ith new options for the Douro, additional paddlewheel vessels on the Loire, new hotel barges and six more Viking Longships, this is going to be another busy year for launches on Europe’s rivers.
Amadeus Silver III
This 168-passenger vessel makes its debut on the Rhine in April. Amadeus River Cruises, an Austrian company, targets independent travellers who prefer not to have shore tours included in the price. Most cabins have drop-down windows; for more space book a suite, as these have a small balcony and a sitting area. Café Vienna caters for those feeling peckish between meals.
Best feature? Walk-in wardrobes that give cabins a feeling of space.
From £1,456 per person for a seven-night Classical Rhine cruise from Amsterdam to Basel, departing July 25, 2016. Excludes flights
Cabins on AmaWaterways’ two new 158-passenger river vessels offer a combination of French windows and outdoor balcony. For parents and children who want to travel as a family, the ship has a few rooms offering sofa beds and connecting doors. The ships will sail in Holland from April and move to the Danube when the tulip season ends. Bikes on board can be borrowed for free.
Best feature? A heated pool with swim-up bar on the sun deck.
From £1,599 per person for a seven-night Melodies of the Danube cruise from Budapest to Vilshofen on AmaViola, departing November 10, 2016
Avalon Imagery II/Avalon Passion
These Avalon Waterways vessels are different sizes – Imagery II holds 104 passengers, Passion 134 – but they have the same stylish furnishings, a bistro serving light food at lunch and dinner and whirlpools on the sun deck.
Most of the cabins feature wall-to-wall windows that open three-quarters of the width of the room to create an “inside balcony”. Imagery II will be sailing the Rhine, and Passion is to cruise the Rhine and Danube.
Best feature? Window-facing beds let you wake to a river view.
From £1,604 per person for a 10-day Balkan Discovery cruise from Bucharest to Budapest on Avalon Passion, departing October 28, 2016 (0800 668 1843; avaloncruises.co.uk).
With two rear-mounted paddlewheels and a shallow draft of just 90cm, this CroisiEurope vessel has been specially designed to navigate the notoriously low waters of the river Elbe in Germany. She launches in April, holds just 80 passengers and has cheery decor featuring vivid colours. The cruise fares include most alcoholic drinks.
CroisiEurope is also launching a 24-passenger hotel barge on the Loire, called Déborah.
Best feature? Watching the paddlewheels thrashing the water.
From £1,396 per person for a nine-day Berlin to Prague cruise on the Elbe and Vltava rivers, departing October 28, 2016. A seven-day Discover the Loire Canal cruise on Déborah, departing May 26, 2016, costs from £1,470 per person. Both fares exclude flights
Emerald Waterways’ smart, boutique-hotel approach to ship interiors is repeated on the new 182-passenger Emerald Belle. Cabins have sun lounges with French windows, and the dining choices include multi-course meals, light food and on-deck barbecues. A small pool has 270-degree river views and a retractable roof. Belle will sail monththe Rhine and Danube; launch date to be confirmed.
Best feature? Come evening the pool area converts into a small cinema.
From around £1,495 per person for an eight-day Danube Delights cruise from Budapest to Nuremberg
Offering an intimate alternative to larger river-cruise vessels, European Waterways’ new hotel barge will sail the River Saône and the Canal du Centre in Southern Burgundy, France, from May. She holds eight passengers, has inside and outside dining and all alcohol, champagne too, is included in the fare. When passengers tire of the views there are “chef at work” demonstrations in the galley.
Best feature? Borrow a bike and see more of the countryside.
From £3,950 per person for a six-day Classic Cruise in Burgundy from St-Jean-de-Losne to Montchanin, departing May 1, 2016. Excludes flights
Scenic Azure/Scenic Amber
Scenic Azure is a smaller version of the line’s “Space Ships”, which sail the Rhine and Danube, and is built to navigate the smaller locks and meandering route of the Douro river in Portugal. Launching in April, she holds 96 passengers, and has a pool and butler service for them all. There is a café and a speciality Italian eatery in addition to the main restaurant. Table La Rive is an invitation-only restaurant for passengers on the Diamond deck. Scenic Amber, a Space-Ship launching on the Rhine and Danube in May, has the same features and holds 169 passengers.
Best feature? The double-aspect Royal Panorama Suites.
From £1,995 per person for an eight-day Delightful Douro round trip from Porto on Scenic Azure, departing October 13, 2016
Accommodation that won’t cost the earth and comes with a view? Tauck’s redesigned loft cabins are on the lower deck and not only have a large window that opens but also a raised seating area so that occupants can see out (all other vessels have lower-deck cabins with sealed windows and no view). Grace and Joy will be sailing the Rhine and Danube from April and June respectively. Their 130 passengers are looked after by a cruise manager and three tour directors. Passengers will also find a new grill restaurant on board.
Best feature? The four single cabins do not incur a supplement.
