Once again, Europe remains the epicenter of the river cruising universe in 2014. As the competition heats up, river cruise lines are rolling out more innovative ships, itineraries and destinations than ever before. And that’s great news for those looking to book a journey on the waterways of Europe next year.
Let’s get the big news out of the way first: River cruising juggernaut Viking Rivers will be christening a total of 14 new Viking Longships in a ceremony in Avignon, France in March, and it is introducing the first Longship sailings in France at the same time. Another 14 Longships will enter service in 2015, and if the past is any indication, that number will rise by two or three vessels before the year is out.
Australian-based Scenic Tours isn’t being coy about its plans either. In addition to taking delivery of the 126-guest Scenic Gem, the company is also rolling out a whole list of new inclusions for the New Year, such as butler service for all guests onboard; unlimited complimentary beverages; new Scenic “Sun Lounges”; and all transfers, tipping and gratuities included in the cost of the voyage.
Scenic is also rolling out a brand-new, 11-day Gems of the Seine river cruise through France, calling on Paris, Conflans, Vernon, Caudebec-en-Caux; Les Andelys; Rouen; and Honfleur. You can choose to participate in one of the many included adventures ashore — including 37 new ‘Scenic FreeChoice’ excursions — or set out on your own with the help of Scenic’s new “Tailormade” service: a digital GPS-enabled device featuring more than 100 different touring options.
The line also announced a lower-cost alternative to its upmarket offerings, dubbed Emerald Waterways. Emerald will kick off its first sailings this Spring with two brand-new ships that feature a more a’la carte experience — at a substantially lower price-point for the cruise fare.
This year, AmaWaterways will welcome AmaSonataand AmaReinainto the fleet, both of which are sister-ships to the line’s highly successful AmaCerto. Capable of carrying just 164 guests, AmaSonata will enter service along the Danube, operating the line’s popular Tulip Time Cruise, Melodies of the Danube, The Romantic Danube, Blue Danube Discovery, Legendary Danube, Magnificent Europe, and Danube Christmas Time Cruise itineraries.
AmaReina, on the other hand, will operate the weeklong Enchanting Rhine itinerary for AmaWaterways.
New for 2014 are what the line has dubbed Limited Edition Tours, a collection of experiences ashore that are designed around a specific topic. Next year, these will range from culinary-themed tours to special guided bike tours. All are provided free of charge for guests looking for an alternative to the line’s regularly scheduled programs ashore.
Two new land programs will offer guests the ability to extend their time in Europe, with the addition of two nights in Marseille, France, or three nights in Barcelona, Spain on the line’s Provence and Spain sailings.
AmaWaterways is also enhancing its complimentary offerings for next year, which will be expanded to include unlimited fine wines, beer and soft drinks served with every lunch and dinner on the line’s European-based vessels.
Avalon Waterways isn’t sitting still, either. In 2014, the line will increase its popular enrichment river cruises by 30 percent in order to keep up with unprecedented demand.
Particularly noteworthy are the line’s two new “Great War” enrichment voyages that recognize the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I and the 70th anniversary of the D-Day Invasion in France: Avalon’s July 14, 2014 Grand France itinerary and the July 22, 2014 Paris to Normandy’s Landing Beaches.
Avalon is also rolling out additional themed cruises this year, ranging from Art & Impression voyages that focus on the rich artistic culture found in so many European cities, to cruises specializing in wine, culinary delights, European History and Politics, Jewish Heritage, Jazz or Classical music and, of course, the special festive atmosphere of the line’s Christmas Markets voyages that take place from late November through until Christmas.
CroisiEurope heads into 2014 with a big push to lure North American travelers to the line’s extensive river cruise product throughout Europe. Long a favorite with European cruisers, CroisiEurope has had immense success with its new Canals of France barge cruises.
Capable of carrying just 24 guests, the Jeanine was constructed specifically to blend the intimacy of barging with the comforts and luxury of a river cruise. It’s a concept that seems to have worked admirably. Inaugurated in Strasbourg this past spring, she will have three nearly identical sister ships plying the canals of France in 2014: Anne-Marie, Madeleine, and Raymonde.
