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River Cruising Trends: Europe
River Cruising Trends: Europe
What's New for River Cruising in 2023
Uniworld Boutique River Cruises (photo/Uniworld)

What's New for River Cruising in 2023

What's New for River Cruising in 2023
Uniworld Boutique River Cruises (photo/Uniworld)
Jeannine Williamson
Contributor
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With new ships, programs, excursions and onboard amenities, there are plenty of reasons to take a river cruise in 2023. Find out what the year has in store with our round-up of all the latest news.

River Cruise Fleet News 2023

An  Unparalleled  River  Cruise  Experience with  Ama Waterways 1280x720

For the ultimate cruise taking in different destinations -- the river equivalent of a world cruise --  AmaWaterways and Uniworld are both debuting epic sailings. After announcing the longest-ever river cruise, a 46-night sailing through 14 European countries, AmaWaterways received such a positive response that it added two more Seven River Journeys itineraries. There are now departures in April, June and August. Uniworld's 46-night Rivers of the World cruise departs in May and takes passengers to nine countries aboard five of its "Super Ships" on the cruise and land itinerary that starts in Egypt and ends in Portugal.

Viking is offering a 16-night Capitals of Eastern Europe cruise taking in the five first cities of Vienna, Budapest, Bratislava, Bucharest and Belgrade. Shore tours include a visit to one of Budapest's thermal baths and a "Privileged Access" for a behind-the-scenes tour of Serbia's National Theatre, home of Serbian opera.

Scenic River Cruises has boosted its 14-night Jewels of Europe itinerary on the Rhine, Main and Danube by offering a 17-night option with a pre-cruise land stay in the Croatian capital Zagreb and Slovenian first city Ljubljana. In Zagreb, guests get to explore the medieval city centre before a guided tour of the UNESCO-listed Plitvice National Park. Crossing into Slovenia, sightseeing highlights include Ljubljana's baroque architecture before a visit to the tiny Alpine town of Bled, famous for its glacial lake with an island in the center.

Turning to excursions, Scenic passengers can now visit Nijmegan's 17th century Het Loo Palace on the 14-night Romantic Rhine & Moselle sailing from Amsterdam to Basel. The grand palace was home to William III and remained a royal summer residence until 1962.

Emerald  Liberte

Emerald Cruises, the sister brand to Scenic, is introducing a host of new excursions. On the Danube, these include a Bavarian brunch in Passau and tour of the Gottweig Benedictine Abbey and on the Rhine there is a guided tour of Freiburg with a market visit and tastings. The line has also unveiled city stay extensions in Copenhagen, Seville and Munich during the Oktoberfest, plus a journey on the Glacier Express train through the Swiss Alps.

First introduced in 2022, Uniworld's "Nights Out" private evening experiences will now be included on almost every European itinerary, showcasing highlights of cities after dark and exclusive to Uniworld passengers. New experiences include an evening at Faber-Castell, a German pencil dynasty and one of the oldest family businesses in the world, on the Delightful Danube itinerary; an after-hours visit to Bassins des Lumieres in Bordeaux, the largest digital art centre in the world devoted to historical artists, on the Brilliant Bordeaux sailing; and a private visit to Saint Sava church in Belgrade with a concert from the renowned boys' choir and brandy tasting on the Highlights of Eastern Europe trip. Also, passengers looking to extend their trip can book one of Uniworld's new pre- or post-cruise extensions. These include two nights in Interlaken in conjunction with the Remarkable Rhine & Historic Holland itinerary with a visit to Jungfraujoch, known as the "Top of Europe", and four nights at the Red Sea with the Splendours of Egypt & The Nile trip.

In May, the 158-passenger Amadeus Riva will become the 10th ship in the Austrian- family-owned Amadeus River Cruises' fleet. Described as a five-star ship, the progressive design includes a split-level sun deck where one section can always remain open when the ship has to pass under low bridges and imaginative use of the balcony space in the 12 suites, which become part of the cabin when the window is opened to one side. Reflecting the line's Austrian heritage, there is also an onboard Viennese cafe. Amadeus Riva will sail on the Danube and the Rhine as well as on the Dutch and Belgian waterways.

Elsewhere, the new seven-night Saar & Moselle Fairytales cruise with Amadeus starts and ends in Cologne and travels up the Rhine to its largest tributary, the Moselle River, and along the winding course of the Saar River, a tributary of the Moselle. Shore excursions include a visit to Luxembourg, one of the smallest countries in Europe.

