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Which is the best all-inclusive river cruise?

All-Inclusive River Cruise

There are only a handful of companies who offer all inclusive river cruises. Who are they and what do they offer?

This blog post will talk you through what all-inclusive on a river cruise really means.

We’ll also explain the different “all inclusive operators”.

And if you decide to go all inclusive, what you can expect?

What is “all-inclusive”?

All inclusive as a concept started in the Caribbean in hotels such as the Sandals brand and gave guests the feeling of already having paid for their holiday and not needing to leave the hotel. It felt like you were being offered that bit more and saving you money on high drinks prices at room only Caribbean hotels. Hotel brands then tried to out do each other with more and more inclusions every year. 

These days the all inclusive concept which has made it to Europe is seen as saving the customer money and including in the upfront holiday cost all of those extras that a hotel would charge you in addition to bed and breakfast. No more bar bill at the end of the holiday and all the ice cream the children can eat.

That’s not what an all inclusive river cruise means.

What does an all-inclusive river cruise actually include?

A river cruise is a touring holiday and as you will be off the ship a lot of the time, all day drinks will not be something that you’ll really need to have included.

So, the best all inclusive river cruise, for my money is one that gives you a feeling of relaxation on your cruise.  That everything is already taken care of.  That no waiter is hoping for a tip when they come to your table.  That there is no unexpected surcharges on your bill at the end.  You should be able to offer the drinks you would like, go on the tours you fancy most and gratuities are already included.

But that adds to the price. 

But it should also add to the level of service you receive.

There are certainly no river cruise lines who offer all inclusive to some guests and not to others causing a two tier system, so there is no need to wear a wrist band like at a hotel.  How bad would that be

Much has changed in the world of river cruising over the last few years.

Some of it has been brought on by the increased popularity of the all-inclusive river cruise. Admittedly, they are generally priced slightly higher than the non-inclusive options, but they can be very cost effective if you take into consideration all of the additional service you’ll receive.

Global River Cruising is a big supporter of the all-inclusive river cruise deals.

We believe that they really offer you something extraordinary for no additional cost such as the butler service or access to the onboard spa which not all but some of the operators have. And let’s not forget about the food!

Passengers can indulge in some of the best cruise cuisine available; included in the price.

All-Inclusive River Cruise
All-Inclusive River Cruise: Delicious Cuisine.

On land, all-inclusive river cruise operators offer fantastic excursion to palaces and heritage buildings. If required, they can also secure you tickets to premieres and nights at the opera. The lists of activities can seem endless ranging from tasting tours, e-bikes excursions or one-to-one golf lessons. The choice is really yours.

To help you find your perfect river cruise, we’d like to introduce you to three of the best all-inclusive river cruise operators.

Scenic All-Inclusive River Cruise

Scenic river cruises have become increasingly popular due to their all-inclusive river cruise offer. One of the main selling points is that once you step on board their scenic spaceship (as they like to call their river cruise vessel), you rarely, IF EVER, have to get your wallet out to pay for anything. Customers second this by booking more and more river cruises with Scenic.

All-Inclusive River Cruise
All-Inclusive River Cruise With Scenic: Windmills, Tulips & Belgian Delights.

With over 30 years of experience under their belt, Scenic has fine tuned their offering to their customers. We especially like the way they have put together a quick and easy overview of who would like enjoy what river cruise destination as seen below:

Architecture Enthusiasts
Rhine and Danube

Culture Vultures


Mekong and Irrawaddy

History Buffs
Volga, Seine and Nile

Rhône and Saône

Scenic’s all-inclusive activity programme consists of two main options: Freechoice and Enrich. These additional activities give you access to unmissable events that you might not be able to see otherwise including classical music performances in historic European palaces or sightseeing adventures in the Mekong Delta.

Scenic South of France
All-Inclusive River Cruise with Scenic: South of France

Each guest will also receive a tailor-made self-guided GPS device to allow everyone to enjoy their excursions in their own time. It’s that flexibility that customers rave about when they return from a river cruise with Scenic.

Here is a quick guide of what is included with an all-inclusive Scenic river cruise:

FREE fast track security & airport lounge pass
Scenic Freechoice – a choice of sightseeing activities throughout your journey
Scenic Enrich experiences – unforgettable and exclusive events
Scenic Sundowners – exclusive hosted cocktails in a stunning location (on selected sailings)
Fly from a selection of UK airports
Butler service for all guests (excludes Russia)
Complimentary premium branded beverages all day, everyday (excludes Russia)
The freedom of e-bikes (excludes Asia, Russia and Portugal)
Expert local guides
All tipping and gratuities
Up to six dining options, from casual to fine dining
Exclusive Scenic Tailormade GPS for self-guided touring (excludes Asia, Russia and Portugal)
Authentic local entertainment
Cruise Directors to guide and assist
Complimentary wi-fi (excludes Asia)
Overseas transfers

Uniworld All-Inclusive River Cruise

Uniworld is one of the most if not THE most luxurious all-inclusive river cruise operator currently operating in Europe, Asia and Russia. Our customers love their attention to detail, beautifully designed ships and the impeccable service. We’ve mentioned this in the past but it’s worth saying it again, Uniworld has the highest staff-to-guest ratios of any of the other river cruise operators. It really makes you feel very special and extremely looked after.

