Haven’t you heard? River cruising is on the ascendancy; it topped 150,000 passengers in 2015 (an increase of 8%) and it keeps on climbing in popularity, with no signs of slowing down. Often likened to ‘floating hotels’, river ships serenely carry their guests along inland waterways, taking them to the hearts of cities and into off-the-beaten track villages, with the added benefits of representing great value for money and the advantage of only having to unpack once; no wonder they’re so popular!
2017 will see the addition of a number of new river ships, many for the waterways of Europe, so whether or not you’ve already had your first taste of the river cruising experience, 2017 will be an excellent year to enjoy a river cruise. Family-owned CroisiEurope, Europe’s largest river cruise operator, will be launching not one but five new ships on five different rivers, two of which are outside of Europe. However, the Rhine – British cruisers’ most popular river – will also be having a stellar year, with eight new ships offering itineraries from a range of different cruise lines.
Indeed, the Rhine and Danube rivers are easily the most popular, and as a result will be seeing the greatest numbers of new ships. While CroisiEurope’s MS Symphonie II will be solely dedicated to cruising the Danube, other ships will be launched to combine Danube itineraries with the Rhine and other rivers, such as Emerald Waterways’ Emerald Destiny and Riviera Travel’s MS Thomas Hardy (both ships will be offering cruises along the Rhine, Danube and Main rivers, with Emerald Destiny also taking in the Moselle). Other ships will be adding cruises along the Dutch Waterways too, such as Riviera Travel’s MS Emily Bronte and the ultra-luxurious Crystal Mahler, one of the new additions to the recently launched Crystal River Cruises. Crystal Mahler, along with Crystal Bach – which will be dedicated solely to Rhine river itineraries – are the first of Crystal River Cruises’ sublime ‘river yachts’ to be custom-built, following the launch of Crystal Mozart earlier this year, which had started life as the River Mozart under the banner of the former Peter Deilmann river cruise line. These two ships (Crystal Bach and Crystal Mahler) will no doubt be at the higher and more luxurious end of the spectrum of new ships launched, but it’s great to see a range and variety in the river ships to debut next year.
Along with Crystal Bach, CroisiEurope’s MS Douce France II and AmaWaterways’ AmaKristina will be solely dedicated to cruising the Rhine. Riviera Travel’s MS Oscar Wilde, to be launched in August, will combine the Rhine and Moselle rivers. Again, we have an exciting spectrum to suit all budgets and interests.
French waterways are renowned for their scenic countryside views, medieval towns, and gastronomic and vineyard heartlands, and for the abundance of art to be discovered along their itineraries. While France has understandably seen a decline in tourism in 2016, there are still due to be some new additions to its rivers (and canals) in 2017. Luxurious boutique river cruise specialists Uniworld will be introducing a new, stunning addition to their fleet, and another of their ‘S.S. (Super Ships)’ with the S.S. Joie de Vivre – appropriately called the ‘Joy of Life’ – which will sail the Seine, the only new addition to that particularly river. However, Tauck will be refurbishing the Swiss Sapphire – a ship which Amy and Julie have both sailed the Seine on – reducing the overall numbers of cabins to create 14 new suites and reduce capacity from 120 to 98, amongst other nips and tucks. Similarly, Tauck will be refurbishing their ship on the Rhône, the Swiss Emerald, to increase spaciousness and reduce capacity. The Rhône and Saône rivers, however, will see two new ships, with the introduction of Amadeus River Cruises’ Amadeus Provence and Emerald Waterways’ Emerald Liberté in April. Furthermore, Belmond will add two new barges to its luxury barge collection, Afloat in France, with new itineraries in Alsace and Champagne. Lilas and Pivoine, both accommodating eight discerning guests on an exclusive charter-basis in the utmost style and comfort, will offer serene barge holiday experiences in Alsace (between Krafft and Arzviller) and Champagne (between Meaux to Châlons-en-Champagne) respectively.
It would appear that, at last, the secret is out in 2017; with three new river ships, the Douro river is Europe’s hidden waterway no longer! CroisiEurope, Emerald Waterways and Riviera Travel will each be launching new ships in April, offering guests the chance to enjoy the UNESCO-listed ‘Golden Valley’ (and no doubt some port wine!). MS Miguel Torga will join CroisiEurope’s four other ships on the Douro River, offering 8 day cruises from Porto, with visits to Regua, Vega de Terron, Ferradosa and Pinhão, while Emerald Radiance is Emerald Waterways’ most intimate ship to date with just 112, but boasting a crew-to-guest ratio of 1:3 to deliver excellent personal service. Although smaller than other Emerald Waterways’ ships, the Emerald Radiance will still retain the favourite features of the fleet, along with some brand new features, such as the Riverview Suites located at the rear of the ship on the Horizon Deck, boasting floor-to-ceiling windows encasing the innovative balcony to offer unspoiled panoramic riverside vistas. The Emerald Radiance will make the most of the Douro’s warm climate with plenty of al fresco opportunities, such as The Terrace dining venue and the Serenity Pool on the Sun Deck. Riviera Travel have been operating a highly successful Douro cruise for some time now, but for 2017 this will now be enjoyed on their own brand new, state-of-the-art five-star vessel, the MS Douro Elegance.
Further afield, whilst there’s not so many new ships being launched, there are nonetheless some very exciting new river ships to be introduced in 2017. American Cruise Lines will be introducing their new ship, American Constellation, which will serve the inland waterways of the East Coast, with itineraries ranging from Hudson Rivers Cruise, a New England Islands Cruise, the Maine Coast and Harbors Cruise, to the Grand New England Cruise, and the Chesapeake Bay, taking guests to beautiful ports simply inaccessible to larger ships. CroisiEurope will also be launching two more ships outside of Europe, including the RV Indochine II, which will join the Lan Diep, RV Indochine and Toum Tiou II ships which already serve the mighty Mekong. 2017 will also see CroisiEurope launch its first ship on Africa’s Chobe and Zambezi rivers. MS Africa Dream will offer six-day itineraries and feature eight outward facing deluxe suites with balconies, as well as amenities such as a panoramic restaurant, lounge and bar, and a rooftop patio with pool and chaise longues. Guests will also be able to enjoy three-night stays in a five star lodge, experiencing thrilling safaris and a day at Victoria Falls. No doubt this new addition to the Chobe and Zambezi rivers will create new and exciting opportunities to explore these two rivers.
If you would like to enjoy a river cruise in 2017, contact our dedicated river cruise specialists today to find the right river and ship for you!
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