German-owned A-Rosa River Cruises, which offers "international" cruises for English speakers, has introduced a collection of themed cruises on the Rhine, Danube, Rhone and Moselle including photography, food, yoga, meditation and design. The line is also enhancing its "Premium All-Inclusive" package. Previously serving mainly buffet-style meals, passengers can now opt to serve themselves or have an a la carte dining experience. Additionally, for 2023 a city tour will be included for cruises of seven nights or more, followed by a highlight culinary experience onboard featuring local specialities. There will also be welcome and farewell dinners and complimentary room service in every cabin grade. The line is also rolling out the new A-Rosa app across the entire fleet, enabling passengers to customize their cruise with facilities such as making excursion bookings and accessing menus.

Riviera Travel has added ten post-cruise European city break extensions to its 2023 river cruise itineraries, enabling guests to spend more time in their final destination or a nearby location after sailings on the Danube, Douro, Rhine, Rhone, Moselle and Seine. The three-day extensions, spanning six countries, are in Amsterdam, Basel, Cologne, Frankfurt, Lyon, Marseille, Munich, Paris, Porto and Vienna. The extensions comprise a stay in a centrally-located three- or four-star hotel, with guests free to explore the city at their own pace. Riviera offers independent advice on the best places to visit, and has partnered with online travel platform Holibob so people can book recommended tours and experiences.

Hotel barge company European Waterways, which has a fleet of 17 European barges hosting up to 20 guests, has new experiential excursions such as private wine tastings, dining with aristocracy, truffle hunting and falconry demonstrations. For those who enjoy a glass of bubbly, sailings on the 12-passenger Panache  “bubbly”, will feature visits to prestigious Champagne houses that including Moet & Chandon.  

Rendering for American Glory and American Eagle (Photo/American Cruise Lines)

Moving stateside, American Cruise Lines is continuing to expand its fleet with two  environmentally friendly catamarans American Eagle and American Glory, which have the capacity for electric propulsion. American Cruise Lines collaborated with leading Miami-based design company Studio DADO to create the interiors of the ships combining contemporary décor that also reflects U.S. history and heritage. The line, which explores 35 U.S. states also has all-new itineraries featuring Tennessee rivers, the first California sailing that takes in the Napa Valley Wine region, and a 14-night National Parks & Legendary Rivers cruisetour on the Columbia and Snake rivers visiting National Parks including legendary Yellowstone.

Danube River Cruise News 2023

Scenic Opal on the Danube Going Through the Iron Gate (Photo/Scenic River Cruises)

On Scenic Luxury River Cruises & Tours' eight-night Black Sea Explorer, from Budapest to Bucharest, passengers can take a small boat trip through Kopacki Rit nature park in Osijek, Croatia. The area is home to more than 260 species of birds, including the great white egret, white stork, black stork, white-tailed eagle, and Eurasian coot.

The double-width river vessel formerly known as Crystal Mozart will set sail again with new line Riverside Luxury Cruises, founded by the European hotel group Seaside Collection. The company acquired the 77-foot-wide ship following the closure of luxury operator Crystal Cruises. Renamed Riverside Mozart, the vessel carries up to 150 passengers and is described by the line as the most exclusive river cruise ship on the Danube. Prior to the pandemic Crystal Cruises embarked on a multi-million-dollar renovation of the unusual riverboat. Riverside Mozart begins cruising in April 2023, and passengers have the choice of embarking in Vienna, Budapest and Passau.

Viva Cruises debuts second new ship, the 190-passenger Viva Two, this spring. The German-based line, launched in 2018, is the tour operating arm of Scylla Group which is one of the biggest builders of river cruise ships, supplying vessels for companies including Tauck and Riviera Travel. The vessel features a choice of three restaurants -- the main dining room, a casual bistro and specialty venue Moments with live entertainment -- and accommodations include eight suites. Viva Two will offer a variety of English-speaking sailings including classic seven-night round-trip cruises from Passau and itineraries to the lesser-known Danube Delta. Fares are all-Inclusive and cover drinks, in-room mini-bar and gratuities.

Rhine River News 2023

Rhine River (via Shutterstock)

Aimed at wine-lovers, Scenic is introducing the seven-night Charming Castles & Vineyards sailing from Frankfurt to Basel. In Rudesheim, a cable car ride offers panoramic views across the vineyards below and there are wine-tasting excursions on offer during the week. The itinerary also includes two days on the Moselle, a picturesque tributary of the Rhone renowned for its Riesling wines.

For passengers short on time, CroisiEurope has a three-night Christmas Markets Rhine cruise from Strasbourg to Basel, taking in the festive traditions of Alsace and Switzerland, aboard the 107-passener MS Douce France.

Moselle River News 2023

Moselle River at Cochem, Germany (Photo: marytuuk, Cruise Critic member)

In May, the 150-passenger Amadeus Elegant joins Saga River Cruises, which caters to over-50s from the U.K., to sail on the Moselle and its tributary the Saar. The ship will visit smaller ports such as the wine-growing town of Zell.

