What’s The Biggest River Boat?

Continuing with a river cruise theme, I was wondering what the ‘biggest’ river vessel in operation is.

Now the terms ‘river vessel’ and ‘biggest’ are open to some debate. However in this case I am talking about non-ocean going vessels with passenger cabins for overnight travel.

I believe the vessel below must be one of the biggest river ships, but if you know of a bigger vessel, please do let me know.


American Queen is the largest river steamboat ever built.

I suppose her size was not constrained by the need to fit in locks or pass under low bridges  like many of Europe’s river vessels.

The vessel was built in 1995 and is a six-deck recreation of a classic Mississippi riverboat , built by McDermott Shipyard.

Although the American Queen’s stern paddlewheel is indeed powered by a genuine steam plant, her secondary propulsion, in case of an emergency and for manoeuvrability around tight areas where the paddle wheel cannot navigate, comes from a set of diesel-electric propellers on either side of the sternwheel.

She has 222 state rooms for a capacity of 436 guests and a crew of 160. She is 127m long and 27m wide.

Victoria Jenna

Victoria Jenna (Victoria Cruises) is a large river boat which cruises exclusively on the China’s Yangtze river.

(Courtesy Victoria cruises).

(Courtesy Victoria cruises).

Victoria Jenna certainly was biggest ship on the Yangtze in 2009 and may well still be?  She is 133.8m long, 18.8m wide, carries 378 passengers and 180 crew. So she is slightly longer than the ‘American Queen’, but not as wide and carries 20 more crew, but 58 less passengers.

Reader ‘Max M’  (see comments below) has kindly pointed out that the Russian waterways have some big vessels such as the Valerian Kuybyshev and Dmitriy Furmanov class.


A Russian waterways vessel (Source Wikipedia)

To properly eventuate which ship is really bigger, we need to compare the gross tonnage (internal volume) figures of the above ships, as we do with ocean cruise ships. Their respective length, width or the passenger capacity is not so helpful.

However I do not accurately know their respective gross tonnages, although I believe the bigger river vessels are generally between 6,000-10,000 gross tonnes.  I’m not even sure that river vessel gross tonnage is measured in the same way as ocean ships?  Can anyone help?

(Source: Wikipedia, American Steamboat Company, Victoria Cruises)

Malcolm says: Do readers know of any bigger river vessels? Have you cruised on these impressive vessels? Please let me know your experiences.

Stop Press: Ben Roethig kindly tells me: As for the largest ships, that’s the Yangtze Gold 2-6 which are are just a hair under 150m by 24m x 2.6m of draft and 17m in height. These are more like small ocean vessels in size and have more amenities than your traditional boutique river cruise vessel. SEE HERE

 Review of  American Queen steamboat: HERE



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7 Responses to “What’s The Biggest River Boat?”

  1. Malcolm Oliver Says:

    Great information, Ben. thanks.

  2. Ben Roethig Says:

    BTW, if anyone wonders what the largest possible vessel dimensions are:
    Yangtze: ~275L x ~33W x 2.8D x 17H
    Upper Mississippi 179L x 32W x 2.6Dx 17H
    Lower Miss/ Ohio: 361L x 32W x 2.6Dx 17H
    Columbia: 198L x 25W x 4m x 15-16H
    Volga-Don 140L x 16.6W x 3.5D x 14H

  3. Max M Says:

    As far as I know gross tonnage is measured the same way on river ships as on the sea.The Kuybyshev (project 92-016) have a GT of 6308, while the Furmanov (302) are slightly smaller. The Chinese  President No.7 & No.8 are 146.8 meter in length and 20.2 meter in width with a GT of 17 000 – that has to be the biggest ships on any river.If the Russians go ahead building new ships the biggest will be 11 600 GT.I’ve sailed on all Russian types of ships, most of them were built in the seventies and eighties in Czechoslovakia, Austria or East Germany. The Kuybyshevs are affectionally known as Crocodile by their crews, while the square-shaped Furmanovs go by the moniker Suitcase.May I suggest another game we play: let’s find the oldest river passenger ships in service? On Gota canal in Sweden there’s M/S Juno, built in 1874. And on the Northern Dvina there’s M/S Gogol, sailing since 1911. But there must be others?

  4. Malcolm Oliver Says:

    Thanks for the useful information Max.

  5. Max M Says:

    The Chinese win the race with a couple of boats at 17 000 tons such as President No.8 and Yangtze Gold 7, Victoria Jenna at 10 000.

    Biggest Russian Kuybyshev class is at 6300.

    I suppose the simple reason the Yangtze ships are so huge is that the river and locks manage it.

    Though the Russians have some huge ships on the drawing board:

    like this

  6. Edwin Todd Says:

    I believe Victoria Jenna comes in at 10,000 tons and the Russian vessels at approx 6,000 tons if that helps.

  7. Max M Says:

    The biggest river cruise ships around are without doubt the Chinese Yangtze boats, followed by the Russian Volga cruisers. This counts in all categories: displacement, size, passengers. The biggest Chinese boat come at a beam width of above 19 m and 140 m length, while the two biggest Russian series – the Valerian Kuybyshev and Dmitriy Furmanov class – come in somewhat below that.

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