River Cruise Innovations & Inventions

In addition to cabin & layout innovations, here are some other “firsts” from innovative river cruise companies.  I interviewed several river cruise lines and asked each what they consider to be their key innovations, inventions, or ideas that have they provided to make the industry better.  


Amawaterways was the first to custom design a rivership (AmaDagio), add fleet of Bicycles, add Hiking Tours, add a Wellness program and a Dedicated Wellness Host, to have all ships designated Green Award, the first to sail Mekong in SE Asia, first to offer a river cruise safari in Africa, to have a Chef’s Table Restaurant in addition to the Main Dining Room, to have all ships inducted into la Chaine des Rotisseurs (oldest gastronomic society, invitation only), to have dedicated Hosted Wine Cruises, to sail in Europe successfully during covid with enhanced health protocols, and to offer a 46 night, 14 country, Seven Rivers Journey throughout Europe.

American Cruise Lines

We released our first modern riverboat, American Song, which debuted in 2018. We launched another modern riverboat in 2021 and have 2 more coming in 2024. I mention these because they are totally innovative for Domestic U.S. River cruising and the first of their kind here in the U.S.A. More specifically, they each have a patented opening-box and retractable-gangway, which is a cool innovative feature and allows passengers to access locations that do not have a dock!

American Queen Steamboat Company

American Queen Steamboat Company - Kemp Travel Group

Operating America’s most authentic paddlewheel riverboat – American Queen® – America’s only true steam-powered paddlewheel riverboat.  Guests can go down to the engine room (special viewing area) and take a look, where an engineer is always there, as it has to be oiled every 20 minutes.

In January 2021,  American Queen Steamboat Company was the first river cruise line to announce that beginning July 1st, 2021, all guests will be required to provide proof of covid vaccination in order to board.  This was a brave call, and resulted in new customers for the line at the time.


Avalon has implemented the following firsts and innovations:

  • Panorama Staterooms – an innovative design no one else comes close, with Open Air balcony and the bed facing the view
  • Avalon Fresh – inspiring, healthy delicious cuisine
  • Avalon Short & Suite Sailings – 8 ways in 8 days
  • Avalon Active & Discovery – Off the Beaten Path with truly active excursions
  • Sky Grill – BBQ purpose built grill on the  Sky Deck for lunch and happy hour
  • BeWell water stations installed to replace bottled water on board. Not only still and sparkling, but vitamin infused option as well 
  • Picnic lunches 
  • AvalonGo App – GPS enabled maps, turn by turn directions
  • Eliminating 80% of paper use on board, hoping to get to close to 100% eliminated with daily newsletters and menus available to guests on the app or printed if they choose
  • GoBeyond – new listening devices that are also your own personal mobile hot spot.

Riverside Luxury River Cruises

Riverside is a new player that purchased the top-of-line ships that Crystal lost when they went bankrupt. They have a choice of all-inclusive or not all-inclusive fares that appeals to many. The Mozart is a double width river cruise ship with a dazzling array of amenities and space.

Riverside is also the only line that does not have any “swan” rooms – meaning all categories have a french balcony (or higher) and full sized windows.  They are the first to have no fixed dining times and no need to dine with strangers (unless you’d like to).


The “value” edition of Scenic,  this line was probably created to compete with Viking’s river cruises.  They offer a few interesting innovations:

  • Retractable roof swimming pool converting into a cinema.
  • River Cruise Cover – an included peace of mind policy meant to supplement your travel insurance
  • Emerald Harmony: SE Asia – First of its size and specifically designed to sail into the centre of Ho Chi Minh City, allowing us to dock in the heart of the city, yet built to European Safety Standards


Riviera River Cruises – All Things Cruise

The only company to offer on every departure 5 cabins with no single supplement even if the cabins are meant for double occupancy.


Scenic River Cruises pioneered many firsts and innovations:

  • Private Balconies – Scenic Sun Lounge (we built our 1st Scenic Space-Ship back in 2008)- We pioneered Glass only Balconies
  • Salt Therapy Room – A first on the rivers
  • Scenic Culinaire – A first on the rivers
  • E-Bikes – We pioneered them
  • Tailormade Touring app


Tauck invented the loft cabin, and also innovates in service offerings:

  • Most Director-level staff on board of any line (4 Tauck Directors, plus crew, plus local guides in each destination)
  • The only line that has a professional third-party security agent on board at all times 
  • No single supplement on Category 1 cabins, ever
  • Exclusive events and special access unavailable to anyone else


Uniworld - Wikipedia

Uniworld ships are one-of-a-kind floating boutique hotels, uniquely designed to reflect the destinations in which they sail, boasting some of the most distinctive interior designs afloat.

This year, 2021,  Uniworld is launching exclusive cruise & rail itineraries in Europe in partnership with Golden Eagle Rail, allowing travelers to explore both major cities and hidden gems on one adventure by land, cruise and train. Following a successful debut, Uniworld is offering even more cruise & rail itineraries through Hungary, Italy, Turkey, Romania, Austria, Switzerland and more in 2022.  

Uniworld is the first river cruise line to have their European ships sprayed with ACT Clean Coat—an antimicrobial coating that is odorless, nontoxic and kills bacteria and viruses including COVID-19.

U by Uniworld

U River Cruises (u_rivercruises) - Profile | Pinterest

U paved the way for a new generation of active adult travelers interested in river cruising, with a sexy, stylish look and feel. U itineraries focus on longer stays in-destination, allowing guests to connect with local people, experiences and each city’s vibrant nightlife.

U has a few triple staterooms that have 3 separate safes, tv’s, and “pods.”  To appeal to millennials, they offer foosball and other games, ultra-modern styling, and guest DJs.

U introduced unique Themed Cruises for travelers, most recently launching:

Gen Z on U: First of its kind itineraries created exclusively for teens and their parents on six select 2021 sailings.

Viking River Cruises

Viking transformed the river cruise experience with the launch of the award-winning, state-of-the-art Viking Longships, featuring:  

  • Innovative engineering including a patented corridor design and cutting-edge technology with comfortable amenities that reflect guest preferences
  • The revolutionary all-weather indoor/outdoor Aquavit Terrace reinvented the onboard lounge experience by bringing the panoramic outdoor river scenery indoors with retractable floor-to-ceiling glass doors – offering the most al fresco dining options of any ships sailing European waterways. This innovation by design was accomplished by creating a square bow on the longships.
  • All Viking Longships have sustainability upgrades, such as onboard solar panels and energy-efficient hybrid engines to reduce vibrations for a remarkably smooth ride

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