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Patrick Clark, managing director of Avalon Waterways, and author Diana Gabaldon, godmother of Avalon Tapestry II. Photo Credit: Michelle Baran

LES ANDELYS, France — At a new docking facility built to accommodate the rapid growth of the river cruise industry, Avalon Waterways on Tuesday christened the latest in its Suite Ship class of vessels, the Avalon Tapestry II, a move that doubled the company’s capacity on the Seine River.

Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander series of novels, served as godmother of the vessel in a ceremony attended by the mayor of Les Andelys, Frederic Duchet; Patrick Clark, managing director of Avalon Waterways; Jacques Den Breejen, owner of the Den Breejen shipyard in the Netherlands that builds the Avalon vessels; and other representatives from Avalon and the local government.

“The growth of river cruising as a travel style has been enormous,” Clark said during the christening ceremony. “This next year there will 500,000 to 600,000 [river cruise] visitors coming [to Europe], and more and more coming each year. … And there are still a lot more who are yet to be exposed to river cruising.”

The 128-passenger Avalon Tapestry II marks Avalon’s second river cruise vessel on the Seine, where it joins the 140-passenger Avalon Creativity. The Avalon Tapestry II is also the company’s first Suite Ship class of vessels on the iconic French river that cuts through the heart of Paris. Additionally, Avalon sails two vessels, the Avalon Scenery and the Avalon Poetry II, on the Rhone and Saone rivers in the south of France.

The 361-foot Avalon Tapestry II represents a handful of Avalon Suite Ship vessels that have been built slightly shorter in length than their 443-foot, 166-passenger Suite Ship counterparts in order to better navigate certain waterways and have better access to some docking locations. According to Clark, this shorter style of vessel is better suited to the Seine.

But despite being technically smaller in size to some of the vessels in the Avalon fleet, the Avalon Tapestry II does not otherwise feel it, with public areas that evoke a more airy and spacious feel than some of the earlier-generation Suite Ships. The main lobby has been opened up to allow more natural light to flow in through the sky light, and the lounge area has been rearranged to make what is arguably the social hub of the river cruise ship feel both larger and more intimate at the same time, with partitioned sofas and seating areas offering a subtle sense of privacy.

Like the other Suite Ships, the Avalon Tapestry II’s lower-deck staterooms are 172 square feet each, and the staterooms on the second and third decks are 200 square feet each and feature the Suite Ships’ defining amenity — a floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall sliding glass door that can be opened to create a French balcony. There are also two 300-square-foot suites onboard.

The Avalon Tapestry II will sail eight-day itineraries along the Seine River from Paris to Normandy and can also be combined with Avalon’s south of France sailings.

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