The Best River Cruises Around the World for Couples

Travel the glorious rivers of Europe, the US and beyond.
Amadeus River Cruise
Photo: Amadeus River Cruises / Getty
james wong - the knot contributing writer and travel expert
by
James Wong
james wong - the knot contributing writer and travel expert
James Wong
Travel Writer & Expert
  • James Wong is a freelance travel writer and expert.
  • He's reported for publications including VOGUE, GQ, Time Out and Thrillist.
  • James has lived in London, Tokyo and New York; and has traveled to almost every corner of the world.
Updated Nov 30, 2023
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For couples seeking a cruise with a dash of adventure, 2024 travel trends all point toward the best river cruises. These small ships boldly go where ocean vessels cannot, taking their guests off beaten waters through tiny villages and lush landscapes, right into the heart of a country rather than just its skirts. The experience is completely different from that of a traditional cruise—fewer cabins mean a boutique feel and a higher staff-to-client ratio for more refined service. Multiple buffet outlets are replaced with an onboard private chef, deliciously catering to individual guests' tastes. Best of all, the excursions are carefully crafted to immerse the small group deeper in local culture, creating the most profound of travel memories.

River cruises are heavy on the perks, and with waters running throughout the world, the choices are vast. Whether it's your honeymoon dream to explore the quaint towns of Southern France or you're simply in search of a romantic US getaway, we've rounded up the 10 best river cruises in the world that offer fascinating itineraries, delightful dining and sumptuous cabins for couples.

The Knot's Top 10 River Cruises for 2024

We've selected the best river cruises for all kinds of couples, whether affordability, adventure or relaxation is at the top of your agenda. Here are the quickfire highlights, followed by our 10 best picks in detail.

Most Romantic River Cruise: Windstar

Best Luxury River Cruise: Uniworld

Best River Cruise for Foodies: CroisiEurope

Best Affordable River Cruise: American Cruise Lines

Best River Cruise for Linguists: Grand Circle Cruise Line

Best Safari River Cruise: Pandaw

Best River Cruise for History Buffs: Amadeus

Best River Cruise for Spring Blooms: Viking

Best River Cruise for Wine Lovers: Tauck

Overall Best River Cruise: Avalon Waterways

Viking, The Netherlands

Viking cruise in The Netherlands
Photo: Courtesy Viking

Holland in spring is a kaleidoscope of color, and you'll admire the blooms and more on Viking's brilliant 10-day Tulips and Windmills voyage. The tour begins and ends in Amsterdam (Virgin Atlantic operates direct flights to AMS airport from major US cities), with visits including Rijksmuseum and the quaint city of Enkhuizen. Of course, a highlight is the Keukenhof Gardens, the world's largest floral park, but since this tour will take you off the tourist trail to see tulips in bloom, that won't be the only time for a flower shower. If you both love Belgian beer and chocolates, get ready to indulge on tasting tours, too.

4.6 Star Rating | Read Reviews

Uniworld, The Mekong River

Uniworld cruise room
Photo: Courtesy Uniworld

The Mekong River is the most important stream of water in the Southeast Asia region. It's the lifeblood for tens of millions of people, supplying them with food, resources and a means of income. Guests on Uniworld's 15-day itinerary from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi will traverse between Vietnam and Cambodia on the luxurious Mekong Jewel. They'll witness firsthand the vital role of this river, one of the most biologically diverse habitats in the world. You'll stop at the colorful floating villages and explore the UNESCO-designated jungle temple complex of Angkor Wat. The trip culminates in the capital of Hanoi with two nights in the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi Hotel.

4.3 Star Rating | Read Reviews

Avalon Waterways, The Nile

Avalon Waterways cruise on The Nile
Photo: Courtesy Avalon Waterways

If seeing world wonders is your prerogative, then Avalon Waterways' 10-day Taste of Egypt route sure helps tick off the biggies. In Cairo, you'll get up close to the Great Pyramid of Giza and the Great Sphinx, then fly to Luxor to board a Nile-based ship. In between ancient site stops like the Temple of Edfu, take in glistening sea views from a private balcony suite, inspired by and outfitted in the style of a boutique hotel. A 3:1 guest-to-crew ratio means there's always someone on hand to cater to every need—it's no wonder Avalon is one of the top-rated cruise lines on Cruise Critic.

