This spring, Europe’s waterways welcomed five new river cruise ships, which means five new and different river cruising experiences. While there are certain standard features of any river cruise vessel — a restaurant and bar and lounge area, for instance — other features vary from one ship to the next. Some river cruise ships, such as the AMAWATERWAYS fleet, carry bicycles, and others do not. Some river cruise companies, like Uniworld, have worked to bring the cabins to contemporary hotel standards.
Whether you’re a seasoned river cruiser or a novice here’s what you should know about the new ships on offer.
AMAWATERWAYS’ Two New Ships
AMAWATERWAYS’ two newest river cruise ships, the Amalyra and Amadolce, set sail in April and May, respectively. Aside from being brand new (think fresh carpets, fluffy bedding and untouched, well, everything), the Amalyra and Amadolce don’t differ much from the four AMA river vessels before them. And that’s exactly how AMA planned it — the company has built a fleet of almost identical river cruise ships to create a uniform experience.
The Amalyra and Amadolce both have 71 staterooms at 170 square feet each and four junior suites at 255 square feet each, just like their sister ships — the Amadagio, Amalegro, Amacello and Amadante.
AMA bills itself as a deluxe river cruise operator and it’s safe to say the company’s ships and service would appeal to the discerning traveler.
Of the cabins and suites, 82 percent feature French balconies. The ship has complimentary WiFi in the cabins and in the lounge areas (the WiFi actually works for the most part, which should not be taken for granted on river cruise ships — occasionally a river cruise company will tout WiFi, but service and connectivity kinks still need to be ironed out).
The ships’ restaurants, where all three daily meals are served either buffet style or table service for dinners, feature tables that accommodate as few as two and as many as 10 people. Complimentary wine is poured with the three-course dinners.
The lounges are open and airy with a bar and piano. The sun decks feature a track (a good reason to perhaps reconsider whether to book the top deck) and whirlpool, and the fitness center includes a sauna. There are also a hairdresser and masseuse on each ship.
Two amenities AMA ships have that some of its competitors don’t are an aft lounge dining option, essentially a light dinner alternative to the more formal restaurant setting, and bicycles that can be used for shore excursions.
The bikes create an altogether different, more active and more engaging river cruising experience. AMA carries between 25 and 30 bikes on board, with helmets and locks, for passengers who wish to ride at any of the destinations, or between destinations.
Uniworld Introduces One Of The Largest Vessels On Europe’s Rivers
This spring, Uniworld launched its 10th ship in Europe, the 410-foot River Beatrice, the river cruise operator’s longest ship to date.
The River Beatrice can accommodate a greater number of passengers than any other Uniworld ship — 160 compared with between 130 and 134 on older Uniworld ships. With 15 suites and 65 staterooms, the River Beatrice also features far more suites than any other Uniworld ship. The most suites on any Uniworld ship until now had been four.
Fully 80 percent of the staterooms feature French balconies. The only ones that don’t are the 13 staterooms on the lower Moselle deck.
Staterooms are outfitted with hotel-style beds with Egyptian cotton sheets, European comforters, terry robes, bottled water, individual air conditioning and flat-screen televisions.
The River Beatrice also features a lounge, restaurant, library, sundeck, massage services, fitness center, sauna, Jacuzzi, gift shop and elevator. Wireless Internet access is available on board the ship. Complimentary use of bicycles is a new feature being offered by Uniworld.
The River Beatrice is scheduled for 33 departures this year along the Enchanting Danube itinerary, a nine-day cruise along the Danube River through Hungary, Slovakia, Austria and Germany from Budapest to Passau.
The cruise alternates with a Passau-to-Budapest itinerary. The ship is also scheduled to sail four departures of the nine-day Danube Holiday Markets cruise along the same route, between November 29 and December 20, 2009.
Tauck Unveils Another ‘Jewel’
Tauck World Discovery christened its third Tauck-branded European river cruise ship, the Swiss Jewel, in April.
The Rhode Island-based tour operator now has three vessels that sail under the Tauck name — the Swiss Jewel, Swiss Sapphire (launched in April 2008) and Swiss Emerald (launched in 2006).
The elegant 361-foot Swiss Jewel, like its sister ships, has 59 staterooms, including 14 suites at 300 square feet each, and seven junior suites. The staterooms and junior suites range from 150 to 183 square feet.
Fully 85 percent of all cabins feature floor-to-ceiling windows and French balconies. The cabins also have plasma TVs, mini-bars, individual air conditioning and L’Occitane toiletries.
In addition to the main restaurant dining area, the Swiss Jewel has a more casual alternative, the Lido Bar, at the aft of the ship. The ship also features a 24-hour Jacuzzi, lounge and wellness center.
The ship has a crew of 29 as well as three Tauck directors and one Tauck cruise director.
The Swiss Jewel will sail five itineraries this year: Blue Danube, Budapest to Amsterdam, Budapest to the Black Sea, Black Sea to Prague and the 24-day Grand European Cruise.
Globus’ Avalon Waterways Has An ‘Affinity’ For River Cruising
Avalon Waterways christened its seventh river cruise ship, the Avalon Affinity, this spring.
Avalon’s clean and contemporary design ethos is again echoed in the the 361-foot-long Affinity, which includes 65 staterooms at 172 square feet each, and four junior suites at 258 square feet.
Each stateroom has a flat-screen television, flexible bed design (beds may be configured as two twins or one queen), mini-bar and safe. Laundry and ironing services are available.
The ship features a restaurant, fitness room, library, hair salon and gift shop as well as a club lounge and Jacuzzi on the sky deck.
In 2009, the 138-passenger Affinity will sail eight itineraries throughout Europe.