AmaWaterways and Viking River Cruise: A Comparison of Top River Cruise Lines

AmaWaterways and Viking River Cruise are two of the most well-known cruise lines operating on the rivers of Europe, Southeast Asia, and Egypt.

Every company has its signature features, like Viking’s constantly elegant Scandinavian-inspired interior decor and AmaWaterways’ assortment of always-complimentary excursions. However, are these well-known river cruise companies really that different from one another that it matters which one you pick?

Yes, is the response. Let’s compare AmaWaterways vs Viking head-to-head; some of the differences might even surprise you.

AmaWaterways Vs Viking River Cruise Lines

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Within five years of one another, the river cruise lines Viking and AmaWaterways were established. Both have a fleet of modern river ships and well-known CEOs from the cruise and travel industries. However, every one approaches itineraries, trips, and the atmosphere on board differently.

In 2002, Austrian-born Rudi Schreiner, German-born Kristin Karst, and the late Irishman Jimmy Murphy launched AmaWaterways. With the introduction of three additional ships in 2024 and 2025, the line will have a fleet of 26 ships.

Offering numerous excursions, usually three or four every port, included in the cruise ticket is the brand’s signature. These are typically bus tours to neighboring sites or walking tours of the city, sometimes with an emphasis on wine or food. Every port nearly always offers a more strenuous hike or bike trip for visitors who are fitness-focused, while one “Gentle” group is devoted to guests who require a bit more time to get around. Bicycles are also provided for personal exploring on AmaWaterways cruises.

The company is well-known for its custom-built ships with contemporary interiors inspired by the places they travel to. The public areas have the vibe of a locally operated boutique hotel. AmaWaterways introduced a significant design innovation with the “twin balcony,” which consists of a full-size step-out balcony and a French balcony. This gives the cabins that have them amazing vistas and an air of spaciousness.

The Viking legend began several years prior to AmaWaterways. Established in 1997 by experienced cruiser Torstein Hagen, who was born in Norway, together with many partners, Viking River Cruises was intended to be destination-focused and culturally engaging. There are now 69 river ships operated by Viking, and two more are expected to debut in 2024 and 2025.

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The river cruise packages offered by Viking include one free shore excursion at every port, which is usually a guided walking tour or a panoramic bus tour. A variety of additional tour alternatives are available to guests, most of which have a cultural or gastronomic focus but some of which are a little more active.

The company expanded its river cruise business by drawing in adult tourists looking for an easy method to visit several European towns and nations. However, with the launch of its first Viking Longship in 2012 and a successful marketing effort surrounding the Longships (including sponsorship of “Downton Abbey” on PBS Masterpiece), its brand recognition and growth significantly accelerated.

These days, a particular standard of European river cruising is embodied by Viking’s 55 almost similar Longships, named after Nordic gods and goddesses (from Viking Agir to Viking Vili), all of which have light and airy Scandinavian style.

In contrast to AmaWaterways, which is still limited to river cruises, Viking has branched out into ocean traveling. The company launched the 930-passenger Viking Star in 2015, and it currently has nine identical ocean ships in its fleet. It added two Polar-6-Class exploration ships with 378 guests in 2022. This implies that Viking enthusiasts can travel the globe without ever leaving the brand.

Ship Size

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The size disparities between the ships in the river cruise fleets of AmaWaterways and Viking are particularly noticeable on rivers like the Mississippi, Mekong, and Nile, where the ships range in size from intimate (with 28 people) to majestic (386 guests).

Not all 29 of AmaWaterways’ ships are the same, not even the 20 in its well-liked European fleet. These vessels have a length of either 360 feet or 443 feet, and can accommodate 140–196 passengers or 45–70 crew members, respectively. Four smaller ships can hold 140 or 144 passengers and 45 personnel, while the majority (15 ships) can handle between 152 and 162 passengers and 51 crew.

The line’s flagship Danube vessel, AmaMagna, with 196 guests, is the exception. It is nearly twice as big as a typical river ship at 443 feet long and 72 feet wide, without sacrificing much passenger capacity. AmaWaterways has taken advantage of the extra space this has created to improve the cruise experience. 205 to 710 square feet, as opposed to 160 to 350 square feet, is the larger size of the cabins and suites compared to its other ships. AmaMagna has five onboard bars, which is unusual for a river ship, and four dining options instead of just two.

