The past few years have seen a staggering number of new river cruise ships hit the waterways of Europe, and next year will be no exception. New ships are on order with nearly every river cruise line. In some cases, these ships feature entirely new design elements, but for many lines, 2015 is a chance to launch additional sister ships for some of their most popular vessels.
No matter what your river cruise style is, there’s a lot to like about the upcoming class of 2015. Here’s our look at some of the new ships that are slated to debut next year.
In 2015, AmaWaterways will continue building on the success of the sleek AmaCerto, which debuted in 2012 and set the new standard for the line’s fleet. Coming next year are the AmaSerena and AmaVista, both of which will measure 443 feet in length and will carry up to 164 guests in 82 staterooms and three suites.
Both vessels will feature AmaWaterways’ Twin Balcony concept in most staterooms, the majority of which measure between 210 and 235 square feet. Multiple onboard dining venues will be offered on both ships, along with free-flowing fine wines during mealtimes. A forward-facing lounge offers panoramic views of the waters ahead, and both ships will be decorated in AmaWaterways’ elegant yet contemporary styling that features plenty of marble, dark woods, and the use of glass to create a sense of openness.
Up on the Sun Deck, both vessels will feature a heated swimming pool complete with a ‘swim-up’ bar. A fitness centre and spa will also be onboard, along with a fleet of complimentary bicycles for guests to use on their own, or to perhaps join in one of the guided bike tours offered by AmaWaterways.
Both vessels will sail a wide variety of itineraries on the Danube and the Rhine when they debut next year.
Next year, Avalon Waterways will take delivery of two brand-new river cruise ships: Avalon Tapestry II and Avalon Tranquility II. Both 361 feet in length, they will feature 52 suites and 12 standard staterooms apiece, with guests catered to by a dedicated crew of 37. Avalon Waterways recently announced that author Diana Gabaldon will serve as Avalon Tapestry II’s godmother.
Gabaldon, who is perhaps most well-known for the New York Times bestselling series OUTLANDER, will christen the Avalon Tapestry II on March 24, 2105 in a ceremony taking place in Les Andelys, France. When she smashes the traditional bottle of champagne against the hull, she will also inaugurate Avalon’s first-ever Suite Ship in France. She’s not just an award-winning author, though: Gabaldon holds a Ph.D. in Quantitative Behavioral Ecology with a specialty in scientific computation.
Avalon Tranquility II will be christened on April 2, 2015 in Strasbourg, France by Canadian singing and songwriting legend, Jann Arden.
Avalon’s Suite Ship concept was first introduced aboard Avalon Panorama in 2011. Since then, Avalon Waterways has continued to expand upon the concept that features two full decks of suites that are, on average, 30 percent larger than standard staterooms. These also feature windows of sliding glass that open up to create a Wall-to-Wall Panoramic Window that turns the entire room into an open-air balcony.
Next year, CroisiEurope will be bringing a very innovative ship online next year, to a region that hasn’t typically known overnight river cruising. Their crown jewel will be the Loire Princess, which will offer six and eight-night voyages down the Loire River. Accommodating up to 96 guests, the Loire Princess will be instantly recognizable thanks to her paddle wheel propulsion. Giant paddle wheels will span the port and starboard sides of the ship, operating in a more traditional configuration than the stern-mounted paddlewheel vessels common along the Mississippi River in North America.
CroisiEurope’s Loire Princess will feature accommodations for up to 96 guests – but it’s not the only paddlewheeler the company is constructing. In 2016, a stern-based paddlewheeler will enter service on the Elbe River.
Emerald Waterways will introduce two new ships in 2015: Emerald Dawn and Emerald Sun. Both vessels will be sister-ships to this year’s Emerald Sky and Emerald Star. An offshoot of Australia-based Scenic Tours, Emerald Waterways began operations this past spring.
Notable features of these two new ships will include the line’s trademark indoor swimming pool that converts into a cinema by night, along with staterooms and suites that feature innovative drop-down glass windows that effectively turn the entire stateroom into a balcony.
We sailed aboard Emerald Star earlier this year; click here to read our full Live Voyage Report to see what to expect from Emerald Waterways’ four-ship fleet in 2015.
Next year, Scenic Tours will launch Scenic Jasper and Scenic Opal, which will become the line’s newest “Space Ships.” At 443 feet in length, these will match the same physical dimensions as most of Scenic’s existing ships, which are designed to provide more personal space for their guests. The new Scenic Jasper and Scenic Opal will carry just 169 guests in 85 cabins, nearly all of which will feature full, step-out balconies.
