(1:27 p.m. EDT) -- This afternoon in Vienna, Avalon Waterways christened its newest ship, the 166-passenger Avalon Illumination, pier side. The ship is the eight in Avalon's series of Panorama "suite ships," known for their spacious standard (and deluxe) accommodations, among other tributes.
Avalon Illumination was christened by Australia model and television presenter Deborah Hutton, who noted that serving as its godmother was a "pinch-me moment" before intoning the more traditional message that "may all who sail on this splendid vessel enjoy their voyage…and enjoy clear skies and calm waters." She then cut the ribbon that sent a bottle of Schlumberger, a Viennese sparkling wine, smashing properly onto the Illumination's hull.
In his remarks, Avalon managing director Patrick Clark noted that the line's successful series of Panorama class ships began with ideas in 2009 that came from "400,000 designers as a result of feedback from our travelers." People ask me, he added, "where did the idea of 'suite ships' come from… and in 2009 when we were looking at our new generation of ships, we had an overriding requirement: They had to meet the expectations of our customers."
The choice of Deborah Hutton as godmother, Clark said at the christening, is a reflection of Avalon's popularity in Australia, which, he added, "is the number two market for Avalon."
This year, Avalon Illumination will sail itineraries including Amsterdam to Budapest on the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers and some Danube-only trips between Budapest and Nuremberg. It will also cruise some more exotic Danube itineraries between Budapest and the Black Sea.
Among signature features of Avalon Illumination, like its seven other siblings, include two full decks of larger-than-standard staterooms, which at 200 square ft. are specially designed with curving walls and floor-to-ceiling (and wall-to-wall) banks of windows that open onto French verandahs. Bathrooms, as a result of the cabin tweaks, are more spacious than is typical on riverboats.
Avalon's clearly in expansion mode. The introduction of Avalon Illumination is the third new ship to be christened this year (Avalon Poetry II and Avalon Impression debuted in March 2014). Two more ships will debut in Europe next year (Avalon Tranquility II and Tapestry II will replace the smaller and older designs of the originals).
And the line will, for the first time, introduce the Panorama class design into Southeast Asia trips in Myanmar and on Vietnam/Cambodia's Mekong River. Both will debut in 2015.
--By Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor in Chief