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Spotlight on New River Cruise Ships
Choices. Choices. And more choices.


 

We've got that "new car" feeling.
Have you ever experienced the feeling you get when you first slide behind the wheel of a sleek, new fully-equipped car? While it’s hard to put into words, you probably know exactly what I'm talking about. At the minimum, it’s really, really cool; at the max, it's like paradise. While sailing on a brand-spanking new river ship may not give you the same personal high it, too, is still a really cool, very memorable experience — one you should absolutely try sooner rather than later.

Today's river ships vs yesterday's.
River ships of not even 15 years ago had 10’ x 12’ cabins, linoleum floors and bunk beds, one dining room with mediocre food, and a few optional shore excursions… not exactly inviting, huh?

But, the latest generation of river ships are a far, far cry from those poor standards. How far a cry? Today, no matter which river cruise brand you select, there are more choices than ever... a wide variety of spacious, well-appointed staterooms with great in-room entertainment systems, heated tile floors in the bathroom (Ladies, you'll love them.), and sumptuous hotel-style linens with pillow menus; multiple dining venues; spas and fitness centers; indoor or outdoor swimming pools; even elevators and theaters to name just a few new choices. Those choices also extend to the type and number of shore excursions that are available to all river cruise passengers — such as independent touring or group guided tour options. When you select your cruise, you can also choose to go less-inclusive or all-inclusive; enjoy a butler, or forget the butler; the list goes on. The bottom line: the choices river cruise buyers have now are many and increasing.

The reason for all these changes is the pressing demand for river ships that have more stateroom space, more comfort, luxurious amenities, personal service, gourmet cuisine, state-of-the-art technology, and very importantly: even more-immersive itineraries that deliver up-close and personal interaction with the destinations, people, and cultures. Today’s river cruise buyer also wants fewer people and all the appointments of a fine five-star resort. These demands are driven by an ever-expanding demographic: somewhat younger, more active, more lifestyle demanding and affluent "Boomers." The river cruise lines have listened very closely and as a result have created exceptionally contemporary, creatively designed river ships that now embody the word “CHOICE.”


Innovative features and amenities.
If you haven't yet enjoyed a voyage on a newer, state-of-the-art river ship, below is a list of some of the many new, innovative features you'll experience on board. And the BEST feature of all, the newer generation of river ships still only carry from 90–160 pampered guests.
Outdoor, or indoor swimming pools with retractable roof
Open air cinema theaters
Luxurious staterooms and suites from 125sf to 883sf
Spa and spa treatments along with massages
Complete fitness centers and daily yoga classes
Family staterooms that can accommodate up to five
Up to six “included” dining venues
Shipwide, complimentary internet wi-fi
Outdoor BBQs and Clambakes
eBikes with DIY GPS touring
Active hiking, bike tours, kayaking, and zip lining
Onboard and shore side cooking classes
Unique wine and/or cuisine focused theme cruises
Themed voyages also include art, music, Jewish-heritage, gardening, beer, political history, and more.
Select family-focused departures

Overview and highlights of new river ships entering service in 2017.
The explosive expansion and popularity of river cruising is one of the most remarkable travel industry growth stories of the last 7+ years. In recent years we have seen as many as 20 new ships entering service each year. Now, for the first time in about five years, there is a brief pause in construction with only about ten new — or completely rebuilt — ships entering service. But, these 10+ ships are exceptional to say the least!

Crystal River Cruises
Crystal luxury personified is what you'll experience on board the new, “high-tech” Crystal Bach to be launched in June of 2017 and twin sister, Crystal Mahler, joining her in August. Each ship will be the traditional 443 feet in length, but at that point they both take a radical departure from all other river cruise ship designs! They will NOT offer staterooms on the lowest deck, will only have all-balcony staterooms, and will only carry 110 pampered guests attended to by a crew of 68 — yes, we said 68 — including butlers. Crystal will have the highest crew-to-guest ratio of any river cruise line. Guests will enjoy multiple dining venues; large, large staterooms and suites up to 759sf, all with luxurious king beds; fitness center and spa with massage treatments; free internet wi-fi shipwide; bikes; and unique shore excursions which include overnight stays in key ports. So unique in fact, that special "Crystalized" touring buses follow the ships on land routes throughout the cruise just to transport the guests during shore excursions. The buses also have free wi-fi and much, much more. Both of these elegant wonders will sail the Rhine, Main and Danube Rivers.




Scenic°
Technically speaking, Scenic will not launch any new ships, but is completely rebuilding their three ships in France:  the Sapphire,  Emerald, and Diamond. During the rebuild, the ships are being completely refurbished and the number of passengers reduced down to just 155. With fewer cabins and passengers, the newly re-designed staterooms and suites will be larger and new, alternative dining venues will be added including a cooking class area. In addition, a vitality pool, gym, and complete spa treatment area will also be added. A highlight of the rebuild — two new, one-bedroom Royal Owner’s Suites each measuring a whopping 510sf, and offering a level of opulence not normally found on a river ship.


