Last updated: 11:51 AM ET, Mon June 01 2015

River Dance

Here's the latest on new developments in the fast-growing river cruise market

Vacation Agent | Cruise Line & Cruise Ship | Theresa Norton

River Dance

PHOTO: Un-Cruise Adventures sails the 88-guest S.S. Legacy, a replica coastal steamer, on the Columbia and Snake rivers.

There are always new developments in the fast-growing river cruise segment, with innovative ships, fresh itineraries, and more destinations to explore. To bring you up-to-date, we have collected the latest news from 20 river cruise companies.

AmaWaterways will introduce two new ships in Europe this spring — the 164-passenger AmaSerena and AmaVista. They will sail on the Danube, Main and Rhine rivers.

In August, the company will introduce the 124-passenger AmaDara on the Mekong River. It will have 452-square-foot luxury suites, suites that measure 334 square feet, and 226-square-foot standard staterooms, all of which have a French balcony and a step-out balcony.

AmaWaterways recently announced that it will welcome two new vessels in Europe in 2016. The 158-passenger sister ships, AmaViola and AmaStella, will feature connecting staterooms and larger suites, as well as twin-balcony staterooms, heated swimming pools, hair salons, fitness rooms and more.

And starting in spring 2016, the line will offer 22 new “Taste of Bordeaux” sailings aboard AmaDolce on the Garonne and Dordogne rivers in France’s renowned wine region. Eight of the 22 departures will be special wine-themed voyages led by wine experts. | 800-626-0126

American Cruise Lines
American Cruise Lines in April is launching the 150-passenger American Eagle on the Mississippi River, making it the company’s second riverboat to ply this waterway. The new vessel will boast 84 especially spacious staterooms, of which 78 feature large private balconies. Staterooms range from 300 to 600 square feet.

PHOTO: American Cruise Lines in April is launching the 150-passenger American Eagle on the Mississippi River.

Similar to its sister, Queen of the Mississippi, it will offer various eight-day itineraries on the Lower Mississippi River between New Orleans and Memphis. However, the American Eagle also plans a number of longer voyages, including 14- and 21-night cruises that will sail between New Orleans and St. Paul, Minn., in August and September.

American also operates the 120-passenger Queen of the West on the Columbia and Snake rivers in the Pacific Northwest. More riverboats are planned for the future. | 800-814-6880

American Queen Steamboat Co.
The American Queen Steamboat Company’s 436-passenger American Queen now is operating its fourth season in the nation’s heartland after being spruced up during its six-week annual layup.

The project included a number of engineering and cosmetic upgrades, such as a new white polymer paint finish on the exterior refinished decks, new and upgraded mahogany accents, new carpeting in public areas and some staterooms, and even a new paddlewheel.

AQSC also operates the 223-passenger American Empress in the Pacific Northwest on the Columbia and Snake rivers. | 888-749-5280

Amras Cruises
This Boston-based company, which represents the 10 ships of Lüftner Cruises, is introducing a new ship in April, the 168-passenger Amadeus Silver II. After tulip cruises in Holland and Belgium, the new ship will sail on the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers.

It has 72 staterooms that measure 188 square feet in size and 12 larger suites of up to 284 square feet. All staterooms include a seating area, flat-screen TV, Wi-Fi and safe. Staterooms on the Mozart and Strauss decks include a French balcony with windows that open at the touch of a button. The suites have private, walk-out balconies, a bathtub and separate shower, and a minibar. | 844-462-6727

A-ROSA Cruises
A-ROSA Cruises, represented in North America by David Morris International, will operate more than 200 departures in 2015 on the Rhône/Saône, Rhine, Danube, Moselle and Main rivers in Europe.

The company this year expanded the level of inclusiveness so that fares include prepaid gratuities, port taxes and fees. A-ROSA features an open bar all the time, not just with lunch and dinner, and also includes sodas, coffee, tea, juices and bottled water. Passengers also can choose their own shore excursions with a €200 credit (about $217 at press time).

The company’s newest ship, the A-ROSA Flora, entered service last year and has two Family Staterooms that are approximately 30 percent larger than other non-suite accommodations and sleep four. These staterooms have a standard European queen bed (or two twins), a convertible couch and a Pullman that folds down from the wall. They also have about double the closet space and a large picture window.

