Focus on Cruising: Star turns on the river

By Michelle Baran
Viking River Cruises Longship ChristeningsCompetition among river cruise lines is as fierce as ever, and this spring's christening season was no exception, as river cruise companies rolled out the red carpet and even broke a world record.

In March, Viking River Cruises was certified by Guinness World Records for the most ships christened in one day when it simultaneously introduced 10 Viking Longships in Amsterdam and at its shipyard in Rostock, Germany.

The vessels were officially named in Amsterdam before a crowd of more than 700 travel agents, partners, shipping officials and press. The elaborate ceremony included numerous speeches, extravagant entertainment, dinner for the attendees and a private press event.

Viking's record-breaking ceremony marked an interesting shift in the river cruise market, one from more humble, intimate christenings, often held in small river towns, to an over-the-top, headline-making affair that signifies a new level of pomp and circumstance surrounding the river cruise market.

Elsewhere in Europe, there was another multiship river-cruise christening ceremony that caught the industry's attention for a different reason: unprecedented star power. Just two days after Viking's 10-ship christening, Portuguese company DouroAzul hosted a star-studded launch event in Porto, Portugal, where actresses Sharon Stone and Andie MacDowell served as the godmothers of the company's two newest ships.

Stone presided as godmother over the 106-passenger AmaVida, being chartered by AmaWaterways, and MacDowell served as godmother of the 118-passenger Queen Isabel, which is being chartered by Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection. Michael Bolton sang at the gala event.

Last month, Patricia Schultz, author of "1,000 Places to See Before You Die," named the Avalon Expression. In August, Valerie Wilson Travel founder Valerie Wilson will christen AmaWaterways' AmaPrima.

But perhaps all the recent hubbub shouldn't come as such a surprise. The buzz surrounding river cruising shows no sign of abating, and as the industry continues to gain visibility, so too will the launches and christenings that symbolize its growth and success.

Follow Michelle Baran on Twitter @mbtravelweekly. 
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