Going into 2016, river cruising is a trend that’s still very much top of mind for both travel sellers and consumers, with more and more options coming into the marketplace, including more ships in both Europe and Southeast Asia, as well as India, and more options in terms of itineraries, and even more of an emphasis on family-focused river cruises. For instance, USTOA’s member survey, released last month during the organization’s annual conference and marketplace, shows that 41 percent of members are now selling river cruising. Take Avanti Destinations, which has sold FIT tours for more than 30 years, and in this new year has partnered with CroisiEurope to add more than a dozen European river cruises to its portfolio, while Adventures by Disney has partnered with AmaWaterways to create a new itinerary that sails along the Danube River and which is ideal for mom, dad and the kids. Mayflower Tours, too, has added some options to its River Cruising & Small Ship Adventures portfolio, including the new 17-day Enchanting India with a Ganges River Cruise, which includes a 7-day sailing along this magical river aboard the brand-new Ganges Voyager II.
River cruise companies themselves are not resting on their laurels either, with many expanding their fleet and upping the ante when it comes to spruced-up itineraries. Scenic announced late last year that its new purpose-built ship, the 34-suite Scenic Spirit, will offer eight brand-new itineraries that explore the Mekong River’s destinations of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. Itineraries, which range from eight to 27 days and start at $2,445 pp dbl, include the 8-day Luxury Mekong River Cruise, sailing from Siem Reap, Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, as well as the 17-day Gems of Southeast Asia and the 27-day Grand Indochina and Luxury Mekong River Cruise.
This corner of the world is also highlighted in Pandaw River Adventures’ array of itineraries. Starting next month, the line will begin sailing a new 4-country river journey that’s priced from $2,800 pp and cruises the remote Upper Mekong from the Golden Triangle region to Myanmar, Laos and then crossing the border into China sailing to Jinghong in China’s Yunnan Province; weekly departure dates for the 7-night Mekong to China cruise run from Feb. 29 to April 18. If that booking window is too tight, another new journey for the line is the 7-night Chindwin: A Voyage to Nagaland (starting at $2,975 pp with departures in September), exploring the Chindwin River beyond Homalin and into Nagaland, a region of Myanmar close to the Indian border.
Heritage Line has a new ship, the luxury paddlewheeler Anawrahta, set to sail, as of press time, early this year on the Irrawaddy and accommodating 46 passengers. The line says that the new paddlewheeler offers the largest cabin space on this river in Myanmar and the highest crew to passenger ratio (there are 46 crew members). Sailing options include the 5-day Golden Land Voyage; the 12-day Exotic Chindwin;
and the 12-day Ayeyarwady Explorer, among others.
Over in Europe, where the river cruise craze began, so to speak, Crystal River Cruises has opened its European river cruise itineraries for bookings. The newly acquired and redesigned Crystal Mozart will begin sailing in just a few months, July, and the four newly built vessels, Crystal Bach, Crystal Debussy, Crystal Mahler, and Crystal Ravel, will start their voyages in June and August 2017. The 160-passenger Crystal Mozart will sail the Danube River on two 10- and 11-night cruises, plus a 10- to 13-night Christmas and New Year’s Eve voyage. The 84-guest Crystal Debussy will depart on her maiden voyage along the Seine in June 2017 offering 5-, 7- and 10-night voyages that explore the City of Light with multiple overnights, and the Crystal Bach’s maiden voyage also takes place in June 2017 with a 14-night itinerary that includes Amsterdam, Basel, and Ruedesheim, Germany as it travels along the Rhine and Moselle rivers. The 84-guest Crystal Ravel sets off in August 2017 exploring the Garonne and Dordogne rivers, as well as the Gironde Estuary on a 7-night cruise. The longest of Crystal River Cruises’ itineraries take place on board the Crystal Mahler, whose maiden voyage is set for August 2017. The 16-night Grand Europe itinerary sails along the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers.
Viking River Cruises is holding its own in Europe’s river cruise marketplace with the launch of six new river ships: five Viking Longships—Alruna, Egil, Kadlin, Rolf, and Tialfi—and a smaller, custom-built ship for the Douro River, Osfrid, bringing Viking’s total number of ships on that river in Portugal to three. The line has also launched several cruise and cruisetour itineraries for 2016, many of which expand on Viking’s most popular routes, including the 8-day Lyon & Provence cruise that sails from Lyon to Avignon, and the 16-day Poland, Prague & the Elegant Elbe cruisetour that departs from Berlin and concludes in Warsaw.
Adventures by Disney: disneytravelagents.com
Avanti Destinations: avantidestinations.com
Crystal River Cruises: crystalcruises.com
Heritage Line: heritage-line.com
Mayflower Tours: mayflowertours.com
Pandaw River Adventures: pandaw.com
Viking River Cruises: vikingrivercruises.com