Michelle Baran
Michelle Baran

InsightIt’s going to be another busy year of river cruise ship launches, near and far. From the much-anticipated rebirth of Mississippi River cruising to steady momentum-building on the Mekong, it’s getting harder to keep track of all the newbuilds and new itineraries.

There are also newer entrants into the market, such as Boston-based Vantage Travel, which has quietly been building up its fleet of river cruise vessels in Europe. And Ama Waterways will be testing new waters with a charter on the Chobe River in Botswana.

To help keep track of it all, here are some key dates to mark on the calendar.

Jan. 19: Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection’s 60-passenger River Saigon took its maiden voyage along Vietnam and Cambodia’s Mekong River, kicking off a three-year charter agreement with the ship’s owner, Pandaw River Cruises.

Feb. 23: Viking River Cruises starts offering Mekong River cruises on Pandaw River Cruises’ 60-passenger Indochina Pandaw and 66-passenger Tonle Pandaw, ships the company will charter for 2012.

March 18: Vantage Travel launches the 176-passenger River Discovery II in Amsterdam, bringing the company’s European river fleet to four vessels.

March 21: Viking names the 190-passenger Viking Odin and Viking Idun in Amsterdam, formally introducing the company’s new Viking Longships class of vessels, which will feature private balconies and larger cabins and suites.

April 12: Ama Waterways introduces the 164-passenger Amacerto, bringing the Chatsworth, Calif.-based river cruise line’s European fleet size to nine vessels. The Amacerto will mainly sail along the Danube River.

April 15, 18: Two additional Viking Longships launch: the 190-passenger Viking Njord on April 15 followed by sister ship the Viking Freya on April 18.

April 19: The Great American Steamboat Co.’s newly renovated 436-passenger American Queen sets sail on the Mississippi River.

April 25: Scenic Cruises, owned by Australian parent company Scenic Tours, adds a sixth river cruise ship to its European fleet, the 169-passenger Scenic Crystal.

May: Avalon Waterways launches the 166-passenger Avalon Vista and 128-passenger Avalon Visionary, sister ships to the 2011 newbuild Avalon Panorama, featuring larger cabins with floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall sliding glass doors.

May 9: Viking’s newly renovated 196-passenger Viking Rurik relaunches, marking the end of a four-year refurbishment project of all four of the company’s Russian vessels.

June 15: Ama begins offering sailings on the 28-passenger Zambezi Queen, which it is chartering for six departures on the Chobe River in Botswana between June and December.

July 8: The Viking Embla launches, followed by the Viking Aegir on Aug. 15, bringing to six the number of Viking Longships launching in 2012.

Aug. 11: American Cruise Lines’ newly built 150-passenger paddlewheeler, the Queen of the Mississippi, makes its inaugural Mississippi River voyage.

Sept. 13: Avalon Waterways’ 32-passenger Avalon Angkor sets sail on the Mekong River. Avalon is leasing the vessel from Pandaw River Cruises.

September: Century Cruises, a Chinese river cruise line with an office in the U.S., is introducing two 398-passenger ships, the Century Paragon and Century Legend, onto the Yangtze River this fall, which will bring the company's total Yangtze fleet size to seven.

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