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Travel9 hot river cruises to book this year

9 hot river cruises to book this year


There are classic river itineraries — the Danube, the Rhine, the Rhone and the Nile — that anyone who appreciates the ease and camaraderie of river cruising can book with most of the top cruise lines. But those aren’t your only options.

The most exciting river cruises to book this year are the new offerings that go off the beaten path, explore an unsung river or combine a standard seven-night sailing with a novel land tour.

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Here are nine new itineraries for 2024 and 2025 that are taking river cruising beyond the familiar, including several on recently launched or soon-to-debut river ships.

AmaWaterways’ 7-night Wonders of Colombia and Magic of Colombia

Church of San Pedro in Cartagena, Colombia. GETTY IMAGES/AMAWATERWAYS/FACEBOOK

Love South America but have already cruised the Amazon? Consider AmaWaterways’ newest ship, AmaMagdalena. Debuting in January 2025, the 60-passenger ship will sail two alternating seven-night itineraries year-round on Colombia’s Magdalena River, traveling from Cartagena to Barranquilla and vice versa.

With the Wonders of Colombia itinerary, you’ll board AmaMagdalena in coastal Cartagena, a popular Caribbean port on Panama Canal transits that you can now also enjoy on a river cruise. Arrive a day early or book a two-night precruise add-on to see sights such as the historic Walled City, San Felipe de Barajas Castle and the Gold Museum.

Following a sunset sail away, immerse yourself in the sights, sounds and tastes of Colombia via a local music experience in Palenque, the first “free town” in the Americas after a 1713 decree from the Spanish crown freed residents from slavery. You can also check out 19th-century Calamar on a paola (a two-person bicycle taxi) and the jazz music and local handicrafts available in Santa Barbara de Pinto and Mompox.

El Banco and Magangue round out the list of port calls before the cruise ends with a tour of the floating village of Nueva Venecia and an evening Carnival celebration in the seaside port of Barranquilla.

Choose the Magic of Colombia itinerary, from Barranquilla to Cartagena, and you’ll visit the same ports, just in a different order. Rather than end your cruise with the Carnival celebration, you’ll experience it on your first day. You can also book several precruise and postcruise land tours, including three nights precruise in Medellin, three nights postcruise in Panama or both.

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AmaMagdalena will be joined in June 2025 by 64-passenger AmaMelodia. Both vessels will offer spacious (237- to 516-square-foot) staterooms and suites, as well as a heated pool on the sun deck and two dining options: the main restaurant, serving Latin American cuisine and Western favorites, and an intimate alfresco dining experience.

Related: Best river cruise lines around the world

American Cruise Lines’ 15-night National Parks & Legendary Rivers

American Jazz. CHRIS HUDSON/AMERICAN CRUISE LINE

American Cruise Lines’ itineraries on the Columbia and Snake rivers in Oregon and Washington already attract travelers who appreciate the stunning landscapes of the Pacific Northwest, but now the cruise line has a 15-night National Parks & Legendary Rivers itinerary that takes scenic appreciation to another level.

The trip combines an eight-night cruise on the Columbia and Snake rivers with a seven-night land tour to three national parks: Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton. The itinerary visits five states and begins or ends in either Portland, Oregon, or Jackson, Wyoming, depending on whether you do the land or cruise portion first.

What will you see on this cruise? If you start in Portland, you’ll overnight before boarding one of the company’s modern, 180-passenger river ships: American Jazz, American Harmony or American Song. Your first day will be spent enjoying scenic cruising along the Columbia River, with Mount Hood and Mount St. Helens as a backdrop, as you head to Astoria, Oregon. The historic seaside city is known for its beautiful Victorian houses and red trolleys.

Geology enthusiasts and anyone who remembers the devastating May 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens will be fascinated by the port call in Kalama, Washington, where you can take an included guided excursion to the National Volcanic Monument. The following day will be spent cruising the Columbia River Gorge before you arrive in Stevenson, Washington, where a visit to 620-foot Multnomah Falls is a highlight. The final two days feature views of the dramatic landscapes of the Snake River in eastern Washington as you call on Richland before disembarking in Clarkston.