To further appeal to families, A-ROSA is offering a “Kids Sail Free” promotion on all sailings in 2015. There are no exclusions, and one adult can take up to three kids ages 2-15 for free. | 855-552-7672

Aqua Expeditions
This luxury expedition line launched its third vessel, the 20-suite Aqua Mekong, on the Mekong River last October. It operates three- to seven-night cruises, primarily between Siem Reap, Cambodia, and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

The Aqua Mekong has indoor and outdoor bars, a screening room with theater-style seating, a library/game room with a foosball table, a lobby lounge, single and double day beds outside, a top-deck plunge pool with private cabanas, an infirmary with medical staff, and two spa treatment rooms.

This company also operates the 24-passenger Aqua Amazon and the 32-guest Aria Amazon on the Amazon River. | 866-603-6387

Avalon Waterways
Avalon Waterways in March launched the new 36-guest, all-suite “Suite Ship” sailing on the Mekong River through Vietnam and Cambodia. The Avalon Siem Reap has 18 suites that measure 245 square feet and have the line’s signature Open-Air Balconies — wall-to-wall windows with doors that slide open nine feet, essentially creating the feeling of sitting outside.

PHOTO: Avalon Waterways in March launched the Avalon Siem Reap. The new, all-suite “Suite Ship” sailing on the Mekong River through Vietnam and Cambodia.

It cruises all the way from Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap (or vice versa), as water levels allow. Built by local craftsman, the ship reflects the character of the region by incorporating many of its symbols and traditions. The river cruises also include the Local Favorites program, which provides immersive experiences such as a traditional water blessing and a Vietnamese cooking class.

The similar 36-guest Avalon Myanmar will begin sailing in October on the Irrawaddy River in Myanmar.

In Europe, Avalon will introduce two 128-guest Suite Ships in France in 2015 — the Avalon Tranquility II on the Rhine and Rhône rivers and the Avalon Tapestry II on the Seine River. Eighty percent of the staterooms are 200-square-foot Panorama Suites with floor-to-ceiling windows that open seven feet wide.

Two more Suite Ships are due out in 2016 in Europe, the 128-passenger Imagery II and the 166-guest Avalon Passion. | 877-797-8791

Blount Small Ship Adventures
While not exclusively a river cruise company, Blount operates two 88-passengers ships along the coastlines and on inland waterways of North and Central America.

One new-for-2015 itinerary, “The Big Apple to the U.S. Capital: New York to D.C.” operates about half the time on rivers. The eight-night cruise departs May 22, June 1, June 11 and June 21 and sails between New York City and Alexandria, Va.

Two other new itineraries operate about one-third of the time on rivers — the 11-night “D.C. to Boston” itinerary departing June 11 and the nine-night “Two Nation Vacation: Maine & New Brunswick,” which has departures on July 22, Aug. 2, Aug. 14 and Aug. 25. | 800-556-7450

This river cruise operator just announced it will add four new ships for the 2016-17 season, including two new river ships and two new canal barges — the 80-passenger Elbe Princesse between Berlin and Prague, the 60-passenger Apsara Princesse on the Mekong and the 24-guest Daniele and Deborah barges in Burgundy and the Loire Valley, and on the Garonne Canal.

This year, CroisiEurope introduces the 96-passenger Loire Princesse on the Loire River in France to operate six- and eight-day cruises; the 132-passenger Gil Eanes on the Douro River in Portugal; and the newly renovated Camargue on the Rhône and Saône rivers. | 800-768-7232

Emerald Waterways
This company announced it will build a fifth river ship for delivery in early 2016. The 182-passenger Emerald Belle is under construction in the Netherlands.

For this year it is introducing two new “Star Ships”: the Emerald Dawn and Emerald Sun, which will have 72 suites and 20 staterooms, including two built for solo occupancy and some with an “indoor balcony” that lets guests push a button to open the upper half of the floor-to-ceiling window. The top suites have a full balcony. The ships also have a heated swimming pool with a retractable glass roof, two restaurants, a hair salon, massage therapy room and fitness area.

Last October, Emerald introduced the same-sized Emerald Star. | 855-222-3214

European Waterways
European Waterways is operating two seven-night, opera-themed cruises on the hotel barge La Bella Vita departing July 11 and Sept. 5, with live performances at a former Roman amphitheater.

