect cruises, Viking has enough ships to mostly complete the itinerary without significant cancellations.
Crystal has found the perfect formula for luxury river cruising. Every passenger is treated to butler service, expansive suites and gourmet dining. Details matter on Crystal's ships, and you'll see it everywhere, from luxury bedding to excellent local wines and intuitive world-class service. The cruise line's riverboats include myriad unique features, such as indoor fitness pools and round-the-clock dining options.
From the moment you step onboard a Uniworld ship, you feel like royalty. Crew go out of their way to make you feel at home. You want a particular brand of soft drink in your cabin at a particular time? It's there. Something special at dinner? Done. And after a day or two, they know your seating, drinking and dining preferences.
Best Shore Excursions
Scenic's shore excursions are anything but ordinary and include castle hikes, bike rides, wine and brewery tours and "sundowners", which are less about drinks and more about capturing the perfect sunset. Its recent tie-up with National Geographic Expeditions has added even more excursions, including a behind-the-scenes tour at Vienna's Natural History Museum and a visit to Hallein Salt Mine.
Riviera Travel
Best for Solo Travellers
Riviera offers dedicated single cabins with no single supplements on all sailings; it also offers a wide range of dedicated single cruises. Additionally, line hosts a solos dinner on the first night of each sailing, and you can choose to eat alone or dine with a group. Riviera even helps to connect solo travellers prior to boarding.
You get a lot for your money on an Emerald Waterways river cruise. Fares include a shore excursion in every port (including guided biking and hiking tours); wine, beer and soft drinks at lunch and dinner; in-cabin bottled water restocked daily; 24/7 Wi-Fi; airport transfers to and from your ship; and all gratuities -- and all at prices that won't cause shock.

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