Sustainability and wellness are two major focuses across many industries at the moment, with climate change and environmental awareness prevalent even moreso in the travel industry.

River cruise lines have taken on this focus to lead the way with small changes of their own to help improve performance and options for guests on-board.

Avalon Waterways

Focused on reducing its environmental footprint with the philosophy ‘take memories, leave only footprints’, Avalon Waterways has made its commitment to preserving the environment known. By 2020, the cruise line will remove single-use plastic products such as straws and disposable bottles.

Avalon Waterways is also part of the Globus family of brands in support of The Ocean Cleanup meaning that its also committed to a number of sustainability efforts such as the use of LED light bulbs, state-of-the-art propulsion systems and sewage treatment on-board.

In partnership with Landmine Design, the cruise line has also introduced a social enterprise project to educate and provide jobs for women living in povery in Cambodia. So far, this project has provided dozens of women with opportunities to work at home.

The cruise line is also in support of the Wildlife Conservation Network which helps to secure the future of the world’s endangered wildlife.

As for wellness, Avalon Waterways has Adventure hosts on-board every European ship and increased its fleet of bikes on-board. There are new Avalon Fresh and Avalon Active/Discovery concepts also being trialled to promote a healthier lifestyle and diet.

Dish of healthy food - promoted on-board Avalon ships with Avalon Fresh

Uniworld River Cruises

Boutique river cruise line, Uniworld is also doing its part for the environment, partnering with the TreadRight Foundation to monitor and reduce the environmental impact that river cruises and their surrounding habitats can cause.

Uniworld is also committed to support family-run enterprises and organic wineries in various destinations, with the aim to connect guests with local and sustainable ventures around the world. 2022 will also see the cruise line ban the use of single-use plastics on-board including straws, water bottles and plastic bags.

The cruise line is also in support of the Eduadorian community of Kanambu, where it helps deliver access to clean water to drink and use for cooking, developing healthy sanitation facilities and building irrigation structures to help food production.

Those choosing to book their 2020 river cruise with Uniworld, and opt to recieve their documents digitally, will also get a tree planted in their names alongside the cruise line’s One Tree Planted partnership.

Scenic River Cruises

Scenic River Cruises has also joined Climate Friendly, an Australian organisation committed to reducing large scale greenhouse gase emissions by funding renewable energy projects. Alongside this, Scenic has measured a 100% of its emissions and is taking steps to reduced the greenhouse gases that are created.

The cruise line has also worked on reducing the single-use plastics on-board, reducing these on-board its Space-Ship (Scenic Aura and Scenic Spirit). Straws are no longer plastic, instead they are bamboo and glass bottles are now used in all rooms. Refillable water bottles are also given to all guests on-board and you can hire their modern ebikes to get around port easily.

Couple on the bikes - Scenic River


APT are at the forefront of river cruising sustainability and is focused on achieving the best practice for its economic, social and environmental responsbilities. Small changes include a new app for customers to reduce paper usage and switching all company cars to low emission vehicles with a view to using electric cars in the future.

With the Opportunities of Development Thru Art (ODA), the cruise lines has helped to build a school in an impoverished area near Siem Reap, Cambodia with APT covering the costs of the building and staffing.

Since 2003, APT’s Charitable and Conservation Fund has supported Australian wildlife conservation, focusing on indigenous wildlife in three sanctuaries across Kimberley, Cairns and Perth.

For wellness on-board, APT has also increased a number of wellness classes, from morning stretches to yoga and tai chi.


All ships in the CroisiEurope fleet feature water savers, which offer a 35% saving in drinking water and a 35% reduction in waste. The line is also using non-polluting paint on the underside of all ships and has created systems which are compatible with on-land AC power.

The cruise line has also partnered with UNESCO to help with sustainable development projects on African river ports.

Elephants on the Chobe River

Crystal River Cruises

Luxury cruise line, Crystal River Cruises have also eliminated the use of all single-use plastics (as of June 2019). This is part of the Crystal Cares programm which aims to promote energy efficiency, water conservation and recycling programmes.

Crystal has also used a water filtration system for six years in all dining venues, producing still and sparkling drinking water and removing the use of plasic bottles.

Emerald Waterways

Expanding its on-board fitness and games programmes, Emerald Waterways are a great leader in the focus of wellness on-board your river cruise. The cruise line has introduced activity managers across its fleet of European Star-Ships, who will each be responsible for enhancing EmeraldACTIVE on shore excursions with the addition of guided cycle tours, hiking and canoeing experiences.

As of this year, the cruise line also offers a selection of fitness activities such as yoga, Pilates, aqua aerobics and walk-a-mile on the Sub Deck.

Woman sat in yoga pose - part of a wellness programme

Do you enjoy wellness programmes while river cruising? Let us know in the comments below!

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About Emma Smith

Emma has more than seven years' experience as a writer and has been in the travel industry for nearly five years. She loves learning about new places and cruise ships coming to market, as well as discovering fun and exciting activities to do while you sail. She has cruised with Princess Cruises, Cunard, Celebrity Cruises, Virgin Voyages, Avalon Waterways and Royal Caribbean and is looking to get something in her diary for 2024! Her favourite things to see on a ship include excellent entertainment, a delicious cocktail menu and extraordinary dining venues.