The best and worst river cruise lines of 2019 have been revealed in a new report, with Avalon Waterways and Scenic Tours coming top and Shearings Holidays anchored at the bottom.
The research, by consumer group Which?, looked at 17 river cruise companies and asked over 1,700 passengers to rate their experiences out of five across nine categories – customer service, cabins, space, on-board facilities, food and drink, port excursions, social atmosphere, description matching reality and value for money.
Here’s a closer look at why some companies floated their boats, and why some didn’t.
BEST RIVER CRUISES
Avalon Waterways, average price £194 per night, customer satisfaction 82 per cent
US-based Avalon Waterways has been named joint-top in a new ranking by Which? for river cruises. Pictured is an Avalon ship sailing through Budapest
Which? says there was particular praise for the cabins on Avalon Waterways ships, pictured, which are smartly designed so that beds face out to the water rather than a wall
Avalon Waterways scores an excellent 82 per cent customer satisfaction score, with Which? respondents giving five-star ratings across five of nine categories
The report describes Avalon as offering ‘high-end, all-inclusive cruises at affordable prices’
USA-based Avalon Waterways offers mostly all-inclusive trips on its 21 mid-tier price ships.
The river cruise firm scores an excellent 82 per cent customer satisfaction score with Which? members giving five-star ratings across five of the nine categories, including customer service and food.
Which? says there was particular praise for its cabins, which are smartly designed so that beds face out to the water rather than a wall.
And the consumer group added that some customers felt they got a better experience than was advertised.
The report describes Avalon as offering ‘high-end, all-inclusive cruises at affordable prices’.
Scenic Tours, average price £250 per night, customer satisfaction 82 per cent
Scenic Tours river cruises comes joint top of the Which? ranking after scoring an 82 per cent customer satisfaction score. Pictured is a Scenic river cruise ship
Scenic scores five stars across many of the categories including customer service. Pictured is a deluxe balcony suite on board its Jasper river cruise liner
The Panorama Lounge and Bar on-board the Scenic Azure ship. Scenic now has 16 ships sailing around Europe and Asia
Australian brand Scenic now has 16 ships sailing around Europe and Asia, where butlers are available to guests.
The firm comes joint top, also scoring 82 per cent for customer satisfaction and receiving five-stars for customer service, which one passenger told Which? was ‘absolutely first class’.
Which? adds that the dining options also score five stars as do the port excursions, with one passenger telling the consumer group that ‘everything was organised to perfection’.
The report notes that Scenic is one of the most expensive cruise lines in the survey, but adds: ‘Fantastic staff, food and just about everything else add up to a brilliant cruise, if you’re willing to pay.’
BEST VALUE FOR MONEY RIVER CRUISE
APT Luxury River Cruises, average price £150, customer satisfaction 76 per cent
An APT Luxury River Cruises ship sails through Europe. The report says that one passenger described an APT cruise as ‘interesting, stimulating, with very good menus and drinks’
The interior of the Amabella, which is used by APT Luxury River Cruises. Which? says that even though it has a low average price per night most things are included
Which? says low-cost cruise provider APT is an ‘all-inclusive cruise experience at reasonable prices’
APT is an Australian low-cost cruise provider, and most of its European sailings take place on AMA Waterways ships.
Which? says that even though it has a low average price per night, all meals, drinks with meals, tips and excursions are included.
The report says that one passenger described an APT cruise as ‘interesting, stimulating with very good menus and drinks’.
Overall Which? says it is an ‘all-inclusive cruise experience at reasonable prices’.
WORST RATED RIVER CRUISE
Shearings Holidays, £139 per night, customer satisfaction 61 per cent
Shearings Holidays offer some river cruises on the Danube on board the A’Rosa Donna ship, pictured. Shearings Holidays river cruises earned a customer satisfaction score of 61 per cent
THE BEST AND WORST RIVER CRUISES OF 2019
Top three cruises
1. Avalon Waterways – 82 per cent
2. Scenic Cruises – 82 per cent
3. AMA Waterways – 79 per cent
Bottom three cruises
1. Shearings Holidays – 61 per cent
2. Saga River Cruises – 69 per cent
3. Great Rail Journeys – 69 per cent
Bottom-ranked Shearings Holidays earns a customer satisfaction score of 61 per cent with Which? noting that the firm’s river cruises ‘aren’t bad’.
In fact, the firm scored either three or four stars across each category that it was assessed on.
However, according to the Which? report, even though Shearings had the cheapest average price, some passengers didn’t feel they got enough for their cash.
A spokesperson for Shearings Holidays told MailOnline Travel: ‘At Shearings Holidays we are committed to ensuring our customers have an enjoyable holiday from start to finish. It is therefore disappointing that some of the 78 Shearings customers who were surveyed did not feel they got enough value for money.
‘Shearings Holidays are proud to offer a broad range of river cruise ships from great value entry level options to more premium lines and it is unclear from the survey which of the ships in our portfolio these customers travelled on.
‘At Shearings Holidays we are committed to ensuring our customers have an enjoyable holiday from start to finish. It is therefore disappointing that some of the 78 Shearings customers who were surveyed did not feel they got enough value for money
‘Shearings is an award-winning brand and we are very surprised by the results in this survey as they do not match the feedback we consistently get from both our customers and industry partners. We get very positive responses from our post holiday customer questionnaires and we monitor these very carefully. We have a customer repeat booking level of over 60 per cent and many people choose to travel with us time and time again.
‘In the last 12 months we have introduced new river cruise lines and itineraries and these have proved very popular. Our river cruise programme continues to go from strength to strength and we are committed to offering all our customers the best experiences and value for money.’
Which? Travel editor Rory Boland said: ‘Whether it’s drifting down the Danube or sailing along the Seine, river cruises can be a fantastic way to introduce yourself to a country or region, with the chance to explore several towns and cities on each itinerary.
‘But if you have been sailing with the same company for a while it might be time to jump ship – the most popular brands were not the most highly rated and a premium price tag did not guarantee a premium experience.’
For the full Which? Travel river cruise results click here.