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What's Included in My River Cruise Vacation?

River cruises are experiencing a new increase in popularity among many travelers, driven partially by their smaller guest numbers and commitment to requiring those guests to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

I recently had a new client who approached me about a river cruise after having sailed on many luxury ocean liners, including Regent and Oceania. After learning what she liked and disliked about each of these, I was able to zero in on the perfect river cruise line for her- Tauck, because she loves detailed personal service and hates having to pay for anything once she’s onboard.

Knowing what’s included in your river cruise (and what’s not) can be a deciding factor as to which river cruise company to book, and sometimes the answer requires more than a simple yes or no. For example, while most river cruise companies offer complimentary shore excursions in ports of call, some charge for “optional” excursions. Also, airport transfers are included when air tickets are purchased with your river cruise company, but may not be included otherwise. And port charges? Not all companies include those either.

So, I’ve devised a cheat sheet of the most popular lines to help you sort it out.


  • Beverages- Beer, wine and soft drinks are included with lunch and dinner; sparkling wine with breakfast; complimentary cocktails during Happy Hour.

  • Excursions- Complimentary shore excursions included in every port, along with complimentary Special Interest Tours.

  • Dining- In addition to the main dining room, AmaWaterways features The Chef’s Table restaurant, with multi-course, wine-paired dinners at no additional charge. Light lunches and breakfast are served in the lounge, along with full lunches and breakfast served in the main dining room.

  • Transfers- Airport transfers are included when purchasing air through AmaWaterways.

  • Gratuities- Not included, but you may prepay them.

  • Port charges- Not included.

  • Extras- There are other nice touches on board like gluten-free snacks, fruits, Gemstone detox water, 24/7 coffee stations and more. Wifi is included (and it works well).

Avalon Waterways:

  • Beverages- Beer and wine are included with lunch and dinner; sparkling wine with breakfast. Coffee, tea and non-alcoholic beverages complimentary 24/7.

  • Excursions- Some optional tours require a fee.

  • Dining- In addition to the main dining room, Avalon offers small group (30 people) reservations to Panorama Bistro (light menu paired with wine). When weather permits, grilled lunches are available on the Sky Deck. Meals can also be served in the Club Lounge and Panorama Lounge.

  • Transfers- Airport transfers included when purchasing air from Avalon.

  • Gratuities- Not included.

  • Port Charges- Not included.

  • Extras- Stocked in-room mini-bar incurs charges for each item selected. Wifi included.


  • Beverages- All beverages included except for premium champagnes and wines.

  • Excursions- Complimentary shore excursions included in every port.

  • Dining- Main dining room only.

  • Transfers- Not included.

  • Gratuities- Not included.

  • Port charges- Included.

  • Extras- Wifi included.

Crystal River Cruises: Everything is included, except for port charges. 6 dining venues.

Emerald Waterways:

  • Beverages- Wine, beer and soda complimentary with lunch and dinner. All staterooms restocked daily with bottled water. Owner’s Suites come with complimentary stocked mini-bars.

  • Excursions- Complimentary shore excursions in every port.

  • Dining- 3 dining venues included.

  • Port charges- Included.

  • Transfers- Included.

  • Gratuities- Included.

  • Extras- Room service included for suites. Laundry concierge available for a fee; complimentary for suites. Wifi included.


  • Beverages- Riviera’s beverage package, which includes wine and beer with lunch and dinner, goes for $159 a week.

  • Excursions- An excursion is included in each port.

  • Dining- 2 dining venues included.

  • Port charges- Included.

  • Transfers- Not included.

  • Gratuities- Not included.

  • Extras- Wifi included.

Scenic: Everything is included for all guests, regardless of ship or suite.

Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection:

  • Beverages- Included.

  • Excursions- Uniworld charges for some optional excursions.

  • Dining- Uniworld’s ships have multiple dining venues including restaurants and cafés. Guests also have the option to eat each course in a different part of the ship such as appetizers on the top deck and dessert in the galley on all super ships. Additionally, on five of Uniworld’s ships; including River Empress, River Princess, River Countess, River Duchess and River Queen; guests can dine on the top deck, al fresco.

  • Port charges- Not included.

  • Transfers- Included.

  • Gratuities- Included.

  • Extras- Free laundry service in higher-end suites across its fleet. Additionally, most Uniworld ships have complimentary self-service laundry facilities for passengers to use; only River Royale, River Baroness, Douro Spirit, and River Victoria lack this feature in the European-based fleet. Room Service and Butler Service on Uniworld is at the suite level only. Wifi included.

Viking River Cruises:

  • Beverages- Beer, wine and soft drinks included with lunch and dinner. Specialty coffee and teas available anytime. Optional Silver Spirit beverage packages are available for an extra fee, making drinks all-inclusive.

  • Excursions- A complimentary shore excursion is included in every port; there are also additional optional shore excursions available on every itinerary.

  • Dining- 2 dining venues included.

  • Port charges- Included.

  • Transfers- Airport transfers included when booking air (or receiving free air) with Europe.

  • Gratuities- Not included, but some promotions offered prepaid gratuities or shipboard credits.

  • Extras- Room service, stocked mini-bars and laundry are included for Explorer Suites. Bicycles and gyms are available ashore and arranged by Viking.

Thinking about booking a river cruise adventure? Besides inclusions, there are many other factors to consider when selecting the right cruise line for you. I’d love to help you sort it out- simply reply to this email, or click here to schedule a complimentary planning consultation.

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