Rhone River Cruise News 2023

Port St. Louis-du-Rhone (Photo: Pascale Gueret/Shutterstock)

Riviera Travel is introducing a 10-night Lyon, Provencal Rhone & the Camargue River Cruise aboard the 140-passenger Lord Byron. Highlights of the sailing include shore excursions to the Ardeche Gorge, famous for its towering limestone cliffs, and the protected wetland and marine region of the Camargue which provides a wild natural habitat for its distinctive white horses, black bulls and abundant birdlife. U.K.-based Riviera also sells its cruises in North America.

Seine River Cruise News 2023

TA Deborah Deck

See the parts of the Seine larger ships cannot reach on this hotel barge cruise with French specialist CroisiEurope. The round-trip Paris sailing on the cozy 21-passenger Deborah takes in the Petite Seine section of the river, and its tributary the Yonne, and includes a visit and tasting at a Champagne cellar.

Nile River Cruise News 2023

Viking Osiris reveals both Scandinavian and Egyptian design touches (Photo: Colleen McDaniel)

Viking's latest ship is scheduled to launch in August. The 82-passenger Viking Aton will feature the line's trademark Scandinavian design, including the Aquavit Terrace found on its European river ships. The vessel will sail on the 11-night Pharaohs & Pyramids itinerary an excursion options include a sunrise balloon flight over the ancient temples and burial grounds of the Valleys of the Kings and Queens. Knowledgeable Egyptologists will accompany the sailings on the ship which is owned and operated by Viking

Luxury line Uniworld has new family-friendly sailings in Egypt as part of its Generations program. Alongside the iconic sights of the Pyramids of Giza and Valley of the Kings, the 11-night Splendors of Egypt and the Nile cruise aboard River Tosca has been adapted to include activities such as a football match with local children and some of the ship's crew, sand dune boarding and exploring the river on a traditional felucca.

Mekong River Cruise News 2023

A Giant Buddha Statue Looking to Mekong River (Photo: Knot Mirai/Shutterstock)

July will see the launch of APT's 88-passenger Mekong Serenity with 300-square-foot Deluxe Twin Balcony Suites that offer some of the largest entry level suites of any vessel on the river. Sailing on 14- to 22-night itineraries from Hanoi to Siem Reap and Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh City, onboard dining options include the Indochine restaurant serving an authentic taste of Vietnam with a special five-course tasting menu. There is nightly entertainment in the lounge, such as apsara dance performances typified by the dancers’ graceful hand movements. The 14-night Vietnam and Cambodia Highlights itinerary features a meal at Vietnam House in Ho Chi Minh City, founded by Australia-born Vietnamese celebrity chef Luke Nguyen.

On the rarely sailed Upper Mekong in Laos, the intimate 20-passenger Anouvong is slated to launch in August. The vessel, which features two opulent signature suites with a hot tub and eight deluxe staterooms, will sail on the less-traveled stretch of the Asian river through the only land-locked country in Southeast Asia. Anouvong has an onboard spa and offers free sunrise Tai Chi classes. Itineraries, sold through Rainforest Cruises, range from three- to nine-night itineraries with highlights of the longer Laotian Serendipity sailing including sunset cocktails and a dining experience on a river island, a walking tour of the Luang Prabang UNESCO World Heritage Site and kayaking along the Nam Ou River.

Meanwhile, APT's flexible value-for-money sister brand, Travelmarvel, is taking over the Apsara vessel which previously sailed under the APT banner. The line, which offers fewer inclusions than APT, says the 108-passenger all-balcony ship will offer five-star cruising at four-star prices and herald a new level of luxury for Travelmarvel. Facilities include a spa, sun deck with reclining loungers and onboard cafe. The 14-night Essential Vietnam and Cambodia sailing from Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap includes a visit to the Opportunities of Development thru Art organisation which supports underprivileged children in Siem Reap.

Ganges River Cruise News 2023

Ganges Voyager II

Travelmarvel is featuring India for the first time in 2023. Its 13-night Authentic India -- Lower Ganges Cruise begins and ends in Kolkata and also includes a three-night hotel stay in the city.  Cultural experiences include a visit to Nirmal Hriday, or Pure Heart, which is the hospice set up by Mother Teresa; a scenic local train journey from Kolkata to Farakka; the brass-making village of Matiari; and a traditional rickshaw ride through the town of Kalna. The trip can be extended to include the Golden Triangle, with the Taj Mahal, and Mumbai.

Uniworld is teaming up with opulent Maharajas' Express train to offer a 15-night journey through India. The trip combines seven nights on Ganges Voyager II from Kolkata with a private train journey through the Golden Triangle and Rajasthan to Mumbai. Sights along the way include the Taj Mahal, Amber Fort and Ranthambore National Park, home to one of the world’s largest populations of Bengal tigers.

Updated December 20, 2022

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