River cruises offer the ultimate in serene exploration around the world. No other mode of transport allows you to slip so silently into the heart of cities, towns and villages making excursions all the more convenient. There is no finer way to explore these ribbons of liquid history than aboard this hand-picked collection of appealing river ships.

Crystal River Cruises

Crystal River Cruises feature four identical, 5 star luxury all-inclusive ships carrying just 106 guests. They are the only all-balcony, all-suite ships in Europe and every guest receives butler service. Details matter on Crystal’s ships – from luxury bedding to excellent local wines and intuitive service. It’s hard to fault the Michelin-inspired menu as well as classical cuisine served in the Waterfront Restaurant; plus globally-inspired treats in the Bistro. The sophisticated entertainment is in a class of its own.

Scenic

Scenic refers to its ultra all-inclusive vessels as ‘Space-Ships’ to emphasize the airy interiors as well as a high staff-to-guest ratio. All meals are served in the open seating Crystal Dining; additionally there are two alternative dinner venues – Portobello’s for Italian cuisine and Table Le Rive, which offers a six-course tasting menu served with wine pairings. Occasionally, barbecue lunches are served on the Sun Deck. Exclusive Scenic Enrich experiences take guests to the cultural heart of Europe.

Uniworld

Uniworld’s 5 star ultra luxury all inclusive vessels boast opulent exuberance in their interior design with daring signature décor that’s distinctive and themed on the region in which they cruise. Discerning travellers who seek an appreciation of the hidden gems of Europe’s legendary rivers appreciate the subtle way Uniworld have elevated the all-inclusive concept aboard its fleet of ‘Super Ships’. Cuisine is beyond compare and is a master-stroke of bold flavours and textures – not surprising as ‘farm-to-ship’ is central to the culinary philosophy – as are fine wines.

Other notable river cruise lines which I have no hesitation in recommending include: Emerald Waterways which has pushed the boundaries of river cruising with its next-generation fleet of custom-built ‘Star Ships’. AmaWaterways is a member of the prestigious Chaîne des Rôtisseurs; they also pioneered the Chef’s Table concept where guests enjoy a unique culinary experience in an intimate setting. Avalon Waterways ‘Suite Ships’ have staterooms that feature wall-to-wall panoramic windows. Á la carte dining highlighting local specialities and complimentary regional wines tempt the palate of the most demanding gourmands. The Scandi-chic interiors of the large fleet of Viking River Cruises’ 190-passenger longships are subtly eye-catching and self-contained havens of conviviality and exploration.