During first quarter 2021, three luxury river lines introduced major new options to significantly enhance the European “river-scape.” Here’s a look at these impactful moves for luxury travelers planning a future European vacation.
The Ultimate Grand Voyage
For ocean travelers, iconic 90- to 180-day World Cruises are beloved as they deliver both “bucket-list” experiences and bragging rights for having accomplished those. River cruise lines also are seeing soaring consumer desires for robust river itineraries that are much longer than the typical week-long, 10-night or two-week river cruise.
In response to this emerging trend, AmaWaterways has introduced the river cruise industry’s longest itinerary — a new, 46-night “Seven River Journey Through Europe,” departing June 1, 2023; it begins in Paris, France and ends in Giurgiu, Romania. Curated by Rudi Schreiner, president and co-founder, AmaWaterways, this new, grand European experience will take 144 guests through 14 countries. Those traveling on this grand itinerary will sail on four different AmaWaterways’ river vessels during the six-week-plus journey.
Voyages comprising this grand adventure include: AmaLyra’s roundtrip voyage from Paris, France on the Seine River from June 1 to June 8, 2023; AmaKristina’s cruise from Lyon to Tarascon, France on the Saône and Rhône Rivers from June 8 to June 13, 2023; AmaPrima’s voyage on the Rhine, Moselle and Main Rivers from Basel, Switzerland to Amsterdam, the Netherlands to Vilshofen, Germany from June 13 to July 4; and AmaVerde’s Danube River voyage from Vilshofen, Germany to Giurgiu, Romania, from July 4 to July 17, 2023.
Guests will receive a choice of more than 130 complimentary excursions plus new tours and exclusive experiences. Passengers can visit 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites and enjoy local epicurean experiences. Highlights will include sailing through romantic Paris, visiting Normandy’s D-Day landing beaches, experiencing an exclusive visit to Germany’s medieval Lahneck Castle and visiting off-the-beaten-path sites in Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania, among other countries.
“Seven River Journey through Europe” fares will include transfers between ships; complimentary laundry and portage service; all gratuities onboard and for shore excursions; and a dedicated cruise manager. Onboard, guests can expect fine dining and wines at every meal in multiple onboard venues. An onboard wellness host also will offer core strengthening, stretching and yoga courses.
AmaKristina’s cruise from Lyon to Tarascon, France on the Saône and Rhône Rivers will be part of AmaWaterways’ 46-night grand European voyage. // Photo: AmaWaterways
Sustain & Give Back
Consumers are increasingly seeking cruise experiences that not only create fabulous vacation adventures but also promote sustainability or, alternatively, “give back” to the communities they visit along global rivers. In March, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises announced a new “Make Travel Matter” program for 2021 and 2022.
Bottom line? Uniworld will integrate multiple “Make Travel Matter” experiences into its river itineraries throughout Europe, as well as in India and the Middle East. These new experiences have been chosen for the ways in which they directly advance the 17 United Nations Global Goals, developed by world leaders to create a better future for people and the planet by 2030.
In Europe, “Make Travel Matter” experiences will include such options as a day on a Dutch Cheese Trail at a sustainable, self-sufficient dairy farm (“Tulips & Windmills” itinerary); a saffron tasting and lesson on the history of the crop, first planted by 12th-century crusaders in Austria’s Wachau Valley (“Enchanting Danube” itinerary); or a tutorial on how Belgian chocolate is made by the sustainable company, Neuhof, which uses beans harvested from their own cacao farm (“Holland & Belgium” itinerary).
Sister brand, U by Uniworld, which attracts many younger travelers, is also offering “Make Travel Matter” experiences in Europe. In one case, travelers can go plastic fishing and clean the waters of Amsterdam’s canals during the “Amsterdam & Brussels Bound” itinerary.
Uniworld will integrate multiple “Make Travel Matter” experiences into its river itineraries throughout Europe, as well as in India and the Middle East. // Photo by Uniworld Boutique River Cruises
Return of the Big Ship
When Crystal River Cruises first began operations a few years ago, its first vessel was the double-wide Crystal Mozart, sailing the Danube River. That vessel helped establish the line, which subsequently introduced several new vessels. In early 2020, the ship was shifted to serve the Asian cruise market by a sister brand of Crystal’s parent company, Genting Hong Kong.
