There appears to be no end in sight to the growth in demand for river cruising in France. Last fall, I wrote about river cruise companies that were adding more capacity throughout the country for 2014, and the trend is continuing into 2015.
Avalon Waterways announced this week that it will increase its France capacity for 2015 by 95%. The company is putting its 128-passenger Avalon Poetry II, christened last month in Dordrecht, Netherlands, on the Saone and Rhone rivers in 2015; and the 128-passenger Avalon Tapestry II, launching next year, will sail France’s Seine River.
That comes after an already huge christening season in France that saw Viking put three new ships in Provence, Uniworld launch its new S.S. Catherine there as well, and both companies introduce one vessel each in Bordeaux (Viking a newbuild and Uniworld a repositioned vessel).
“We are very excited about the growth opportunity in France,” said Richard Marnell, Viking’s senior vice president of marketing. “Because of strong demand already this season, we have decided to increase capacity on those two itineraries in 2015. We will add a second ship, Viking Rinda, in Bordeaux, and a fourth ship on Portraits of Southern France, Viking Delling, which will be new for 2015.
“We also continue to see strong demand for our other itineraries in France and are nearly sold out for the entire summer season,” added Marnell.
AmaWaterways, Tauck and Scenic Cruises all repositioned vessels to France this year as well.
Direct-to-consumer operator Grand Circle Cruise Line announced last month that it was getting in on the France action too, having acquired the River Cloud II (from Sea Cloud Cruises), a 90-passenger ship that will operate a new itinerary in Bordeaux beginning in March.
And let’s not forget the little 96-passenger paddlewheeler, Loire Princess, that French river cruise company CroisiEurope plans on introducing on France’s Loire River next April.
So, what’s the deal? Are river cruise lines running out of space on the Danube? Or are river cruise passengers just embracing France with a new fervor? Guessing it might be a bit of both.