Largest River Cruise Ship Ever Heralds Rebirth of River Cruising

September 16, 2009

It's a sign of the times: The largest river cruise ship ever built, the 416-passenger, 10,000-ton, 439-foot-long Victoria Jenna debuted for Victoria Cruises this September. The launch of this technologically advanced vessel, which will cruise China's Yangtze River between Chongqing and Yichang, is yet another signal that river cruise ships are starting to catch up in style, sophistication, amenities and environmental applications to ocean-going vessels.

According to Victoria Cruises, Victoria Jenna is a trendsetter with a number of river cruise ship firsts: four elevators, two full-service kitchens, CDMA-based Wi-Fi, full bathtubs and high-tech toilets onboard. Its 208 all-balcony staterooms include 42 suites -- more than any other river ship cruising the Yangtze River. Environmentally conscious cruisers will be pleased to note that the kitchen serves up grass-fed and hormone-free meats, and the ship employs green technology so it can have one of the best fuel-to-passenger ratios and reduce paper use onboard.

While Victoria Cruises may be striving for a mention in the Guinness Book of World Records with its new-build, other river cruise lines have been upping the ante with innovative new ships this year, as well. Boats that cruise Europe's rivers have more limitations in size and girth (these must pass through innumerable narrow links and under many low-slung, ancient bridges). Even so, Uniworld's new River Beatrice, which cruises along the Danube between Passau and Budapest, sports more junior suites than any comparable ship. Its all-suite River Tosca, which debuts in late fall with Nile River voyages, will feature 300- to 650-square-foot cabins with marble-floored bathrooms, as well as a swimming pool lined with cabanas and a rooftop bar. Viking River Cruises' new ship, Viking Legend, employs the latest engine technology to ensure a quiet ride and use 20 percent less fuel. The ship also sports the largest suites on European river ships, with high-quality amenities, European linens and complimentary room service.

Not to be outdone, Avalon Waterways can boast the youngest river cruise fleet afloat with the debut of this year's new ships, Avalon Creativity and Avalon Affinity. The line is particularly creative with new itinerary options, including short cruises, theme cruises and new pre- and post-cruise land extensions. AMAWATERWAYS is also pushing hard for new ships, with 2009's Amadolce and Amalyra becoming the fleet's fifth and sixth new ships in three years. Modern amenities include complimentary Wi-Fi and an in-cabin "Infotainment system" (an interactive TV with options for watching movies, surfing the Web and sending e-mail), and multiple fitness options (including a small fitness center, walking track and bicycles for passenger use). French balconies, now a standard feature on newer riverboats in Europe, are on more than 82 percent of cabins. And Tauck's new Swiss Jewel (and siblings Swiss Sapphire and Swiss Emerald) boast such modern amenities as Nintendo Wii in the Lido Bar and an alternative dinner option.

You can find these new river ships sailing everywhere from the many rivers of Europe to the Yangtze River in China and the Nile River in Egypt. Better yet, the lines are enticing travelers, especially Americans, with special deals. You can find two-for-one fares, free suite upgrades and waived single supplements on our River Cruise Deals page.

--by Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor