Crystal, AmaWaterways and Uniworld Boutique River Cruises are among the river cruise lines poised to put new ships in the water this year. And while the number of christening events won't rival recent years—Viking launched 18 ships in 2014 alone—this year's new-builds will bring unique amenities.
Some of the new onboard features, such as a swim-up bars, dance floors and multiple dining venues, are geared toward a younger demographic, putting the cruise lines on track with AAA's recent research that found river trips are gaining with Millennials. They like the all-inclusive price and the ability to go where the big ships can't. They also value the ability to quickly get into the heart of a destination on ships that dock close to city centers. And onboard offerings that appeal to the younger crowd are important perks, too.
“I absolutely think that just like with the ocean cruise ships, people who book river cruises always want to experience the latest and greatest with all the bells and whistles,” said Tom Baumann, president and owner of Cruise & Travel Experts, in Spring Lake, MI. “And the river lines are finding the latest and greatest ideas, like AmaWaterways' swim-up pool bar on the new AmaKristina, which of course, especially for the younger generation, will be a great sales tool. They can be sitting in the pool at the bar while sailing down the river….sounds pretty enticing and exotic.”
Baumann said his river cruise business is hotter than ever, and he is seeing interest from more diverse age groups. “I think more and more people, both family groups and younger people, are wanting to experience the river product. It’s fantastic for all generations as long as you, of course, match them with the right cruise line and ship,” he said.
Ships launching this year include:
AmaWaterways' AmaKristina will sport a heated swimming pool and swim-up bar. The 158-passenger ship, set to debut in early April, also will have multiple dining venues, and a fitness center and spa. The ship will sail the Rhine River from Amsterdam to Basel, Switzerland.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruises in late March will introduce the new Joie de Vivre, a 128-guest ship that will ply the Seine River on 10-day cruises from Paris to Normandy, Bordeaux, Avignon and other destinations. Its Le Club L'Esprit will have a movie theater and a hydraulic pool that can be covered to form a dance floor or outdoor movie theater.
Viking River Cruises is having a light year, comparatively speaking; it has launched more than 50 ships in the past five years. It will introduce two Longships in March, Viking Longship Herja and Viking Longship Hild, which each will carry 190 passengers and sail the Moselle and Rhine rivers. Designed as “green ships,” they will be outfitted with solar panels and hybrid energy-efficient engines.
American Cruise Lines in early May will roll out the 170-guest American Constellation, which will cruise inland waterways and coastal regions of the Mid-Atlantic and New England. The ship will have a putting green on the top deck and will feature what it calls “hotel-size” bathrooms.
Emerald Waterways is poised to introduce two ships in April, the Emerald Liberte, accommodating 138, and Emerald Radiance, carrying 112. The Emerald Radiance will cruise Portugal’s Douro, while Emerald Liberte sails France's Rhone and Saone rivers.
Crystal will debut its 106-guest Crystal Bach river yacht in mid-June, with itineraries on the Danube, Main and Rhine rivers. Features include a swimming pool with a sliding glass roof, multiple restaurants and 53 suites. In late August, sister yacht Crystal Mahler will launch, also sailing the Danube, Main and Rhine.
Looking ahead to 2018, Uniworld will begin operating U By Uniworld, a program designed to tailor ships and activities to a younger set of clients. Two of Uniworld’s existing ships, the River Baroness and the River Ambassador, will undergo extensive renovations and design changes.
“The ships will feature a contemporary look and feel in all public areas and open spaces and offer communal tables for dining, with a new culinary program, creative mixologists and international DJs onboard,” the company said in a statement.
The initiative also will feature immersive, experiential itineraries, focusing on longer stays in destinations to connect explorers to local experiences and nightlife.