But starting March 28, 2022, the big ship is back to serve North American travelers. Crystal Mozart will offer weekly seven-night “Danube Dreams & Discoveries” voyages roundtrip from Vienna, Austria on Mondays with overnights in the Austrian capital and Budapest. Calls will include Esztergom, Hungary; Bratislava, Slovakia; Linz, Austria, with day trips to Salzburg; Durnstein, Austria, and daylight sailing through Austria’s Wachau Valley.
What’s new onboard? Crystal Mozart will offer 38 deluxe window suites dedicated to solo travelers with no single supplement on all voyages. That will reduce the ship’s capacity to 120 guests.
With Crystal Mozart’s return, starting April 2, 2022, the 106-passenger Crystal Mahler will sail new five- to 16-night itineraries on the Rhine, Moselle, Main and Danube Rivers, including some voyages that combine three rivers in one journey. Among the new itineraries are shorter, five-night summer “Rhine & Moselle Summer Escapes” sailings between Amsterdam and Trier.
Those shorter voyages will stay late into the night at the wine destinations of Cochem and Bernkastel, Germany and the UNESCO World Heritage City of Cologne, Germany, as well as overnight in Trier, Germany for exploring Roman heritage sites or day trips to Luxembourg. From Trier, guests can extend their vacation with optional two-night pre- or post-cruise, extended land programs in Reims within France’s Champagne region. That land package includes sightseeing, tastings and transfers between Paris and Reims.
Crystal Mozart’s other new itineraries will include 10-night fall “Splendors of the Rhine & Moselle” voyages between Amsterdam and Basel, and 14-night “Magnificent Europe” sailings between Amsterdam and Budapest on the Rhine, Main and Danube Rivers. Both Crystal Mozart and Crystal Mahler will offer special holiday sailings in late December.
Crystal Mozart’s “Danube Holiday Wonders” voyage will spend Christmas and Hannukah sailing roundtrip from Vienna on December 19, 2022. Calls will include Melk and Linz, Austria; Bratislava, Slovakia; and Esztergom and Budapest, Hungary.
Crystal Mozart will offer weekly seven-night “Danube Dreams & Discoveries” voyages roundtrip from Vienna, Austria. // Photo by Crystal River Cruises
As North American travelers return to European rivers, much else is new too. Tauck has unveiled four 2022 voyages that provide access for guests to the once-a-decade Floriade International Horticultural Expo in the Netherlands. These include two 15-day itineraries, “Amsterdam to Budapest by Riverboat” and “The Rhine and Moselle,” along with two eight-day trips, “Belgium & Holland in Spring” and the new-for-2021 itinerary “Cruising the Dutch Waterways.”
Tauck’s guests will enjoy a full day at Floriade, highlighted by early-access admission one hour before the expo opens to the general public, as well as a 90-minute, small-group guided tour of key attractions hosted by a Floriade expert. Each guest will also receive a Tauck-issued, 25-euro Floriade credit card allowing them to enjoy lunch in their choice of dining venues, or to purchase mementos of their visit if they prefer.
Tauck has also secured docking privileges in nearby Huizen, a short 10-minute drive from the Floriade grounds. For guests’ convenience and flexibility, private round-trip shuttles will be provided between the riverboat and the expo campus. The visit to Floriade, as well as the expo admission, shuttle transportation and Floriade credit card, is included in Tauck’s cruise fares.
What else is new or notable? Viking is celebrating the one-year anniversary of Viking.TV (https://viking.tv/), designed for travelers who want to virtually dive into destinations, culture, heritage and food-and-wine experiences. More than two million viewers have accessed Viking.TV’s free daily livestreams and archived content since it was founded in March 2020.
Scenic Group, which operates Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours and Emerald Cruises, is navigating to a new USA headquarters on May 1 — moving from Boston, MA, to Hollywood, FL.