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Relaunch dates for river cruise lines in the US and abroad

See which small ships have hit the waves after anchoring due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Paddle steamer boat moving under lifted Tower Bridge

In March 2020, cruise lines were forced to cancel sailings due to the COVID-19 pandemic, causing waves of disappointment for enthusiastic cruisers. As countries and states begin to lift travel restrictions, these river cruises are testing the water to see when it makes sense to sail again.

River cruises reopening in the US

On July 16th, the CDC extended its No Sail Order through September 30th due to an influx of positive COVID-19 tests in the US. This applies to cruise ships that carry more than 249 passengers. The good news for cruise enthusiasts? Most overnight river cruise lines carry between 100 to 200 passengers, so two US operators are already up and running again.

But it isn’t business as usual. Cruise operators are working with health experts to develop plans to increase safety measures on board. For example, American Cruise Lines is reducing capacity to 75%, providing personal protection equipment and COVID-19 antigen testing onboard, installing transmission barriers, instituting pre-cruise screening measures and more.

Here are the cruise lines that plan to offer River cruises in the US

Cruise lineRelaunch date
American Cruise LinesAugust 2020Read our review
American Queen Steamboat CompanyCancelled through September 30

River cruises reopening in Europe

Here’s a roundup of when popular European river cruise lines plan to relaunch:

Cruise lineRelaunch date
AMA WaterwaysCancelled through October 15Read our review
Avalon WaterwaysCancelled through October 31Read our review
Crystal River CruisesCancelled through DecemberRead our review
European WaterwaysJuly 12Read our review
Riviera River CruisesSeptember 14Read our review
ScenicOctober 31Read our review
Tauck River CruisesOctober 1Read our review
UniworldCancelled through September 30Read our review
Viking River CruisesCancelled through December 31Read our review

How has river cruising changed in the wake of the COVID-9 pandemic?

Each river cruise line has developed its own safety procedures to slow the spread of COVID-19, following guidelines from the CDC, WHO and local governments. For example, European Waterways stated that it will “observe the strictest protocols that include temperature checks, complete deep cleaning and disinfecting of all cabins and public spaces on the boats, as well as shared items.” Most European Waterways boats accommodate 6 to 12 people — the capacity even before COVID-19 — which makes this operator uniquely situated to address safety concerns caused by the pandemic.

River cruises can be a wonderful way to feed your need for adventure above the waves in a socially distanced world, since the smaller ships naturally have fewer people aboard. Check each company’s website to understand the specific precautions being taken.

Photo: Getty Images

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