Romantic river cruises show you Europe’s most scenic views from the comfort of a luxury ship. Smaller and far less crowded than ocean cruise liners, river cruises provide the laid-back atmosphere you want on a couples’ getaway or honeymoon. Plus, on a river cruise, you get to visit a variety of destinations without having to repack and move multiple times.
There are quite a few river cruise lines to choose from, so finding the best one for you isn’t easy. Thankfully, river cruise travel agents are there to help you decide, but if you want to plan your own trip, this article can help as well.
Read on for an in-depth comparison of two of Europe’s most widely recognized river cruise tour companies, Avalon Waterways and AmaWaterways.
Avalon Waterways’ most popular cruises are to several destinations across Europe, but they also sail in parts of Asia, Africa, and South America. Cruise lengths vary quite a bit; some are as short as 4 days, while more extensive cruises can last up to 28 days.
Avalon also offers special interest cruises that highlight whatever you’re passionate about. History, nature, photography, wine, or cuisine-focused cruises travel to destinations that offer immersive experiences for travelers.
Avalon’s fleet is made up of 18 ships. Their Panorama Suites proudly offer some of the most stunning views in the industry thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows and a clever configuration that has beds facing the windows instead of the wall. Imagine waking up to a new, breathtaking view every single day of your cruise. French doors open up to create a sort of in-room verandah so you can enjoy your morning coffee in the sun as you sail past crumbling castles and cathedrals.
Common areas include the open-air sky deck where you enjoy the company of fellow passengers along with the scenery. Some ships include a whirlpool on the sky deck. On chilly nights you can enjoy a drink in the Panorama Lounge.
There are 25 ships in AmaWaterways’ fleet. Like Avalon, AmaWaterways cruises the many waterways around Europe and offers voyages along the Mekong River in Southeast Asia. They also cruise the Nile River in Egypt and the Chobe River in West Africa.
What sets AmaWaterways apart is its combination of river tours and safari programs that highlight the beautiful national parks in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. In early 2024, AmaWaterways is set to be the first river cruise company to offer tours of the Magdalena River in Colombia.
Many AmaWaterways cruises are less than 14 nights long, but some longer tours that take passengers across Europe are launching in 2023. Seven River Journeys carry passengers along 7 rivers and will stop at ports in 14 countries. There is a journey with a different itinerary planned for every season until the summer of 2024. Each of these tours will last 45-59 nights.
AmaWaterways’s staterooms are spacious and open-concept. There is more variety to the layout, including comfortable suites for solo travelers that have just enough space without feeling cramped. There are complimentary products in each of the bathrooms, which also include a shower and a bathtub.
AmaWaterways offers amenities that most river cruise ships don’t come with like a fitness center, a salon and spa, and swimming pools.
Avalon vs. AmaWaterways Cost
Avalon and AmaWaterways follow similar pricing structures. River cruise prices can start at around $150-$250 per night and can go as high as $400-$500 per night, depending on the accommodation you want. Cruise length, season, and destination will all affect the cost as well.
Your fare covers the cost of 1 shore excursion per day, meals, and drinks during lunch and dinner. Extra excursions can be purchased separately. Avalon also offers an unlimited drinks package whereas AmaWaterways does not. That reason alone might be enough to persuade you to go with an Avalon cruise, as the cost can really add up if you want to drink onboard. However, both cruise operators permit passengers to bring their own alcohol.
Avalon vs. AmaWaterways Activities and Entertainment
Since most of your daytime and some of your evening will be spent on land, there aren’t a ton of activities available on most river cruises. Usually, common areas are limited to a dining area, lounge, deck, and library.
Land excursions are where river cruises really shine. Avalon offers 3 different classes of tours: Classic, Active, or Discovery. Classic tours consist of a local guide showing you around, telling you the history of the region, and pointing out landmarks. Discovery tours are immersive, offering passengers an opportunity to partake in local activities like dancing or cooking. Active tours offer recreation like biking, kayaking, or hiking.
Complimentary bikes are also available to use on land. If you want to spend the day doing your own thing, you can use the AvalonGo app for directions and to find things to do and places to eat.
AmaWaterways passengers also have some options to choose from when it comes to excursions. Special interest tours are perfect for travelers who have already seen the classic touristy spots and want to go to hidden gems of the city. AmaWaterways also offers Gentle or Active sightseeing tours, and a Late Start option if you want to sleep in.
Some Avalon and AmaWaterways cruises are kid friendly and include itineraries to suit children, but childcare is not offered and most activities aren’t catered to them. If you’re traveling with kids, you’ll probably want to bring some extra activities along to keep them occupied.
Avalon vs. AmaWaterways Dining
Your Avalon cruise fare includes 3 gourmet meals every day. Thanks to its FlexDining program you won’t be limited to the strict mealtime schedule common with other river cruises. Breakfast is served buffet style and will include familiar favorites and local specialties. A buffet is also served for lunch along with a la carte menu options at two onboard restaurants. Dinner is served with wine pairings each evening and guests can enjoy afternoon tea every day after lunch.
Meals aboard AmaWaterways are served a la carte. As well as Western staples, regional dishes are available on the menu. Each passenger is entitled to one dinner at The Chef’s Table per cruise, and unlimited wine or beer is included with lunch and dinner. Drinks are also available during their Sip & Sail cocktail hour.
Avalon vs. AmaWaterways Atmosphere
River cruises are social but are less crowded than ocean cruises, so they have a much quieter vibe. People who love nature, history, and photography especially enjoy river cruises.
You can explore spectacular places and immerse yourself in the culture of the region with both Avalon and AmaWaterways. At the end of the day, these cruises don’t differ very much in what they offer destination-wise. The activities, dining options, and price points are the biggest deciding factors.
Whether Avalon or AmaWaterways is better than the other depends on your personal preferences. There are also other river cruise lines to choose from, including UniWorld, Viking, and Tauck.
To make the process easier, we suggest working with a river cruise travel agent. You can tell them what you want on your cruise and they can show you options, often at a cheaper rate than you would find on your own.