In 2014, CroisiEurope will also begin offering a brand-new, 10-day itinerary that whisks guests from Amsterdam to Avignon. This will allow guests the unique opportunity of sailing the Rhine and the Rhône on a single voyage, with opportunities to experience some of the best ports-of-call and historic sights that are on offer in Holland, Germany and France. Departure dates will run from April to September of 2014, and a full roster of optional excursions can be found here.
A-ROSA enters its second full year of catering to the North American market in 2014, and the line is making it more attractive than ever to sail on A-ROSA vessels.
Between now and January 31, 2014, guests who put down a deposit on any 2014 sailing – in any category – will receive up to $1,000 per person in savings. If you pay in full by January 31, 2014, the line will knock off an additional 6 percent of the overall cruise fare.
A-ROSA is also offering solo travelers some amazing breaks on 2014 itineraries, including:
- Single Supplements waived in Cats A & S.
- Single Supplement reduced to 120% in Cats C & D.
- No change to supplements on suites. Available on all sailings.
Of course, as with most offers, this one is capacity-controlled and is subject to availability and change.
A-ROSA has also scheduled an entire array of 2014 itineraries spanning the Danube, Rhine and the Rhone and Saone rivers in France, with A-ROSA Stella sailing a spectacular voyage roundtrip from Lyon to Mâcon, Chalon-sur-Saône, Tournus, Lyon, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Avignon, Arles, Viviers, and La Voulte-sur-Rhône.
Popular Connecticut-based touring company Tauck is substantially expanding its operations along the waterways of Europe next year with the launch of the brand-new ms Inspire and ms Savor. Each new ship will each boast 22 spacious, 300-square foot suites; an increase of 57 percent over the company’s existing Jewel-class river cruise ships.
These new Inspiration Class vessels will also be longer than the line’s highly regarded Jewel Class river cruise ships, already some of the most spacious afloat. At 443 feet long, they’re over 80 feet longer, yet the total passenger capacity increase is set to be quite modest, with just 130 guests versus 118 for the line’s existing vessels.
The real feature to write home about, though, may well be the eight, 225-square foot staterooms that will be located on the lower Emerald deck and feature an innovative “loft” design that features a raised platform seating area situated next to the hull. These lofts will contain a seating area with a small table and two chairs, plus a raised ceiling that allows for a larger-than-average river view window. As a bonus, the upper portion of this window can open to let fresh air into the stateroom; a huge bonus for those who value that aspect of a French balcony stateroom, but who wish to remain price-aware.
Tauck is also rolling out a brand-new itinerary along the Danube. Named Danube Reflections, Tauck’s new 10-day itinerary operates eastbound between Regensburg, Germany and Vienna, Austria, or westbound from Vienna to Regensburg. Along with a seven-day cruise along the Danube, a two-night stay at the ultra-luxe Ritz-Carlton Vienna is included alongside guided sightseeing of this fascinating Austrian city and an “Imperial Evening” featuring a cocktail reception, dinner and live music and dance performances in a private Viennese palace.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruises will take delivery of the much-awaited sister ship to the incredibly popular S.S. Antoinette. But the new S.S. Catherine won’t be a mere clone of her two-year-old sister; instead, she’ll boast an entirely new décor scheme and layout.
Uniworld also goes all-inclusive in 2014, rolling in gratuities ashore and onboard into the cost of the cruise, along with all scheduled airport transfers, shore excursions, unlimited beverages, and complimentary bicycles and Nordic walking sticks to use while ashore.
The line will also continue to offer itineraries that other lines simply don’t, like sailings along Italy’s Po River aboard the recently-refurbished River Countess.
Available as an eight-day Cruise Only itinerary or as part of a more comprehensive, 13-day journey, the river cruise portion of these itineraries whisks guests roundtrip from Venice, Italy to Serravalle and Polesella, where overland excursions are offered to Ravenna, Bologna and Verona. There is also ample time to explore Venice itself, either on your own or as part of one of Uniworld’s guided tours.
In terms of distance, River Countess doesn’t travel nearly as far as her counterparts based along the Danube or the Main, but for good reason: Water levels along the Po can fluctuate wildly. Uniworld has designed an itinerary that allows it to provide guests with a flexible itinerary regardless of water levels.
No matter where you want to go in Europe in 2014, there are more ways than ever to get there – in comfort and in a style suitable to your budget.