River cruising has quietly grown by leaps
and bounds over the past few years, with many of the popular lines
rolling out about one new ship a year. In contrast to ocean
cruising, however, on river cruises its the destination, not the
ship, thats the destination, so these new river vessels dont come
equipped with rock-climbing walls or six different restaurant
ships are very different from their ocean-going cousins. In Europe,
the ships tend to be low, long and barge-like, the better to
squeeze under low-slung bridges. Onboard activities are muted,
since the vessels are only big enough to accommodate cabins, a
restaurant, a lounge or two, a beauty salon and an additional room
for a library or an Internet cafe. Ships on Chinas Yangtze, on the
other hand, tend to be taller and ringed with private
location, river cruise ships typically share one main feature: a
sun deck or roof deck with chairs. River cruisings greatest pastime
is sitting out on the top deck and watching the countryside, or
cityscape, glide by.
Heres a look at
some of the river ships introduced in 2005 and others ready to
debut this spring.
This new line
will increase Europe capacity by nearly 50% with the
Amadagio (146 passengers)
Amenities: Suites are
255 square feet. The ship has a fleet of bicycles for passengers
who want to explore the countryside on wheels. Part of the sundeck
can remain open even when passing under low bridges.
Itinerary: The ship
will sail nine- to 16-day cruises in Belgium, the Czech Republic,
Germany, Hungary and the Netherlands.
Extras: Hotel stays
bookend many Amadeus offerings. Cruises include daily sightseeing,
as well as onboard cultural events such as folk dances and
In 2005, the line
inaugurated the Douro Queen in Portugal; this year, its new
offering is the River Royale, on French rivers.
Royale (132 passengers)
balcony doors on its Category 1 cabins. The ship includes a
library, Internet cafe, massage room and, on the aft end of the
ship, a whirlpool tub.
France -- sailing between Lyon and Arles.
Extras: Uniworld touts
included highlights such as wine and chocolate tastings, an
epicurean feast at a Lyon restaurant and visits to the towns of
Viviers and Arles.
Queen (128 passengers)
cabins are smaller but have balconies. The only vessel on the Douro
with a swimming pool and two whirlpools.
Itinerary: Lisbon to
Porto, Portugal, with stops in Spain.
Extras: Dinner at an
18th-century manor house; a full day in Salamanca, Spain; and, of
course, vintage port wine tastings.
When the Victoria
Anna arrives in China this year, it will be the biggest ship ever
on the Yangtze.
Anna (308 passengers)
Amenities: Each cabin
-- with the biggest, the Shangri-La suites, measuring 632 square
feet -- has a private balcony and is wired for Internet as well as
the BBC and HBO. The Anna has a gym, lecture room, two restaurants
and three bars.
the Victoria Star on four-day Three Gorges Highlights cruises
between Chongqing and Yichang, China.
Extras: The line takes
its Chinese cultural program seriously. Last year, it hosted
onboard presentations on feng shui and marriage traditions as well
as tea ceremonies and chopsticks lessons. A cabaret and fashion
show features traditional performances.
This line added
one ship, the Viking Sun, to its Europe lineup in 2005. In
addition, a main focus has been Viking Rivers China product. This
year, the Viking Century Sun will join last years new-build, the
Viking Century Sky, on the Yangtze.
Sun (198 passengers)
Amenities: All 37
cabins have floor-to-ceiling French windows. The ship includes a
restaurant with panoramic windows, a lounge and dance floor, a
library and game room and a long, flat sundeck.
cruise from Antwerp, Belgium, to Basel, Switzerland.
Extras: Twelve tours
included, such as visits to Bruges, Belgium; Amsterdams
Rijksmuseum; Germanys Black Forest; and the Moselle Valley. Also,
silversmith and cuckoo-clock demonstrations.
Century Sun (300+ passengers)
lounge, sauna, sundeck, bar, massage room, Internet cafe. Viking
touts the ships Scandinavian-style interior decoration.
Itineraries: The Viking
Century Sun will sail Vikings Beijing-to-Shanghai route. The cruise
starts with a three-night stay in Beijing. Passengers are then
transported to Chongqing for the actual cruise portion of the
voyage, a nine-day trip up the Yangtze to Nanjing. Passengers also
stay for two nights in Shanghai.
Extras: A welcome
cocktail and a farewell dinner open and close the trip, which
includes visits to Tiananmen Square, the Great Wall, the Terra
Cotta Army, the Three Gorges Dam and Dongting Lake. Highlights are
a night at the Peking Opera, a Peking duck dinner and an acrobatic
Rebecca Tobin, managing editor of the print edition of Travel
Weekly, send e-mail to [email protected].