(12 noon EDT) -- In addition to five new ships, CroisiEurope is adding a new package of extra-fee shore excursions in 2017, allowing passengers to better customize their river cruises.
The Discovery package goes beyond the more traditional walking and bus tours, with options that include helicopter rides, bike tours and wine and cheese explorations. The tours cost extra (you pay one flat fee for all) and are available on most itineraries. A classic package of shore excursions is included on all bookings from North America; if you opt for the Discovery package, that would replace the included tours.
The French-owned company has been on a roll with building new ships. In 2017, the line is launching five ships: 132-passenger Miguel Torga on Portugal's Douro; 60-passenger Indochine II on the Mekong; 106-passenger Douce France II on the Rhine River; 106-passenger Symphonie II on the Danube; and 16-passenger African Dream on the Chobe and Zambezi rivers. The latter itinerary combines three nights on the ship with four nights in CroisiEurope-owned lodges with activities that include a safari and a day at Victoria Falls.
For 2017, CroisiEurope also did a full renovation of Seine Princess, a 138-passenger ship that sails in France, as well as La Belle de l'Adriatique, a 198-passenger coastal cruiser that sails the Adriatic and Mediterranean Sea.
New for 2018 will be Renoir, a ship with 55 cabins for the Seine; the 158-passenger Van Gogh for the Rhone in Southern France; and a second 90-passenger paddlewheel ship for the Elbe River, Elbe Princesse II. A second Africa ship is also being considered.
Finally, 2019 is also on the agenda, with another planned ship for the Douro, which will be a sister ship to Miguel Torga.
CroisiEurope is Europe's largest river cruise line, dating back to 1976. The line currently has a fleet of 50 ships that range from coastal cruisers to river cruise ships of varying sizes to barges for France's canals. It's known for pioneering unusual itineraries. It's the only cruise line on rivers such as France's Loire, canals that run between Amsterdam and Berlin, Hungary's Tisza, Croati's Sava and Spain's Guadalquivir.
Though it's based in France, the line has been selling to North Americans since 2014. In its fares, the line includes alcoholic drinks and soft drinks during meals and at the bar; Wi-Fi; and the classic excursion packages.
--By Chris Gray Faust, Senior Editor