Emerald Waterways

My wife and I are looking forward to enjoying one of Emerald’s two new builds for 2017, the Liberté. As it cruises along the Rhone and Saone Rivers through the delightful wine regions of Burgundy and Provence, this sleek new ship will surround its 138 guests in a very intimate and exciting environment. The Liberté's somewhat smaller (112 guests) sister ship, Radiance (Deck Plan), will sail the waters of Portugal's majestic Douro River. Both ships feature Emerald’s Panorama Balcony Suites which have an indoor/outdoor balcony — a decked area in front of a floor-to-ceiling window. Press a button, and the upper part of the window lowers to bring in the invigorating outdoor fragrances. Each ship also features a swimming pool with retractable glass roof which converts into an outdoor theater in the evening with a deck covering the pool; a fitness center with massage treatments; putting green; outdoor BBQ area; and an alfresco dining terrace and all new Horizon Bar and Lounge.



American Cruise Lines
Want to stay close to home and enjoy the luxury of a brand new U.S. built ship? Next spring, ACL will launch a remarkable new coastal/river ship — the American Constellation. Built more like an ocean ship, but at miniature scale, this new beauty will carry only 163 lucky guests along the New England coast lines and islands in the northeast on very rewarding 10-night cruises. This ship is built for comfort! Constellation's smallest cabins are a whopping 250sf in size; larger staterooms come in at 450sf; and most cabins have private, sit-down balconies. The Constellation will feature 7 lounges and public areas, plus a wonderful sun deck with plenty of lounges in shaded areas. Just as do her European cruise line cousins, guests will enjoy complimentary wine and beer with lunch and dinner, exciting shore excursions in each port, knowledgeable historians and local experts, and even a complimentary cocktail hour before dinner. This is the perfect new ship to do coastal cruises.


Viking River Cruises
Initially unveiled back in 2012, what more can we say about the incredible success Viking has enjoyed with their “Long Ship” concept. There are now some 60+ Long Ships and in 2017 Viking will launch two more new builds. These remarkable “green” ships have their own herb gardens, solar panels, and some of the most comfortable veranda staterooms of any cruise line. With their forward facing Aquavit Terrace and spacious sun deck, Viking offers more al fresco dining options than most other lines and the food is pretty good as well. These consistent, fleetwide ships have won numerous awards. In 2017, Viking will transport you in comfort along almost any river in Europe.


AmaWaterways
The owner of AmaWaterways, Rudi Schreiner, can be looked at as one of the founding fathers of the river cruise industry, as well as a true innovator. With the Spring 2017 launch of the new AmaKristina (sister ship to the recently launched [2016] AmaStella and AmaViola), AmaWaterways will have introduced three trendsetting river boats. Each of these ships are the first to offer a limited number of staterooms and suites that can accommodate up to five passengers; perfect for family reunions or multi-generational travel. But these, and all AmaWaterways ships, have much more to offer than just beautiful accommodations. Holding only 158 guests, each offers every guest a better way to explore the rivers of Europe in style. The ships feature fine dining and exquisite cuisine in a variety of dining venues including the very intimate, 24-seat Chef’s Table Restaurant. Additionally, Ama has some of the best shore excursion options of any line along with all the usual amenities like fitness center, massage treatments, and the best bike tours of any cruise line. This, and more, makes all AmaWaterways ships extremely popular.


Uniworld Boutique River Cruises
Uniworld considers each of their river ships “a work of art,” and their newest super-ship, the Joie de Vivre, will surely be inspirational and continue that tradition as she sails roundtrip on the Seine River from Paris through the Normandy region. Beginning in April, this 128-guest ship will cruise through one of the most art-rich and historic areas of France. The Joie de Vivre will have all of the normal Uniworld features, but with larger staterooms and suites, almost all with French balconies. She will also have a heated, enclosed pool, multiple dining venues, exquisite marble bathrooms, and something no other line offers — a self-serve laundry! We are very confident she'll continue the high standards established on Uniworld’s other three newest vessels: ss Catherine, ss Antoinette, and ss Maria Theresa. Hey, grandparents and parents... you'll be thrilled to know that there will be three, multi-generational family departures on this ship in 2017 — June 25, July 2 and 9 — please be sure to book early.


Tauck River Cruises
Tauck is not launching any new ships in 2017, after the 2016 launches of ms Savor and ms Grace. The reason we are including those two recent builds along with their sister ships, Inspire and Joy, is because of an unusual stateroom feature. That unique feature is a one-of-a-kind "loft-style" stateroom. It is one of the most unique design elements in recent years and no other cruise line offers anything like this on any ship. The beautiful, spacious 225sf “loft-style” staterooms are located on the lower deck, and have windows that actually open — a first on any river ship for a lower deck cabin. To read more about their loft staterooms and other stateroom innovations, CLICK HERE to view our article on "How to Select the Right Cabin".



Coming in the January Inside Scoop Bulletin.
You've now had a sneak peek into the next wave of incredible 2017 river ships, but we'd be remiss if we didn't also mention how dining aboard a river ship has evolved as well over the last few years. River cruise lines such as Crystal, Scenic, AmaWaterways, and Uniworld have re-focused their efforts on moving from just "eating" aboard ship, to "fine dining" aboard ship. As passenger count on new ships is reduced, thus creating more space for each guest, many lines are now also able to offer multiple dining venues. The multiple dining venues also mean more unique cuisines to sample and savor, all truly enhancing your vacation cruise. We’ll tell you all about these new trends in shipboard cuisine in our next Inside Scoop issue coming out in January, so keep an eye on your inbox... we'll let you know all the delicious details!



PHOTO ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
River cruise ship "Virginia", photo courtesy of Rolf Heinrich, Köln; original file viewable at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AVirginia_(ship%2C_1965)_002.jpg; [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

 

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