From £2,770 per person for an eight-day Romantic Rhine cruise from Basel to Amsterdam on Grace, departing October 20, 2016. Excludes flights
US company Vantage Travel is expanding its fleet with the 176-passenger River Voyager on the Rhine in March (its cruises will be sold in the UK by Ponders Travel). A jazz theme sees suites named after Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Dizzy Gillespie. Meals are served in the Bourbon Street Bistro. The Cotton Club Lounge offers lighter dishes and complimentary ice-cream.
Best feature: a hydraulic chairlift to the sun deck for less able passengers.
From £1,879 per person for a seven-night Rhine Discovery cruise from Basel to Amsterdam, departing March 28, 2016 (01954 232802; ponderstravel.co.uk).
Viking Tialfi, Alruna, Egil, Vilhjalm, Kadlin and Rolf
This year will see six more of Viking River Cruises’ popular Longships join the fleet. The vessels hold 190 passengers and have cabins and suites with either walk-out verandas or French balconies. Two large Explorer Suites have wrap-around balconies and 180-degree views.
Viking Tialfi and Alruna launch on the Rhine in April; Egil and Vilhjalm will be on the Danube from March and April respectively; and Kadlin and Rolf sail the Seine from March. Another ship, the 106-passenger Viking Osfrid will launch on the Douro in March.
Best feature? Alfresco dining on the Aquavit Terrace with a glass or two of the complimentary wine.
From £1,695 per person for an eight-day Paris and the Heart of Normandy round trip from Paris on Viking Kadlin, departing April 1, 2016. A 10-day holiday pairing a River of Gold Douro cruise on Viking Osfrid, from Porto, with two nights in Lisbon costs from £2,145 per person, departing July 24, 2016
This Pandaw vessel entered service on the Irrawaddy in Burma in mid-January for trips that are more private tour than cruise, but at a fraction of the cost. Kha Byoo holds 18 passengers in nine cabins finished in teak and brass. All have French windows on both the port and starboard sides. There is butler service, an on-board bakery and lighter food options for those who are watching their waistline.
Best feature? All guest balconies open to a wrap-around deck.
From £2,095 per person for a 10-night Pagan and the Upper Irrawaddy cruise from Mandalay to Bagan, departing August 28, 2016. Excludes flights
Scenic Spirit/Scenic Aura
Scenic is making its river-cruising debut in Asia with these all-suite, all-balcony vessels. Each has a pool, open-air film-screening areas and an all-day River Café serving Asian dishes. The 68-passenger Scenic Spirit started sailing the Mekong River in Cambodia and Vietnam on January 26. Scenic Aura launches on the Irrawaddy in Burma in September with capacity for 44 passengers.
Best feature? On selected evenings the chef fires up the barbecue for a teppanyaki dinner.
From £4,390 per person for a 16-day Mystical Irrawaddy itinerary pairing a 10-night cruise on Scenic Aura from Pyay to Mandalay with two nights in Yangon, departing October 6, 2016
Puppet shows, lectures and massages await on Princess Panhwar, a new 72-passenger vessel launched on the Irrawaddy in January by Travelmarvel, a four-star brand owned by APT. The Asian-style decor is elegant and the cabin count includes two spacious Princess Suites. Keep fit while watching the world go by in the sun-deck-level fitness centre.
Best feature? Affordable luxury on the Irrawaddy.
From £3,995 per person for a 17-day Majestic Burma cruise from Mandalay to Yangon, departing December 15, 2017
Ganges Voyager II
The 56-passenger Ganges Voyager II is a throwback to the days of the Raj, with heavy wooden furniture, four-poster beds, hand-painted murals and gilded wall panelling. The suites are large, with tall ceilings and French balconies.
A comfortable way to discover remote temples and mosques along the Ganges, she started sailing in India in January and is operated by Uniworld.
Best feature? Beautiful solid-wood decks throughout.
From £6,049 per person for a 14-day India’s Golden Triangle and the Sacred Ganges holiday combining a seven-night cruise (a round trip from Kolkata) with a five-night tour visiting Delhi, Agra and Jaipur, departing November 27, 2016
Bronte, Hardy, Oscar Wilde
Looking ahead, to three river boats named after British literary giants Emily Brontë, Thomas Hardy and Oscar Wilde. Launching on the Rhine and Danube for Riviera Travel next year the all-suite ships (from 17 sq m in size) will hold 169 passengers.
Riviera is also chartering a new vessel on the Douro in Portugal next year. The Douro Elegance will hold 126 passengers and sail seven-night cruises round-trip from Porto that include a day in Salamanca in Spain and port tastings.
Best feature? Beautiful solid-wood decks throughout. At 135 metres long and finished in wood panelling and brass, the trio will be the company’s largest river boats.
From £1,099 per person for a seven-night cruise visiting Vienna, Budapest and Salzburg