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Cars & travel.

Updated: 12 Jul 2021

Top four best river cruise lines for port excursions

See cities and waterways from a different perspective as we rundown the best river cruise lines for port excursions
Which?Editorial team
River cruise in Austria

Whether you’re cruising the Danube, the Rhone or the Mekong rivers, port excursions can make or break your trip. We’ve rounded up a selection of the best river cruise lines for port excursions, based on our river cruises survey.

Taking a full or half day at a time, it’s vital you choose an itinerary full of stop-offs that suit you. Port excursions may only be a whistle-stop tour of a city or only take in a historic building, so if there’s a particular place you have your heart set on visiting that’s not included you may be better off going it alone.

The table below contains the highest-scoring brands, rated by cruise fans for offering all-inclusive ease or a variety of options at each port.

The lines cover most budget levels, so you should find something to suit you. Do you want to know how to choose the best river cruise? See how to find the best river cruise deals.

Only logged-in Which? Members can view our recommendations in the tables below. Sign up for a Which? subscription today to access our survey results. Already a member? Log in now to find out which river cruise lines our members rated the best for port excursions.

 Port excursion star ratingWRPCustomer scoreTypical price
Offering some of the cheapest holidays in our survey, this operator was also the favourite for its port excursions. Cruise fans praised it for ‘going over and above expectations in every way’. Find out which river cruise line we’re talking about – log in or sign up to Which?
 Port excursion star ratingWRPCustomer scoreTypical price
Rated the fourth-best river cruise line for value for money, this operator also scores highly for its port excursions. Customers enjoyed the ‘French ambience’ onboard. Find out which river cruise line we’re talking about – log in or sign up to Which?
 Port excursion star ratingWRPCustomer scoreTypical price

Not found the river cruise for you? Browse all of our river cruise reviews.

Five things to consider when choosing your river cruise line

Looking to book your next river cruise? Here are five things to consider:

1. Port excursions

These will form a big part of your trip, so ensure you’ll actually enjoy the excursions set out on the itinerary. If you’re on a budget or you want a bespoke itinerary, consider booking a cheaper cruise line, and picking and choosing from the paid excursions it’ll have on offer. Alternatively, book with a land-based tour company.

2. Book well in advance

You’ll find the best prices by booking early. Unlike flights, last-minute deals are rarely found on river ships, so if you find a cruise that you like the look of, book it to avoid disappointment – we’ve seen savings of up to £200pp by booking in advance. And make sure you have travel insurance in place from the moment you book.

3. Check what's included in the price

Some cruise lines offer an ‘all-inclusive’ experience, where onboard facilities, food, drink and all excursions are included in the price. However, you may still have to pay extra for port taxes, tipping the crew, or premium drinks, so triple-check you know what’s included in the final quote.

4. Drinks packages

It may be tempting to purchase an all-inclusive drinks package but most passengers tell us that they struggle to get good value for money with this add-on, especially as you’ll have to purchase a package for everyone travelling in your group. For most, it’ll probably be better to pay as you go, but it’s worth doing the sums to see if you’ll consume enough to justify buying a drinks package.

5. Travel off season

If you want to avoid the crowds or are on a tighter budget, plump for an April or an October cruise, when the weather will still be fair. Popular tourist attractions will be quieter and prices will be lower. If you’re a family, you won’t be able to avoid school holidays, but look out for cruise lines that cater for children, such as CroisiEurope, where kids under 16 often go free.