Sixteen different stateroom and suite categories will be offered, ranging from affordable riverview staterooms located on Jewel Deck to the spacious Royal Panoramic Suites that measure 475 square feet. Situated all the way aft on Diamond Deck, these two suites include a large balcony that the line calls the “Scenic Sun Lounge” thanks to its ability to open up to both the room’s living area.
The majority of staterooms onboard will feature their own private, step-out balconies and will measure a very spacious 205 square feet. They will feature the same “Scenic Sun Lounge” concept, whereby the balcony doors open up completely to the stateroom.
Based in Australia, Scenic originally started out as a land-tour only company. Led by Glen Moroney, they’ve quickly gained a stronghold in the river cruising industry since they began offering voyages along the rivers of Europe several years ago. Expect Scenic Jasper and Scenic Opal to only solidify that position.
Tauck starts 2015 off by introducing a ship they originally ordered back in 2008. The ms Esprit is similar in size to the company’s Jewel Class river cruise ships, and her delivery was deferred due to the economic turn-down that occurred shortly after. She was completed and sailed briefly for another line, but will enter service for Tauck next year after undergoing a substantial refurbishment this winter.
Accommodating just 118 guests, the ms Esprit features 14 spacious suites that measure 300 square feet apiece, along with seven junior suites and 38 staterooms that measure 150 square feet. She is designed to provide the same all-inclusive river cruise experience that Tauck has perfected on their other river cruise ships, and will even include a casual alternate dining venue known as The Bistro.
While ms Esprit is the only new ship scheduled to enter service for Tauck next year, the line will also construct sister-ships to this year’s ms Inspire and ms Savor that are scheduled for entry into service in 2016. The as-yet-unnamed vessels will feature Tauck’s innovative Loft Staterooms that feature expansive walls of glass rising nearly two decks in height that can open to the elements with the push of a button.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection
Next year, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection continues to add to their fleet of luxury boutique ships with the addition of the S.S. Maria Theresa. The third sister-ship to the hugely-popular S.S. Antoinette that was launched in 2011, the S.S. Maria Theresa follows hot on the heels of this year’s S.S. Catherine.
Like all Uniworld ships, the S.S. Maria Theresa will feature distinctive and luxurious décor in every stateroom, suite and public room. She’ll also feature a heated indoor swimming pool, a Viennese café, the Bohemian Terrace, a full-service restaurant, and two unique lounges: the Habsburg Salon and the Bar du Leopard.
All staterooms and suites will feature handcrafted Savoir of England beds, 100% Egyptian cotton linens, built-in closets, a hair dryer, safe, individual thermostat, flatscreen TV with infotainment center, bottled mineral water, and a safe. Marble bathrooms feature L’Occitane en Provence products, plush towels, towel warmer, and bathrobes and slippers.
When she enters service next year, the S.S. Maria Theresa will sail Uniworld’s Tulips & Windmills, Danube Holiday Markets, Enchanting Christmas & New Years, and European Jewels itineraries.
Viking River Cruises
Beginning in 2012, Viking River Cruises introduced their first Viking Longships. It became a yearly tradition that culminated this past March with the launch of 18 new river cruise ships in a single week; a spectacular event spread across multiple countries and rivers that saw Viking break their own Guinness World Record that they’d set just the year before.
While Viking’s not taking another run at the Guinness World Record, 2015 will be important for them nonetheless: they’ll be launching 12 new river cruise ships in March, including two brand-new “Longship-esque” vessels along the Elbe: Viking Astrild and Viking Beyla. These two ships have been designed with greatly reduced drafts that will allow them to navigate the beautiful but notoriously shallow Elbe River.
Of the ten Viking Longships that will enter service next year, don’t expect Viking to change their award-winning formula too much. Having said that, keep a watchful eye out: Viking is famous for small changes in decor and even furnishings between successive Longships, and they’re always tweaking their newbuilds ever so subtly based on customer feedback.
In May, Viking will also launch a new ship – Viking Star. This isn’t a river cruise ship, though: Viking Star will be a proper oceangoing cruise ship that will sail the waters of Northern Europe, Western Europe, and the Mediterranean in the same style and ambiance that Viking has developed for their Longship river cruise ships. She will be christened in May in the port of Bergen, Norway.
River cruising continues to become more popular every year. It’s a trend that we’ve seen grow and, frankly, explode, over the past five or six years. With the launch of these new ships, river cruise lines will be able to better meet that growing demand and continue to diversify and add to their itinerary offerings at the same time.
It’s a win-win for everyone.