Viking River Cruises had only four boats when it was founded in 1997. Today the line dominates the world’s rivers, with vessels in Europe, Russia, the Ukraine, Southeast Asia, China and Egypt. In March, Viking christened 12 new river vessels, including 10 Longships and two custom vessels for the Elbe River, bringing the fleet size to 60. All 10 new Longships will be deployed on Viking itineraries in Europe.
Founded in 1976, Uniworld was a pioneer in the North American market and today has 18 ships, including the new S.S. Maria Theresa, which sails on the Rhine, Main and Danube. Like its sister, the S.S. Catherine, the new 150-passenger ship has 75 luxuriously appointed and spacious (most between 162 and 194 square feet) cabins. Ten suites on the upper deck measure between 305 and 410 square feet. Unique to the Catherine and Maria Theresa, are open-air balconies. All suites come with butler service and a complimentary in-suite wellness treatment per guest. Looking forward to 2016, Uniworld will be the first major cruise company to offer a combined river cruise and land tour to India aboard the 56-passenger Ganges Voyager II (which brings the fleet to 19).
Australian-owned Scenic Cruises increases its European fleet to 11 vessels with two “Space Ship” vessels, the Scenic Opal and Scenic Jasper. The new ships carry 169 passengers, have 85 cabins ranging in size from 160 square feet for standard cabins to the two Royal Panorama suites at 475 square feet. Cabins in the middle and upper decks have Sun Lounge balconies, where the top half of the floor-to-ceiling retractable windows can be opened. New features include a split pool on the sundeck: a warm-water pool and a resistance pool for swimming laps (a first on river vessels). The ships sail Rhine, Main and Danube itineraries. Already on sale for 2016, the 68-passenger Scenic Spirit, with only two-room suites, from 350 square feet to 865 square feet. The large Royal Panorama Suite will have a rainfall shower, an extra large bathtub, a walk-in dressing room; the outside deck will have a dining table, daybed and Jacuzzi.
Emerald Waterways has two new 182-passenger ships, the Emerald Dawn and Emerald Sun. Each has 92 cabins and five categories (including two solo cabins), with staterooms ranging from 162 square feet to the Owners’ Suites at 315 square feet. Most cabins have a balcony area inside the drop-down floor-to-ceiling windows. An interesting feature is the swimming pool with retractable glass roof; the pool converts to a cinema at night.
AmaWaterways’ new 164-passenger AmaSerena sails along the Danube, Main, Rhine and Dutch and Belgian waterways. Most staterooms have Ama’s unique twin balconies (French balcony plus a full-size step-out balcony) and a swim-up bar. New are the line’s connecting cabins with a number of joint staterooms.
Coming in August and sailing the Mekong River, the 124-passenger AmaDara, which has accommodations ranging from 226 square feet for standard cabins to 452-square-foot Luxury Suites; all have the twin balconies.
For passengers who want a more active experience, the line has partnered with Backroads to provide such options as new seven-night Danube River Bicycling Cruises; more options will be available in 2016. Also new next year: 22 “Taste of Bordeaux” sailings aboard the AmaDolce on France’s Garonne and Dordogne Rivers.
Tauck’s new 118-passenger MS Esprit is the company’s fifth Jewel Class ship and brings the fleet size to seven vessels. The company adds a new 23-day, three-country/two ship itinerary, as well as a new Tauck Bridges family cruise on the Rhine, bringing its total number of European river itineraries to 19.
Avalon Waterways adds the 128- passenger Tranquility II and Tapestry II to ply the rivers of Europe. Both ships have two decks of suites featuring the wall-to-wall sliding panoramic windows that create open-air balconies with seating for six. Standard cabins are 200 square feet; Royal Suites are 300 square feet and have king-size beds and full-size bathrooms.
Coming in September, the 36-passenger Avalon Myanmar has 18 cabins measuring 245 square feet. The ship will sail the Irawaddy River.
The company adds two more ships in 2016: the Passion II and the Imagery.
The debut of CroisiEurope’s new 96-passenger MS Loire Princesse marks the first-ever overnight cruise vessel on the Loire, France’s longest river. The ship has 48 outside cabins, each with a 40-square-foot balcony. Also new, the 132-passenger MS Gil Eanes, which cruises the Douro; and the 146-passenger refurbished Camargue, which sails the Rhone and Saone.
For the 2016-2017 season, the company will add two new river ships: the 80-passenger Elbe Princess, to sail on the Elbe and Moldau and the 60-passenger Apsara Princesse, which will join the four other vessels sailing the Mekong.
Austria-based Luftner Cruises’s 168-passenger Amadeus Silver II brings the size of the company’s fleet to 12 ships in Europe and two on the rivers of Southeast Asia. Sister to the Amadeus Silver, the new ship has 78 standard cabins and 12 suites, all with full balconies; features include a glass-shielded River Terrace and the classic Café Vienna.
Early this year Haimark, Ltd launched the 56-passenger Ganges Voyager, which will be followed later this year by the 24-passenger, all-suite spa ship, the Mekong Princess, which will homeport in Ho Chi Minh City and sail the Mekong through Vietnam and Cambodia. Also coming later this year, the 44-passenger Amazon Discovery, which will sail the Peruvian Amazon.
Pandaw River Cruises expands its presence in Asia with the Kha Byoo Pandaw, which entered service early this year and the Kaladan Pandaw, which debuts in the fall; each carries 20 passengers. Late in 2015 the luxury river cruise company will offer the first Mekong sailings that cross Laos on the new RV Laos Pandaw.
U.K.-based Riviera Travel has two new ships sailing the rivers of Europe with a variety of itineraries: the Charles Dickens and the Jane Austen, each carrying 140 passengers
Cruising the rivers of the United States, American Cruise Lines added the 150-passenger American Eagle (on the Mississippi) to its fleet.