The guided national parks tour begins with a drive to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, for a lake cruise followed by an overnight in Kalispell, Montana. Once in Glacier National Park, you’ll navigate Going-to-the-Sun Road and dine at the historic Lake McDonald Lodge.

The tour continues on to Yellowstone National Park, where your adventure guides will offer insight as you explore Mammoth Hot Springs, Norris Geyser Basin, Tower Fall and Old Faithful, among other highlights. A visit to Grand Teton National Park and its Jackson Lake Lodge follows, with your final day spent admiring the park’s incredible mountain vistas and abundant wildlife.

Related: The best US river cruises

American Cruise Lines’ 50-night The Great United States

American Constitution docked at The Wharf in Washington D.C. AMERICAN CRUISE LINES

If 15 nights aren’t enough to satisfy your wanderlust, American Cruise Lines offers a 50-night version of The Great United States program for 2025.

The 2025 sailing encompasses three cruises. It takes the 15-night National Parks & Legendary Rivers itinerary described above and adds a 21-night Mississippi River cruise from New Orleans to St. Paul, Minnesota, aboard 180-passenger American Serenade, which will call on 21 ports in six states. Along the Mississippi, you’ll have a chance to visit Civil War battlefields in Vicksburg, Mississippi; Mark Twain’s boyhood home in Hannibal, Missouri; and the landmark Gateway Arch in St. Louis. You can also enjoy legendary blues music on Beale Street in Memphis.

That segment will be followed by a 14-night, 14-port cruise along the coast of New England on 125-passenger American Pioneer (debuting in 2025). The ship will sail round-trip from Boston and visit scenic coastal ports in Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, including the quintessential New England islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

Tour options will include visits to the Maine Botanical Garden in Boothbay Harbor and Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, an SUV adventure along the dunes of Provincetown on Cape Cod and a tour of the gilded mansions of Newport in Rhode Island.

In total, you’ll check off 15 states from your must-visit list during this river cruise. That’s an impressive number of destinations to visit in a single trip.

Avalon Waterways’ 7-night Vida Portugal: Vineyards & Villages Along the Douro

River ship sailing through the Douro Valley. ROBIN ALLEN PHOTOGRAPHY/GETTY IMAGES

Portugal’s Douro River Valley is beloved by oenophiles. Over the past few decades, it has also attracted river cruisers seeking a relaxing itinerary punctuated by sleepy small towns and the daily enjoyment of local food and wine.

In March 2024, Avalon Waterways added the Douro River to its offerings when it debuted 102-passenger Avalon Alegria sailing an itinerary called Vida Portugal: Vineyards & Villages Along the Douro. The seven-night cruise is round trip from Porto, where there’s time at the start and end of your cruise to explore this colorful city’s historic port-wine cellars, churches and bridges (including the Ponte de Dona Maria Pia, designed in 1877 by Gustave Eiffel).

Noteworthy stops range from an afternoon call on Porto Antigo, with included excursions to monasteries and churches in Braga and Guimaraes, to a call at Peso de Regua, where sightseeing and wine tasting go hand in hand. You’ll even have an opportunity to add an optional excursion from Pinhao to the elaborate 18th-century Baroque palace Casa de Mateus (of rose wine fame).

Save time for the onboard activities, too. After a full-day excursion from Barca d’Alva to Salamanca, Spain — a city known for its mix of Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque architectural styles — you can learn how to paint azulejos (Portugal’s famous blue-hued handmade tiles) or enjoy a pastry-making demonstration on the ship the next morning.

Related: The best river cruises in Europe

CroisiEurope’s 7-night A Cruise Through Four Exquisite European Valleys

Seine River in Paris. CROISIEUROPE

Germany is known for its scenic river valleys, and a new itinerary from French river cruise line CroisiEurope doesn’t skimp on beautiful vistas. Called A Cruise Through Four Exquisite European Valleys, the seven-night, round-trip sailing departs from Strasbourg, France, and visits the Rhine, Neckar, Moselle and Saar river valleys.

