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Europe River Cruises

Written by  Lillian Africano

As river cruises continue to grow in popularity, those on Europe’s rivers still top the list. CLIA cruise line members currently have 170 ships on the world’s rivers (most in Europe), with 18 new vessels (most will sail in Europe) on order for 2016.

The big news this year is Crystal Cruises’ debut on Europe’s rivers. Just as Viking’s first ocean ship set new milestones in ocean cruising, Crystal takes luxury to new heights on the rivers. The 160-guest Crystal Mozart, first in the fleet of new river ships will sail the Danube starting in July. Four more vessels will debut in 2017: the 84-passenger Crystal Debussy (the Seine River); the 84-passenger Crystal Ravel (the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers and Gironde Estuary); the 110-passenger Crystal Bach (the Rhine River) and the 110-passenger Crystal Mahler (the Rhine, Main and Danube Rivers).
Back in November, when the line announced it would launch five luxury river yachts (three more than previously stated), it also pushed up the debut date to 2016, a year earlier than had been planned. Crystal’s President and CEO Edie Rodriguez said: “We are going to deliver the most luxurious river experience in the industry with a combination of innovative vessel designs, unmatched guest service and fascinating
Reflecting this promise, the 160-passenger Crystal Mozart is larger and wider (twice the width of the average river boat), which allows for such unique features a wraparound promenade, an indoor swimming pool, a spa and fitness center, beauty salon, library and multiple dining rooms and a Palm Court with a glass-domed roof and a dance floor (the four other vessels will also have this feature).
The Mozart’s all-suite configuration has window suites (203 square feet); deluxe suites (215 square feet) a penthouse suite (322 square feet) and two two-bedroom Crystal suites (860 square feet), the largest ever river suite.
During port days, guests will be offered a variety of the immersive Crystal Adventures; these will include luxury motor coaches with business-class style seating, complimentary Wi-Fi and knowledgeable local guides. For guests who prefer more physical activity, Crystal will offer the new Active Exploration Adventures. During portions of each cruise, the luxury yachts will sail during daytime hours so guests have the option of enjoying the nightlife in select ports.

NEWS From other lines
AmaWaterways will launch two more river ships to cruise Europe’s waterways; both are sister ships to the AmaSerena. The 158-passenger AmaVida will sail Danube and Rhine River cruises and the 158-passenger AmaStella will cruise the Danube, starting in Budapest and Vienna.
Avalon debuts two “suite ships” in April: the 164-passenger Avalon Passion, with cruises on the Danube, the Rhine and Main (and an itinerary to the Black Sea) and the Avalon Imagery II, with cruises on the Rhine. In other 2016 news, the line will retire the Avalon Scenery, which sails the Rhone River; replacing it will be the Avalon Affinity, which currently sails on the Rhine.
CroisiEurope will launch one riverboat and two barges in Europe this spring. The 80-passenger paddlewheeler MS Princesse Elbe, sister to the MS Loire Princesse will sail year-round from Berlin to Prague on the Elbe and Moldau rivers.  The 24-passenger hotel barge MS Daniele, will travel on the Briare Canal between Burgundy and the Loire Valley. The 24-passenger hotel barge MS Deborah will travel along the Garonne Canal.
Emerald Waterways continues to expand in Europe. In addition to the new Emerald Belle, which will sail on the Rhine and Danube rivers in 2016-2017, the line will add two ships in 2017: the 138-passenger Emerald Liberté, which will sail on France’s Rhône and Saône rivers and the Emerald 112-passenger Radiance, which will sail a new itinerary on Portugal’s Douro River.
European Waterways will debut the 8-passenger hotel barge Finesse in May; it will sail the River Saône River and Canal du Centre in Southern Burgundy.
Lueftner Cruises launches the 180-passenger MS Amadeus Silver III this spring; it will sail tulip cruises in Holland and Belgium and Rhine cruises from Amsterdam to Basel.
In April, Scenic Tours adds to its European fleet with the Scenic Azure, which will cruise Portugal’s Douro River; the itinerary can be combined with river cruises in France in the Bordeaux region and along the Seine river.
Also in April, Tauck River Cruises introduces a new luxury ship, the 130-passenger ms Grace, which sails the Rhine and Moselle rivers. In June, Tauck’s 130-passenger ms Joy begins Danube River cruises.
Viking River Cruises continues to lead the industry in the number of ships in its fleet. Seven new 180-passenger longships will debut in Europe in 2016, bringing the total number in the fleet to 60+. Six of the longships will launch in March. The Alruna and the Tialfi will sail 7-night Rhine Getaway cruises; the Egil sails 7-night Rhine Getaway cruises, as well as 9-night Bavaria to Budapest itineraries and a 14-night Grand European cruise; the Kadlin and the Rolf sail 7-night Paris and the Heart of Normandy cruises; the Osfrid sails cruises on the Douro River, from Lisbon to Portugal. Debuting in April, the Vilhjalm will sail Danube River itineraries. In other 2016 news, Viking returns to the Ukraine after a two-year absence with a Kiev to the Black Sea itinerary on the Dnieper River aboard the 196-passegenger Viking Sineus (formerly the Viking Lomonosov), which was refurbished in 2014.

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