All-Inclusive River Cruise
All-Inclusive River Cruise with Uniworld: Rhine, Moselle & Blissful Baden-Baden.

Guests can also look forward to an in-suite butler services, delicious onboard dining and unlimited beverages which also includes many premium wines and spirits.

If you have been on an all-inclusive river cruise with Uniworld in the past, you will know what we mean when we say, enjoy being pampered! Each guest will receive the highest quality of amenities such as Hermés and Asprey bath and body products. Is that little bit of extra that makes an all-inclusive Uniworld river cruise so special.

Should there be anything you need while staying on a Uniworld river cruise, we encourage you to ask. One of the credos of Uniworld is “No request too large, no detail too small”. And they really mean it!

Uniworld Paris & Normandy
All-Inclusive River Cruise with Uniworld: Paris & Normandy.

On top of free oversea transfers, you can also look forward to the following all-inclusive services:

Impeccable service with one of the highest staff-to-guest ratios of any cruise line
Intimate and beautifully designed ships carrying an average of just 130 guests
All gratuities onboard and onshore
All-scheduled airport transfers
In-suite butler service
Elegant Riverview staterooms and suites, with the finest linens, towels and Savoir® beds for an incredible night’s sleep
Delicious onboard dining and unlimited beverages (including many premium spirits and wines)
A variety of personalised excursions led by English-speaking local experts
A number of excursions curated exclusively for Uniworld guests
Well-equipped onboard fitness centre
Onboard exercise & wellness classes (with certified onboard wellness instructors in Europe)
Bicycles and Nordic walking sticks for onshore use
Shipwide Internet and wi-fi access
Onboard entertainment and Signature lectures

APT Travel All-Inclusive River Cruise

ATP Travel is the third all-inclusive river cruise operator with whom we have worked closely over te last few years.

It doesn’t matter what kind of river cruise you choose with APT Travel, the price that you paid will cover everything that you need for an unforgettable river cruise holiday.

All-Inclusive River Cruise
All-Inclusive River Cruise with APT Travel: Lisbon with Douro Discovery.

ATP Travel has four main wishes that it wants all of his customers to enjoy and we think that they nailed it:

Relax knowing that all those essential, but often overlooked details are included too: overseas transfers, taxes, luggage porterage, plus port charges and tipping where applicable.

Enjoy enriching sightseeing and discover iconic sights and hidden gems on a range of guided sightseeing excursions, including special Signature or Insider Experiences.

Delight in quality, hand-picked accommodation in a range of leading hotels and resorts, set in central or unique locations.

Savour sumptuous cuisine throughout your holiday, showcasing a variety of local meals and world-class dishes.

All-Inclusive River Cruise
All-Inclusive River Cruise with APT Travel: Wonders of Vietnam & Cambodia.

Guests often comment on the little things that have made their all-inclusive river cruise experience with APT Travel very special such as the champagne welcome when first arriving on board, their laundry service that take out the stress of finding the next shirt to wear and their VIP door-to-door pick and drop off which is included in every all-inclusive APT Travel river cruise.

What else can you expect from them?

Return UK flights
VIP door-to-door transfers
Luxurious river ships
Breakfast, lunch and dinner on board
Complimentary drinks, served at your discretion
A personal butler service (in selected suites)
Freedom of Choice sightseeing and expert local guides.

Are Viking River Cruises all inclusive?

As good as the river cruising market’s biggest Viking river cruises are, they are not an all-inclusive river cruise company. Viking river cruises are NOT all inclusive.

It gives us the ability to be able to compare them versus the all inclusive operators. Viking river cruises do not include gratuities or tipping of any kind. They do not include all your excursions although you will get daily excursions included. They do not include drinks outside meals.


So, does it make sense to pay for an all inclusive river cruise?  Probably if you compared it £ or $ wise to a non all inclusive cruise then you could never add up how many drinks you had and how many tours you had and get to the price.

The difference is that higher level operators such as Scenic and APT and Uniworld are all inclusive.  They believe that their service standards require it. 

Everything about the experience will be at that higher level. After that it simply comes down to personal tastes and your budget as to whether all inclusive is the best value for your river cruise holiday

If you still have questions or like to discuss your options further, please do get in touch either via phone, chat or email.

About Christine Foulds

I’m originally from Germany and traveling has always been a part of my family’s DNA. Over the past 20 years, I’ve lived and worked in 5 different countries (USA, Austria, Russia, Peru and the UK) and learnt to speak 3 foreign languages (Russian and Spanish are getting a bit rusty though). I thoroughly enjoy working with travel enthusiasts who like to explore and visit new parts of the world as much as I do.

View all posts by Christine Foulds

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