The ship for this itinerary, 81-passenger Elbe Princesse II, is one of CroisiEurope’s three paddle river boats. It normally navigates the Elbe River between Berlin and Prague. However, from July to October 2025, the ship will be cruising the Rhine and its tributaries.

This river cruise kicks off on the Saar River, famous for the Great Bend at Mettlach (the river equivalent of a hairpin turn), and overnights in the town of Saarburg, Germany. After a morning scenic cruise onto the Moselle River, you’ll visit Trier, Germany, known for its ancient Roman structures and its photogenic medieval buildings, before continuing on to Cochem, Germany, where you can enjoy an afternoon visit to the hilltop Reichsburg Castle.

Larger cities like Koblenz, Germany, located at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle rivers and home to Ehrenbreitstein Fortress, are also on the itinerary. The trip features a stop in wine-centric Rudesheim, Germany, as well, so you can sample some vino and enjoy a ride on a scenic train while in the Rhine Valley.

The final day calls on a trio of German ports on the Neckar River. In the morning, you’ll visit Mannheim and disembark for a coach transfer to Heidelberg, home to pink-hued Heidelberg Castle, historic churches and atmospheric beer halls. You’ll then reboard Elbe Princesse II in Heidelberg and sail to Eberbach, a medieval city with an abundance of half-timbered homes and ancient fountains. The ship will overnight as you enjoy a final gala dinner before disembarking in Strasbourg the next morning.

Riverside Luxury Cruises’ 11-night Danube and Main River Discovery

A river cruise going past the Hungarian Parliament Building. TU XA HA NOI/GETTY IMAGES

With the March 2024 debut of 110-passenger Riverside Debussy, Europe-based newcomer Riverside Luxury Cruises has added more than a half-dozen new three- to 21-night itineraries, with options on the Rhine, Main, Moselle and Danube rivers. In October 2024, the ship will sail an 11-night Danube and Main River Discovery itinerary from Budapest to Frankfurt that combines the highlights of two rivers and visits four countries: Hungary, Slovakia, Austria and Germany.

You’ll embark Riverside Debussy in Hungary’s capital before cruising past the illuminated Hungarian Parliament Building on your way to Bratislava. The capital of Slovakia is home to a hilltop castle, a walkable pedestrian zone and pubs serving local beer.

The next day, discover the history and artistry of Vienna with visits to its Hapsburg-era palaces, 16th-century St. Stephen’s Cathedral and numerous museums. Charming Durnstein, Austria, is known for its medieval castle and a riverfront abbey with a pretty blue-and-white spire, while the golden-hued abbey in nearby Melk, Austria, celebrates the flavor of apricots in preserves and liquors.

As you reach Passau, Germany, which sits on the confluence of three rivers, you’ll enter Bavaria and discover a walkable city with a domed 17th-century Baroque cathedral. The next day on the Main River (a Rhine tributary), you’ll tour Regensburg, Germany, including its UNESCO World Heritage-listed city center, before spending two days exploring Nuremberg, Germany, which has a notably complex history.

Rounding out the cruise are calls on Bamberg, Wurzburg and Wertheim, Germany, with bustling Frankfurt — where historic remnants of the Middle Ages meet modern skyscrapers — serving as the departure port.

Related: River cruise packing list: What to pack when traveling by riverboat

Tauck’s 13-night Romantic Capitals: Prague to Paris

Prague. FRASER HALL/GETTY IMAGES

Tauck’s newest river offering in Europe for 2025 is its 13-night Romantic Capitals: Prague to Paris itinerary. This multiriver and land journey is available from April to October on Tauck ships Joy and Savor.

You’ll start your journey with two nights at the Fairmont Golden Prague Hotel and enjoy ample time to take in sights such as Prague Castle and the Charles Bridge. You’ll then transfer to Regensburg, Germany, for a nine-day cruise to Trier along the Main, Rhine, Moselle and upper Danube rivers, as well as the Main-Danube Canal.

