RIVER cruising remains the rising star of the international cruise scene and shows no signs of abating in popularity as a new season sets sail in Europe’s inland waterways this month.
Like Ratty in Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows travellers have realised that there is nothing quite so satisfying as messing about in ‘boats’.
As a result, river cruising is capturing a big share of the traditional ocean cruise market with new river voyages being added to the mix at a rapid rate of knots.
australiancruisingnews.com notes that this rapid growth has prompted river cruise lines to add even more ships to their already large fleets.
In Lyon, on France’s River Rhone, actress Catherine Deneuve (best known for the French films Belle du Jour and Indochine) has just become Godmother to Uniworld’s luxury new river ship, appropriately named S.S. Catherine . It will be based in France, sailing Burgundy, Provence and Grand France itineraries, uniworldcruises.com.au
At the same time in Holland, Avalon Waterways added Avalon Poetry ll and Avalon Impression, to her European fleet, with a third ship Avalon Illumination to be launched in Vienna in June by Australian TV celebrity Deborah Hutton, avalonwaterways.com.au
This season alone, Viking, the world’s fastest growing river fleet, has added 18 ships to European waterways, with plans for further additions next year, vikingrivercruises.com.au
In July, APT will add AmaSonata as a sister ship to AmaPrima, AmaCerto and AmaReina, and it will carry 164 passengers, feature multiple dining venues, onboard spa services, and a heated swimming pool, aptouring.com.au
Because of their smaller size river cruise ships do not try to compete with ocean liners in onboard attractions such as water slides, rock climbing walls and ice bars, though swimming pools have become a recent innovation.
Instead a river cruise ship’s focus is on passing scenery, onboard service, friendliness, and the all-inclusive nature of the cruise that includes daily shore excursions. There are also bikes on board for those who want to explore ports at their own pace.