AmaWaterways operates the AmaDouro and AmaVida, two ships on the Douro River in Portugal. 38 crew members and 102 passengers can fit in each. AmaSintra, a third ship, is scheduled to launch in early 2025.

AmaWaterways now runs AmaDahlia, a 72-passenger, 62-crew vessel, in Egypt. AmaLilia, a second ship, will carry 65 crew members and 82 passengers when it ships in 2024.

The cruise line’s only ship, AmaDara, is located on the Mekong River in Southeast Asia. This ship can accommodate 124 passengers and 52 crew members with its elegantly carved wood furniture and French colonial design.

Similar to AmaMagna, AmaWaterways is an anomaly on the Chobe River in Botswana, but for a different cause. The company runs just one vessel on the river. With a length of about 150 feet, Zambezi Queen was created in 2019 with a focus on wildlife watching. It can carry just 28 passengers and 22 crew members.

When AmaWaterways starts cruising the Magdalena River in Colombia in 2024, it will expand its offering to include South America. AmaMagdalena has enough for 60 passengers plus 30 crew members.

Regarding Viking, the business’s fleet of fifty-five identical Longships is widely dispersed among the principal rivers of Central Europe. Each is 443 feet long and can hold 53 crew members in addition to 190 guests.

Viking operates four smaller ships on the Douro River in Portugal. They have 33 staff members and 106 passengers. The cruise line operates two ships, Viking Astrild and Viking Beyla, each of which can accommodate 98 passengers and 33 staff members on the Elbe River in Germany.

Built in 2020, Viking has four identical ships that can carry 168 guests and 46 crew members on the Seine River in France.

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There are now four ships in Viking’s fleet on the Nile River in Egypt, and two more are on the way. Viking Osiris and Viking Aton, the two most recent, debuted in 2022 and 2023, respectively. Each can hold 48 crew members in addition to 82 passengers. In 2024 and 2025, the similarly large Viking Hathor and Viking Sobek are scheduled to join them. With crews of 55 and 75, the two smaller ships, Viking Ra (2017) and MS Antares (2007), can accommodate just 52 and 62 guests, respectively.

Viking only has one ship in Asia. The 2022-debuting Viking Saigon can hold up to 80 people.

Actually, Viking’s biggest river ship is sailing domestically. The 450-foot-long Viking Mississippi made its debut in 2022 and can hold 386 passengers in addition to 147 crew members.

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The math shows that although Viking’s largest European river ships and AmaWaterways are both 443 feet long, Viking’s ships can accommodate 30 extra passengers. In order to accommodate, Viking ships will be significantly more crowded and have slightly smaller staterooms (135 to 205 square feet as opposed to 160 to 235 square feet). (But, Viking ship suites are often a little bit larger.)

Additionally, AmaWaterways’ main European river fleet has a somewhat superior crew-to-guest ratio than Viking’s, with 51 crew members serving 156–162 guests as opposed to Viking’s 53 crew members serving 190 guests. Though both cruise lines provide first-rate service, you’ll probably notice a difference if a Viking ship is full and the ship’s one dining room is packed at mealtimes.

How Do Shore Excursions on the Two Lines Compare?

In every port you visit, Viking River Cruises and AmaWaterways offer at least one shore excursion. Most excursions are led by native English speakers who are knowledgeable about the port’s history and culture. Additionally, both lines provide deluxe excursions at an extra charge. These trips, which are typically only available to small groups, let you explore smaller spaces or offer immersive experiences that introduce visitors to a port’s customs and culture at a more in-depth, frequently hands-on, level.

For both, modern coaches serve as their major means of transportation; however, only some of AmaWaterways’ buses are branded, whilst Viking’s are immediately distinguishable amid the crowd thanks to their branding, which also includes photographs of the ships or exotic locales.

During excursions, both cruise lines use the QuietVox technology, in which customers listen on receivers while the tour operator speaks into a headset. This enables travelers to hear the guide and proceed at their own pace.

