River Discovery II single cabinAMSTERDAM -- Vantage Deluxe World Travel named the 176-passenger River Discovery II here in mid-March, a river vessel that caters to solo travelers with single cabins, an option absent from most of the newer river cruise ships.

The River Discovery II features the requisite 330-square-foot owner's suite and 12 deluxe suites at 250 square feet, but it also houses eight 125-square-foot single cabins on the ship's lower deck, accounting for nearly 10% of all the cabins. Company executives said the move to include cabins for solo travelers was in response to a growing demand from passengers traveling alone.

Additionally, more than three-quarters of the cabins have French balconies. There is free WiFi onboard and U.S. electrical outlets in the cabins.

Another unusual feature of the ship is a casual lounge at the aft, with a retractable skylight roof that allows for open-air dining and seating when weather permits or for an enclosed space with natural light when temperatures are cooler.

The River Discovery II brings Boston-based Vantage's company-owned fleet in Europe to three. Vantage also owns the 140-passenger River Navigator and the 170-passenger River Odyssey. It retired the 170-passenger River Explorer from its fleet this year.

In 2013, the company will add two more vessels to its fleet: the 176-passenger River Splendor and the 136-passenger River Venture.

The River Navigator will be repositioned to the Rhone River in the south of France, and the remaining vessels will sail on the Rhine, Main, Moselle and Danube rivers in Europe. The newbuilds are part of a $120 million fleet investment program Vantage is currently engaged in. The ships are being built by the De Hoop shipyard in the Netherlands.

Vantage also charters several vessels throughout Europe and one in Russia.

Vantage also has inked a deal with Pandaw River Cruises for a Mekong vessel in 2014 and has an option to build one more ship in Europe in 2014.

The company is becoming a significant player in the river cruise market, but it's doing so with a largely direct-to-consumer model. However, Vantage does work with travel agents and pays 10% commission.

Follow Michelle Baran on Twitter @mbtravelweekly.

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