In 2016, the company will launch the eight-passenger barge, Finesse, which will cruise in Southern Burgundy. | 877-879-8808

French Country Waterways
This American-owned company offers cruises aboard five luxury hotel barges on the canals and waterways of Burgundy, Loire Valley, Alsace-Lorraine and Champagne. The six-day journey through the Upper Loire Valley aboard the eight-passenger Horizon II was lengthened this year from Chatillon-sur-Loire to Saint-Satur, adding visits to two more chateaux. | 800-222-1236

A builder of river- and small-ships that often are booked and chartered by tour operators, Haimark launched the 56-passenger Ganges Voyager in India in January. It operates seven-night round-trips from Kolkata, India, and offers optional land extensions. (A second vessel, the Ganges Voyager II, is scheduled to enter service on Jan. 6, 2016, for Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection.)

The company now offers cruises on the Great Lakes, Atlantic Coast and St. Lawrence Seaway on the 200-passenger Saint Laurent. In colder weather, it will operate throughout the Caribbean, and Central and South America.

In September, Haimark will launch a 24-guest, all-suite, “spa concept” ship named Mekong Princess. The company says it will have “the most extensive spa menu of any ship on the Mekong River” with massages, facials, scrubs and body wraps.

The company also is planning a 44-passenger vessel to operate six-night voyages on the Peruvian Amazon.

For river cruises: | 800-798-4223

For Saint Laurent: | 855-424-6275

Scenic Cruises
Scenic Cruises is building a new 68-passenger river cruise ship, the Scenic Spirit, to begin sailing in January 2016 on the Mekong River in Vietnam and Cambodia.

It also will introduce two new “Space Ships” this year — the 169-passenger Scenic Opal and Scenic Jasper. They’ll have a “split pool” on the sun deck, with one area for cooling down and the other side for swimming laps while staying in place. | 855-517-1200

This month Tauck introduces the MS Esprit, the fifth ship in the118-guest Jewel class, to operate on the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers. The ship has 14 suites that measure 300 square feet, seven 183-square-foot staterooms and standard 150-square-foot cabins. Eighty-five percent of the accommodations have floor-to-ceiling windows with French balconies that open, while all cabins have in-room movies, minibar, adjustable heating and cooling, and private bathroom and shower.

The company revealed that it will add two 130-guest Inspiration-class riverboats in 2016 — the MS Joy and MS Grace. They’ll have more suites — 22 — and the unique loft cabins on the lowest deck will still have windows that open. The Joy will operate exclusively on the Danube, while Grace will cruise on the Rhine. | 800-788-7885

Un-Cruise Adventures
This company operates the 88-guest S.S. Legacy, a replica coastal steamer, on the Columbia and Snake rivers. It will offer several theme cruises this year, including an enhanced Lewis & Clark exploration, with departures on May 16, May 23, Oct. 31 and Nov. 7. | 888-862-8881

Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection
Uniworld is introducing the 150-guest S.S. Maria Theresa on the “European Jewels” itinerary from Budapest to Amsterdam. The ship also will sail on the springtime tulips cruise and holiday cruises.

PHOTO: Uniworld is introducing the 150-guest S.S. Maria Theresa on the “European Jewels” itinerary from Budapest to Amsterdam.

Similar to the S.S. Catherine and Antoinette, the new vessel has lavishly furnished staterooms and public areas, as well as several lounges, a heated swimming pool, spa, Viennese café, and free Internet and Wi-Fi access. | 800-257-2407

Victoria Cruises
This company specializes in itineraries along China’s Yangtze River between Shanghai and Beijing aboard seven ships. | 800-348-8084

Viking River Cruises
Showing no signs of slowing down, Viking this year plans to christen 12 new ships — 10 more 190-passenger Longships and two 98-guest vessels for the Elbe River.

The company made more news earlier this year when it revealed plans to base six 300-passenger river ships in New Orleans starting in late 2017. They will operate on the Mississippi River from New Orleans with stops in St. James, East Baton Rouge and West Feliciana parishes in Louisiana, and continuing upriver to Memphis, St. Louis or St. Paul, Minn., depending on the season. | 800-706-1483


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Vacation Agent Magazine

A version of this article appears in print in the April 2015 issue of Vacation Agent Magazine.


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