If you wish to spend more time in ports actively, go with AmaWaterways

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There are typically three levels to AmaWaterways excursions: a group for mild strolling, the general group, and the active group. The majority of visitors choose the standard option, which often includes tour buses, some walking, and guided sightseeing of the main attractions. For anyone who require a slower pace or have mobility concerns, gentle tours are intended. Few people walk on these trips because most of the places are seen by bus or other forms of transportation. An active tour may be preferred by those who want to raise their heart rate because it may involve a little bit more mileage, ascents up stairs or other steep inclines, or just a little bit faster pace.

AmaWaterways’ fleet of boats also includes motorcycles that can be rented for individual exploration or utilized as part of an excursion while in port. Helmets are mandatory for motorcyclists. AmaWaterways is also associated with Backroads, a touring firm that is now in operation. Longer bike rides to and even between ports are included on some Danube, Rhine, Douro, Seine, and Garonne sailings. For these sailings, Backroads even provides the luxury bikes, which are personalized in advance for each rider according to their height, weight, and preferred style of riding.

If you’re looking for some less-travelled options, go with Viking

Viking River Cruises makes an effort to locate some distinctive beach excursions. For example, you may go cognac combining in Camus or truffle hunting in Bordeaux. As part of a cruise land extension for Paris and Normandy voyages, passengers can choose to visit Highclere Castle, the location of “Downton Abbey,” and receive behind-the-scenes access, thanks to Viking’s excellent partner lineup, which includes Masterpiece Theatre.

AmaWaterways and Viking River Cruises: Itineraries Comparisons

The majority of AmaWaterways’ European ships, akin to Viking’s Longships, are 443 feet long, which is the maximum length allowed to pass through the lock systems on Rhine and Danube voyages. Viking’s Longships have square bows, which frees up area for the third deck’s Aquavit Terrace, the company’s outdoor dining and drinking area.

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Additionally offering Christmas market cruises, both companies sail on the European rivers Danube, Rhine, Moselle, Main, Rhone, Seine, Garonne, Elbe, Dordogne, and Douro. In Vietnam and Cambodia, they navigate the Mekong and Nile rivers. In Africa, AmaWaterways also navigates the Chobe River. It will begin a 46-night itinerary throughout Europe on four ships in 2023. In 2024, it will be the first line to provide sailings on the Magdalena River in Colombia. Exotic itineraries in Asia and Africa frequently incorporate lengthier land tours with river time along both routes.

AmaWaterways and Viking River Cruises Offer Dramatically Different Cabins

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The outside appearance of Viking’s and Ama’s European ships may be identical, but the interior design and furnishings varied significantly. Viking has comfy, modern, and simple styling, thanks to its Norwegian founder and president, Torstein Hagan. Subdued color schemes are used, primarily consisting of neutral wood tones and tones of gray, cream, and steel blue. Scandinavian artwork, such as paintings of vintage Norwegian sailing ships, accentuates the decor.

The vivid pink or red designs contrast with crisp whiteness in the AmaWaterways cabins, which are fairly colorful. There are ornate throw pillows and dark wood and marble accents. In contrast to Viking’s Longships, which have nearly uniform decor throughout their fleet, AmaWaterways’ cabins vary in style according on the specific ship.

Similar amenities are included in both types of cabins, such as mini-fridges filled with water (refilled every day), complimentary umbrellas, robes, and veranda blankets for use during the trip, free Wi-Fi in the rooms, and interactive TVs with free on-demand movies. Both supply toiletries: Viking offers Freyja amenities, while Ama offers Hydro brand shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, soap, and lotion. There is flexibility in the bed layout for both lines: two twins can be joined to form a king.

The accommodation types offered by Viking and AmaWaterways are comparable and range from a basic riverview cabin with modest windows to suites featuring walk-out and French balconies. In almost every category, Ama’s staterooms are marginally larger than Viking’s.

