It’s been a busy week for river cruises. From a major new operator debuting in the U.S. to updates from Europe and China, here’s what you need to know.
A major new river cruise operator is launching in the U.S. Through a new national sales office in Fairfield, Connecticut, and a new website launching April 3, 2017, American customers will be now able to book cruises through UK-based river cruise line Riviera Travel. 11 itineraries are now available, with sailings starting in 2018.
Riviera Travel itineraries available to U.S. customers include cruises on the Rhine, Moselle, Main, Rhone and Duoro rivers aboard the MS Lord Byron, MS Jane Austen, MS William Shakespeare, MS Charles Dickens and MS Swiss Coronoa and, new in 2017, the MS Thomas Hardy, MS Emily Bronte, MS Robert Burns and MS Duoro Elegance. The MS Thomas Hardy will be cruising the Danube from April to October 2017, the MS Emily Bronte will be cruising the Netherlands, the Rhine, Moselle and Danube from April to October 2017 and the MS Oscar Wilde will be cruising the Rhine, Moselle and Danube from April to October 2017.
In new ship news, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection launched its newest ship, the SS Joie de Vivre, last Monday. The inaugural events included a christening ceremony in Paris led by the ship’s Godmother, Dame Joan Collins. Following the event, the S.S. Joie de Vivre embarked on its journey through northern France along Uniworld’s Paris & Normandy itinerary, with unique programming in celebration of the launch.
Crystal River Cruises was also showing off its upcoming new ships at its Sales Gala event this week. Crystal Bach and Crystal Mahler will now debut on August 13 and September 30, 2017, respectively, after a brief delay while the line finalizes the ships' new features, including a Palm Court with a glass ceiling and rooms with floor-to-ceiling glass walls that become French Balconies at the touch of a button.
AmaWaterways in May is officially christening the AmaKristina, which will sail from Basel to Amsterdam to celebrate its official launch. AmaWaterways co-owner Kristin Karst is the godmother of the vessel, which was designed with connecting cabins to cater to the multi-generational and group markets. The design also includes more twin-balcony (French and outside balconies) staterooms and expanded fitness rooms and salon and massage areas on the lower deck.
On U.S. rivers, a major river vessel just added some new luxury suites. The American Queen from American Queen Steamboat Company converted eight of its interior cabins into four new Luxury Suites. Other repairs and improvements carried out during the ship's winter lay-up include sand-sweeping and painting of the hull; adding new decking to deck three; new tiles for all public restrooms and approximately 25 guest bathrooms; and a rebuild of the River Grill & Bar.
In Europe, Emerald Waterways has launched the River Cruise Travel Guarantee program, an offering that was first launched by the line's sister company, Scenic Luxury Cruises.
The new program covers travelers for incidents including delays or cancellations due to weather, natural disasters, mechanical breakdowns or labor strikes, as well as high and low water issues.
In other news from the line, Emerald Waterways has added a new departure date for its itinerary along the Douro River in Portugal, which debuted this year, citing high demand. The eight-day voyage, which will sail aboard the company's soon-to-launch Emerald Radiance, departs Porto on November 4.
Speaking of high demand, this week Victoria Cruises said that high demand has prompted it to reposition the Victoria Sophia on its Three Gorges Highlights program, which sails China's Yangtze River. The vessel joins the rest of Victoria Cruises' fleet of ships offering three-and four-night cruises between Chongqing and Yichang.