This Week in Cruise: American Empress Christened; Avalon Waterways Brings New Ships to Saone and Rhone Rivers

In early April, the American Queen Steamboat Company’s American Empress was christened in downtown Portland, Ore. The 223-guest riverboat is the largest west of the Mississippi River,  and officially joins the company’s fleet with the Memphis-based American Queen. 

Claudette Waggoner, wife of chairman and CEO John Waggoner, is the godmother of the American Empress. The U.S.-flagged American Empress was built in 2003 and operated by Majestic America Line from 2003 to 2008 under the name Empress of the North. The ship sailed Alaska’s Inside Passage and the Pacific Northwest. The American Queen Steamboat Company purchased the riverboat from the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) and has had a team onboard preparing for her launch on the Columbia and Snake Rivers since May 2013.

Avalon Waterways announced a decision to bring two Suite Ships to French rivers. The new Avalon Poetry II (unveiled in March) will sail the Saone and Rhône Rivers. Avalon Waterways will unveil a new Suite Ship – the Avalon Tapestry II – on the Seine River in 2015.

The company is also unveiling a new itinerary on two French rivers: The Rhine and the Rhône Revealed. On this 14-night cruise, travelers will experience two Suite Ships – the Tranquility II and Poetry II – as they sail through the Rhine Gorge and enjoy French destinations such as Lyon, Avignon and Arles.

Continuing its seemingly endless ship expansion, Viking River Cruises ordered 12 new river vessels for 2015 – 10 additional Viking Longships and two vessels for the Elbe River. Next year will also see the launch of two new itineraries highlighting the Rhine River. The announcement comes directly on the heels of Viking's christening last month of 18 vessels across four countries in five days and will bring the company's total fleet size to 64 river vessels in 2015.

Of the 12 vessels on order for 2015, 10 are Viking Longships, which have an all-weather indoor/outdoor Aquavit Terrace that has retractable floor-to-ceiling glass doors. 

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