If you’re looking for cabins for families or individuals, pick AmaWaterways

AmaWaterways has cabins available for single passengers on a number of its ships. Ideal for single travelers, each of these accommodations has a twin bed and space for one. A number of cabins on five Ama ships, AmaViola, AmaStella, AmaLea, AmaKristina, and AmaMora, can also sleep three or four people (with a king-size bed and a chair that can be converted into a twin bed). Families are the target market for the linked staterooms on AmaViola and AmaStella.

Select Viking if you desire personalized embellishments

Viking’s cabins offer great storage, even at the lowest level, with numerous drawers and underbed room for storing luggage. Excellent lighting is another aspect of the cabins, which includes bedside controls and dimmer switches. Heated floors in bathrooms are a surprisingly delightful detail, especially in the dead of night.

Dining Experiences on Viking River Cruises and AmaWaterways Are Similar

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The dining experiences on both cruise lines are identical, consisting of buffets and off-menu options for breakfast and lunch, followed by a sit-down dinner every night at a predetermined hour. Both lines include open seating, so customers can take a seat wherever they choose. During mealtimes, soda, beer, and local wines are served, and the menus mainly draw inspiration from the marketplaces in the areas the ship visits. Also permitted are passengers’ own drinks from the port to be brought onboard. The Silver Spirits package is a beverage package that Viking offers. It costs roughly $30 per person per day and entitles passengers to an endless supply of quality wine, spirits, and beer while onboard. Beverage packages are not offered by AmaWaterways.

AmaWaterways passengers receive one evening per trip at The Chef’s Table, an alternate dining option with a predetermined menu. A multicourse meal is served to passengers along with an endless supply of fine wine that is matched to each course.

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If you have dietary restrictions or allergies, go with AmaWaterways

Dietary requirements may be accommodated by most river cruise lines, including Viking, but AmaWaterways stands out for clearly labeling all of its items, indicating whether ones are low in calories, gluten-free, sugar-free, or contain common allergens like soy or nuts. There’s also a “gluten-free corner” on the ships where guests may get refreshments any time of day.

If you’re looking for a casual outdoor dining option, go for Viking

The Aquavit Terrace, one of the nicest seats in the house aboard Viking’s Longships, masterfully blends inside and outside eating with a laid-back vibe. During the day, guests can eat at the buffet instead of the ship’s dining room. Throughout your voyage, you can savor a fixed menu at the Aquavit Terrace every night as often as you’d like. Passengers are not required to arrive at a specific hour and are not required to dress for dinner here.

How Do These Two Well-Known River Cruise Lines’ Enrichment Programs Compare?

Suites on River Cruise Ships

Enrichment activities are included on both Viking and Ama sailings, and the options are similar. They are intended to give more information on the ports and locations the ships stop at. When visiting Vienna, for instance, the lines may invite local musicians, singers, and dancers to perform or instruct passengers in preparing regional cuisine. Talks on the history of the area may also include lectures on scenic cruising, in which the lecturer points out notable sights as the boat is sailing.

How Do Viking River Cruises & AmaWaterways’ Onboard Amenities Compare?

Whether inside the onboard lounges or outdoors on the upper deck, travelers traveling on either route will have no trouble finding space to relax. Concierge services, historical and travel-related publications to check out, cozy bars for cocktails and dancing, top-deck walking paths, and enormous chess boards are all provided by these lines. Both lines’ ships have elevators, and some Viking ships have herb gardens on their sun decks, which the cooks use every day.

Pick AmaWaterways if you’d like more features

AmaWaterways boats provide modestly priced massages available in small (one-room) spas and salons, as well as minimally used fitness centers. Additionally, they include remarkably spacious swim-up bars and heated pools for a riverfront. Underwater chairs are available in pools so that patrons may relax at the bar and take in the view.

If you want a larger sun deck or additional outside lounging space, go with Viking

Part of the reason Viking’s sun decks are larger is that they don’t have swimming pools or bike storage areas there. That provides lots of space for relaxing, whether in the sun or in the shade. The Aquavit Terrace has space as well.

What is the best river cruise line for you?

AmaWaterways is a great option for travelers who like to have more amenities onboard, are looking to travel with kids, or both. For travelers who want adult-only trips with immersive port experiences, Viking is a great option.

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