Last updated: 03:00 AM ET, Sun December 27 2015

Opinion Home | Captain’s Blog: Cruise Tips and Advice

  • Amber Nolan | December 27, 2015 3:00 AM ET

    7 River Cruise Ships That Should Be On Everyone's Short List

    7 River Cruise Ships That Should Be On Everyone's Short List

    PHOTO: SS Maria Theresa. (photo courtesy of Uniworld)

    River cruising is on the rise, and a small group of star vessels operating in Europe, the United States, South America and Asia have been gaining notice. Sporting unusual amenities, luxurious accommodations, innovative features and decor, these are the seven river cruise ships to check out first when making plans.


    Built in 2015, the AmaSerena is sister ship to the AmaPrima and sails the waterways of Europe. In order to maximize space without sacrificing a balcony, Ama designed “twin balconies” — a French balcony next to a traditional walkout balcony — resulting in staterooms measuring 210 to 235 square feet (significantly larger than most cabins on ocean ships).

    Other amenities include a heated swimming pool with a “swim-up” bar, fitness center, walking track, spa and massage room, complimentary wines, sun deck with retractable roof and use of bicycles while on shore.

    American Queen Steamboat Company

    The largest steamboat ever built is an absolute beauty and throwback to the Victorian era. The six-deck American Queen plies the Mississippi River while offering a nostalgic ambiance straight out of a Mark Twain novel.

    Rocking chairs line the outdoor patio, and the two-story main dining room serves fabulous Southern cuisine. Live entertainment takes place in the gorgeous two-story theater followed by jazz, blues, ragtime and bluegrass in the Engine Room Bar. A “riverlorian” is onboard to provide information about the ports and history of river cruising.

    Avalon Waterways

    Since Avalon introduced its “Suite Ships” in 2011, the fleet has dramatically expanded and the majority of its European cruises are now offered on these spacious vessels. The signature feature of Suite Ships is the floor-to-ceiling windows in staterooms that slide open to create an open-air French balcony. Avalon Tranquility II is one of the newest in the fleet, and is fitted with a salon, expanded fitness center, as well as a whirlpool, shade awnings and games on the top deck.

    Century Cruises

    The seven-deck Century Legend is the perfect ship for those making the transition from ocean cruising to river cruising because of its added space and amenities. The 398-passenger vessel was introduced in 2013 for cruising China’s Yangtze River, with spacious cabins (a whopping 301 square feet for deluxe, and 323 to 415 for suites). There’s also a spa and massage room, fitness area and walking track, beautiful indoor pool, cinema with live entertainment, game room, plus bars and lounges.


    Uniworld, a boutique cruise line, overlooks no detail when it comes to decor and the newest vessel, the SS Maria Theresa, is a work of art. Sleek and refined on the exterior, the interior showcases dazzling Baroque decor in the public areas and staterooms. In addition to being drop-dead gorgeous, Maria Theresa also features an indoor pool, spa, cinema, and luxurious stateroom amenities like French balconies, handcrafted beds, and plush bathrobes and slippers.

    Delfin Amazon Cruises

    The Delfin 1 proves that bigger isn’t always better. The luxury ship has just four suites — making it one of the most intimate ships in the Amazon. All four cabins have a private balcony and floor-to-ceiling windows (with two suites that offer personal whirlpools). Candlelight dinners and evenings under the starry sky set the tone for the voyage. Onboard, passengers can also purchase handicrafts made from local communities within the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve.

    Pandaw River Expeditions

    Specializing in Southeast Asia, Pandaw has a fleet of 14 and its newest colonial-style ship, the Laos Pandaw, debuted in 2015. Each of the 10 cabins are finished in teak and brass and feature 180 square feet of space, kimonos, slippers and high-end bath products. The dazzling ship sails the Mekong River in Laos. 


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Amber Nolan Captain’s Blog: Cruise Tips and Advice

Amber Nolan Amber Nolan loves to be on the water, and although she enjoys the fun and excitement of larger cruise ships, she prefers setting sail on smaller vessels to unique destinations. Originally from western New York, this restless traveler has a knack for finding creative ways to travel and befriending interesting characters along the way. On her most recent adventure, she hitchhiked on private aircraft across the United States. She previously served as the cruise editor at Sherman’s Travel but her work can also be found on and USA Today Travel. She current resides in South Florida.
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