Thursday Briefing: What to Expect From a Busy Europe Cruise Season

(Photo by entrechat/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images) Photo by entrechat/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

The recent delivery of Viking Sky, the third new cruise ship for Viking Ocean Cruises, is just the latest development in store for Europe’s cruise sector. 

On February 25, Viking Sky will set sail from Rome's port at Civitavecchia and will make its way through the Mediterranean on its inaugural voyage, offering Mediterranean itineraries through the spring before being officially christened in Norway June 22. After that, it will continue to sail itineraries in Scandinavia and the Baltic before crossing the Atlantic in September on its way to the Americas and the Caribbean.

The new ship is launching at a time of major expansion for Viking. In addition to November’s launch of the Viking Sun, its fourth new ship, Viking is rolling out 13 new itineraries over the next three years, as well as two new Longships hitting Europe’s rivers by the end of 2017. 

Another river cruise line, Emerald Waterways, is also expanding this year with the launch of three new ships that will almost double its fleet size, allowing it to expand its river cruise offerings in Europe to include France and Portugal. The new ships are: Emerald Destiny, which will begin sailing the Rhine and Danube rivers in April; Emerald Liberté, set to start sailing the Rhone and Saône rivers in France in April; and Emerald Radiance, which will sail the Douro river in Portugal beginning in May. While the Emerald Destiny will have the same specifications as its sibling ships, Sun, Star, Dawn and Sky, the Emerald Radiance will offer the new Riverview Suites cabin category, with drop-down windows and a separate bedroom and living area. The Emerald Liberté will have the same amenities as the Emerald Destiny, but with a smaller capacity of 138 guests. 

Looking further ahead to 2018, that April will see the debut of Carnival Horizon, the newest ship from Carnival Cruise Line and the successor to the recently-launched Carnival Vista. Offering many of the same features as the Carnival Vista, the Carnival Horizon will offer cruises in the Mediterranean through April before repositioning to the U.S. with a 14-day transatlantic crossing departing Barcelona May 9. 

Spring 2018 will also see the debut of two new ships for Crystal River Cruises, Crystal Debussy and Crystal Ravel, which will cruise the Rhine, the Danube, the Main and the Moselle, exploring the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Hungary. The all-balcony, all-suite river ships will accommodate up to 106 guests, and offer services and amenities including a 1.55 guest to crew ratio, Crystal’s butler service for every suite, king-sized beds that face toward the Panoramic Balcony Windows, walk-in closets, and wall-mounted flatscreen HD TVs. Additional features include Crystal’s cuisine in multiple eateries and a swimming pool.

CroisiEurope is also expanding its fleet with the recent start of construction on its third paddle-wheel riverboat, the MS Elbe Princesse II. It will operate between Berlin and Prague on the Elbe and Vltava Rivers, with a design similar to the original MS Elbe Princesse, which launched in 2016. The new ship is slated for delivery in February 2018. 

2017 and 2018 will, of course, see plenty of new river cruise options for foodies. From Avalon Waterways’ “Avalon Fresh” program to private wine tastings from Abercrombie & Kent, our cruise editor Susan J. Young has rounded up a comprehensive guide to upcoming culinary river cruises here

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