Ports and cities visited on excursions include Frankfurt, Koblenz, Nuremberg, Bamberg, Wurzburg, Wertheim and Boppard, Germany. Exclusive experiences available to Tauck guests range from a private reception and dinner at Schlosshotel Kronberg near Frankfurt to a visit to the legendary Nurburgring racetrack near Koblenz.

You’ll continue your trip on land with a quick stop in Luxembourg for a walking tour of its capital city. Afterward, you’ll board a train to Paris, where your journey will conclude with a two-night stay at L’Hotel du Collectionneur.

Uniworld’s 14-night Delightful Danube & the Castles of Transylvania

River Duchess. UNIWORLD

Uniworld Boutique River Cruises’ newest offering for 2024 and 2025 is a 14-night cruise-and-rail itinerary, Delightful Danube & the Castles of Transylvania, that visits six countries: Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Austria and Germany.

In Istanbul, the starting point, you’ll have a day to check out many of the city’s top sights, such as the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque and the Basilica Cistern Museum, before you board the private Golden Eagle Danube Express for a four-night train journey through Bulgaria and Romania. Stops you’ll make along the way include Bulgaria’s ancient capital of Veliko Tarnovo and the rugged mountain landscapes — and famous landmarks that inspired Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” novel — of Romania’s Transylvania region.

Before your train journey ends in Budapest, you’ll enjoy a traditional Hungarian puszta horse show and two nights at the Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest. The latter serves as a terrific home base for enjoying local sights like the Danube-spanning Chain Bridge, the neo-Gothic Hungarian Parliament Building and the hillside Castle District with its palace and 14th-century Matthias Church.

Your Danube cruise begins as you board Uniworld’s 130-passenger River Duchess and set sail north through Austria, visiting Vienna (for imperial and artistic immersion in palaces and museums) and Krems (to tour a castle set amid the beauty of the Wachau Valley). You also will call on Passau, Germany, a city that resides where three rivers — the Inn, the Ilz and the Danube — meet; it’s a picturesque spot for a walking tour or riverside bike ride. Then, you’ll make your way to Regensburg, Germany, with its charming medieval Old Town, transit the Main-Danube Canal and dock in Nuremberg for a special nighttime celebration before disembarkation.

Viking’s 10-night Rhine & Main Explorer from Nuremberg to Basel

Veranda Suite onboard Viking Hlin. M. WOLLSDORF/VIKING CRUISE LINE

Viking’s newest itinerary for 2025 is the 10-night Rhine & Main Explorer, which cruises from Nuremberg to Basel (or vice versa) from May to November and visits cities in Germany, France and Switzerland. It’s a new mix of ports for Viking, including some lesser-known historic towns in Germany’s Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria regions.

You’ll board one of the cruise line’s 190-passenger Viking Longships in Nuremberg, where an overnight offers time to learn about the city’s medieval structures and past as a staging ground for Nazi rallies. More medieval architecture awaits in Bamberg, famous for its river-spanning Altes Rathaus (Town Hall) and its rauchbier (smoked beer). If wine is your preferred spirit, you’re in luck, as Wurzburg, a city in Germany’s Franken wine region, is also on the itinerary.

As you continue your cruise, you’ll see the vibrant half-timbered houses and sample the hearty Bavarian cuisine (think: bratwurst and pork knuckle) of Marktheidenfeld, Germany. A visit to bustling Frankfurt, which provides a stark contrast between historic and modern Germany, is also in order after an afternoon spent sailing past the Main River’s castle-topped hillsides.

France’s Alsace region gets its turn when you call on Strasbourg, known for its beautifully preserved Old Town encircled by the Ill River. The itinerary also includes a stop across the Rhine in Breisach, Germany, the gateway to the Black Forest and a town full of vineyards. You’ll end your journey with a full day of exploring charming guild house-lined Marktplatz, history-rich streets and more than 40 museums in Basel.

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