VIENNA -- Avalon Waterways christened its latest "Suite Ship" -- the 166-passenger Avalon Illumination -- in a ceremony on the banks of the Danube here, the event co-hosted by the Vienna Tourist Board.
The river cruise line’s guest list for the festivities was an indicator of the importance it places on the Australian cruise market, its second-largest after the U.S.
Australian TV personality Deborah Hutton served as godmother, cutting a rope to send a bottle of Viennese sparkling wine smashing against the ship's hull.
Agents from Down Under
Travel professionals and media from Australia and New Zealand were among those attending the event, along with local tourism officials. About 15% of Avalon's cruises embark or disembark in Vienna, officials said.
Patrick Clark, Avalon Waterways' managing director, acknowledged travel agents in his comments. He said the line's travel partners, both in the U.S. and Australia, have played a key part in its success.
"We thank you for the confidence you have in our brand," Clark said. He added that Avalon Illumination is already 97% sold out for 2014.
More expansion in 2015
Avalon Illumination is the eighth Suite Ship the line has launched in Europe since 2011. The ships have the distinguishing feature of two full decks of suites with wall-to-wall glass doors that open to form balconies.
Two more of the Suite Ships, Avalon Tapestry II and Avalon Tranquility II, are set to debut in Europe next year. The line is also launching two slightly smaller ships on the Mekong and Irrawaddy rivers in 2015.
Clark said the river cruising boom shows no signs of abating.
"All of us at Avalon Waterways feel really good about the future," he said. "We're confident the river cruise style will continue to grow."