4.7 Star Rating | Read Reviews

Pandaw, The Brahmaputra

Pandaw Cruise on The Brahmaputra
Photo: Courtesy Pandaw

Asian river cruise company Pandaw recently launched an incredible seven-night Brahmaputra River itinerary, giving couples a chance to discover Northern India's abundant wildlife on a part land, part water safari. You'll start at Guwahati, sail to Peacock Island, and witness endangered Golden Langur monkeys before arriving in Silghat in search of river dolphins and birds of prey. Then, it's on to Kaziranga for a safari to look for the elusive Indian rhinoceros and Indian tigers. In addition, there are many opportunities to catch sights of kingfishers, eagles, vultures, water buffalos, monitor lizards and otters. You'll need a lot of camera roll space.

4.1 Star Rating | Read Reviews

CroisiEurope, Venice

CroisiEurope Venetian cruise
Photo: CroisiEurope

French boutique river cruise line CroisiEurope is best for couples with a taste for European elegance and, most importantly, the finest wines you'll find aboard a ship. If sharing spaghetti is your idea of romance, share it in Venice—a city so gorgeous its entirety is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The five-day Venetian Treasures itinerary docks within walking distance of the iconic St. Mark's Square, and excursions include a food tour of Venice's lesser-known neighborhoods for authentic eats that'll have you shrieking "Mamma Mia!"

4.1 Star Rating | Read Reviews

American Cruise Lines, Mississippi River

American Cruise Lines ship
Photo: Courtesy American Cruise Lines

Shake away those winter blues with a getaway in the Deep South. American Cruise Line's nine-day Lower Mississippi itinerary begins in Memphis and ends in the equally musical New Orleans. Along the way, there are stops in Vicksburg, Mississippi, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The medium-sized riverboat (maximum of 180 guests) is ideal for first-time cruisers who need not venture too far to get a dose of river rapture. Expect a chirpy all-American crew, lots of deep-fried goodies, and excursions to Elvis' Graceland and Oak Alley Plantation (as seen in Beyoncé's "Déjà Vu" music video).

4.0 Star Rating | Read Reviews

Tauck, Douro River Valley

Tauck, Douro River Valley scenery
Photo: Tauck

The Douro River Valley is a must for wine lovers. Home to the most famous Portuguese wine, the port wine, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the world's oldest wine regions. Tauck's eight-day Villages and Vintages tour brings fine wines to the table in as many opportunities as possible. Couples will explore the colorful city of Porto—including the blue-tiled houses where port wine is made and stored—and travel to fairytale villages and vineyards along the valley for wine tastings, wine pairings and lessons in port cocktail-making. There are, of course, pours aplenty to savor on board, too.

4.0 Star Rating | Read Reviews

Windstar, The Greek Isles

Windstar Cruise in The Greek Isles
Photo: Courtesy Windstar

The iconic Greek islands of Santorini and Mykonos are a honeymoon pin-up, and you can island-hop the lot of them aboard Windstar's yachts. The boutique cruiser is well-known for plush interiors and exquisite fine dining, making it a top choice for newlyweds. The seven-day Treasures of the Greek Isles itinerary includes a visit to the hilltop Acropolis in Athens and the ancient Roman city of Ephesus, plus plenty of beach time. For more tips and reasons to extend the trip, peruse our Deputy Editor's complete guide to Greece.

4.1 Star Rating | Read Reviews

Amadeus River Cruises, The Danube

Amadeus River Cruises
Photo: Courtesy Amadeus River Cruises

A sail along the second-longest river in Europe is best guided by the masters at Amadeus. You'll drift alongside abbeys, castles and the UNESCO-protected Wachau Valley, and take in the splendid sights from lavishly appointed staterooms made with panoramic glass windows. The eight-day Danube Rhapsody is one of their signature itineraries. It starts and ends in Passau, Germany, winding through cities like Vienna, Bratislava and Budapest, where guests will experience and learn about the region's centuries-old regal history.

3.7 Star Rating | Read Reviews

Grand Circle Cruise Line, The Seine

Grand Circle Cruise Line on The Seine
Photo: Grand Circle Cruise Line

The Seine, one of Europe's great historic rivers and an integral part of Northern France, is a lover's ultimate sail, and that's not just because it runs through the most romantic city in the world. Grand Circle's 13-day Paris to Normandy jaunt will whisk you to charming French towns where you'll wander pretty gardens, meet local families, cook French delicacies, and enjoy language lessons along the way. Privately owned and infused with passion and great hospitality, Grand Circle cruises feature romance at every stop.

4.0 Star Rating | Read Reviews

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