American Cruise Lines
Just last month, the cruise line named its brand-new Mississippi paddlewheeler, and the new name is…drum roll, please…America. This is the line’s eighth ship, which is set to sail the Mississippi River starting in early 2016. According to reports received at press time, the riverboat is ahead of schedule and will introduce features “never before seen on a Mississippi riverboat.” This year has been a busy one for American Cruise Lines with the introduction of pre- and post-cruise extension packages that highlight the rich culture, history and entertainment in U.S. ports such as New Orleans, Memphis, Charleston and Seattle. An extension package in Memphis, for example, includes a welcome reception and deluxe hotel accommodations with ample time for your clients to explore the city—strolling Beale Street; taking part in a Memphis-style BBQ cooking lesson from a master local chef; experiencing a unique “fowl” tradition at the Memphis-Peabody Hotel as the Peabody ducks march to and from the lobby for a drink in the fountain; and visiting Sun Studios, as well as the National Civil Rights Museum. According to Judy Roman, vice president of American Cruise Lines, the Mississippi River is the initial focus of the extension packages, but there’ll be a full roll out to all of the destinations in 2016. americancruiselines.com
American Queen Steamboat Company
Starting this September, your clients will be able to opt for Big Band Swing voyages on board the American Queen paddlewheel steamboat. Taking place between Sept. 5-13 from St. Paul to St. Louis and Sept. 12-20 from St. Louis to St. Paul, these 9-day cruises include nightly dancing accompanied by the 13-piece Great American Swing Band and onboard lectures from historians, as well as special appearances by vocalist Lynn Roberts, a former big band singer with the Dorsey Brothers, Harry James, and Doc Severinsen. Other highlights include a pre-cruise hotel stay in St. Paul or St. Louis, and hop-on/hop-off tours in the port cities. Rates start at $3,599 for 2015 departures; for 2016, there are departures in February and September.
In 2016, the line will debut Commodore River Butler Service on board both its vessels for those passengers booked into the luxury suites. This 24-hour personalized service includes private check-in, laundry service, afternoon in-suite tea, breakfast and dinner service, in-suite canapes and post-dinner sweets along with a personal escort to reserved balcony seating in the Grand Saloon theater. Next year will also see two Mighty Mississippi Voyages, traveling the length of the entire river with a southbound and northbound itinerary spanning three weeks. There will also be new themed voyages, including Presidents & Politics, coinciding with the dates of the 2016 Republican and Democratic national conventions. americanqueensteamboatcompany.com
It’s fun to get lots of presents under the Christmas tree, but for those clients who really want to impress perhaps a river cruise during the holidays is in order. Come 2016, Avalon Waterways will have seven Christmas cruises, including the 17-day Christmastime Zurich to Budapest cruise on the Avalon Tranquility II (priced from $4,589 and departing Dec. 3, 2016). It will sail not one, not two, but three rivers in Europe: Danube, Main and Rhine. Along the way, passengers will be taking in all the quintessential sights, scents and delights of Central Europe during the holidays. On view are traditional Black Forest houses with their long sloping roofs; Strasbourg’s Christmas market, which dates back to 1570; an ice rink set up at the foot of Heidelberg Castle; Bamberg’s nativity scenes built by local citizens and exhibited throughout the town; and Nuremberg’s Old Town, illuminated with festive lights and decorations.
For those clients opting for shorter holiday trips, Avalon is offering itineraries that range from five to 13 days in 2016. A fan favorite for the holidays is the 8-day Christmas in the Heart of Germany on the Avalon Tranquility II (priced from $1,773). If Prague decked out for the holidays is on your client’s bucket list, recommend the 12-day Christmastime Zurich to Prague (priced from $2,898). avalonwaterways.com
Even more goodies have made their way onto Scenic Cruises’ 2016 brochure—a new sailing on the Danube; a 21-day Christmas Market cruise; and a 3-week sailing through France. On the line’s new 8-day Iconic Danube (rates start at $3,950), passengers will have the opportunity to tour Passau, one of the most beautiful towns along the river; opt for Scenic’s newest FreeChoice option, the Best of Sound of Music and Salzburg Show; and watch a private concert featuring the music of Strauss and Mozart in Palais Lichtenstein, considered an exclusive Scenic event. Incidentally, if you’re not aware of Scenic Cruises’ FreeChoice land excursions, they are always included in the itineraries and feature a diverse selection of immersion-based activities that allow guests to explore key cities and regions at their own pace. On Scenic Cruises’ 21-day, holiday-themed Christmas Markets with Paris and Prague (fares start at $8,410), passengers kick off the merry itinerary in Paris, then set sail to explore the region’s centuries-old traditions while visiting the festive markets. For Francophiles, meanwhile, the 21-day Gems of the Seine and Breathtaking Bordeaux (starting at $10,700) combines two of France’s most gorgeous regions into one grand sailing, with a stop in Lyons-la-Floret; a tour of the house and gardens of Impressionist painter Claude Monet in Giverny; a visit to the Palace of Versailles; a look at winemaking traditions in the Sauternes and Medoc regions; and dinner at Chateau Giscours winery in Bordeaux. sceniccruises.com
Not one to rest on its laurels, Tauck is heading into 2016 with an array of options for your clients: new ships, a new itinerary and new dining experiences. Next year, the company will launch two Inspiration Class ships in Europe, the ms Grace and the ms Joy. Both will carry fewer passengers (130), have more service staff, have a higher percentage of suites, and have a second onboard dining venue, Arthur’s. The ships will offer eight 225-sq.-ft. Loft Cabins, twenty-two 300-sq.-ft. suites furnished with two French balconies with floor-to-ceiling windows, thirty-two 225-sq.-ft. cabins, and 13 cabins ranging from 150 to 190 sq. ft. Among the itineraries the ms Grace will sail is Tauck’s new 10-day The Rhine, Swiss Alps & Amsterdam (starting at $4,690 pp). It includes a 2-night stay in Bern and passengers board the ship in Basel for a 7-night cruise. Highlights include learning about art in Colmar and about Germany’s 2,000-year-old winemaking traditions in Stuttgart, and exploring The Netherlands’ windmills in the Dutch village of Kinderdijk. Your clients will also have the opportunity to try one of Tauck’s new dining experiences: a private evening at Ehreshoven Castle in Engelskirchen, Germany. It’s normally closed to the public, but Tauck guests will enjoy a cocktail reception, dinner and a musical performance in this castle that dates back to the 14th century. tauck.com
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection has its eyes set on exotic India, with a new ship, the Ganges Voyager II, and a new itinerary to go with it, the 13-day India’s Golden Triangle & the Sacred Ganges, launching in January (starting rates $7,599). Talk about intimate—the new all-suite ship has capacity for only 56 guests with a 400-sq.-ft. Maharaja Suite; two 360-sq.-ft. Viceroy Suites; two 280-sq.-ft. Heritage Suites and twenty 261-sq.-ft. Standard Suites. Amenities? Check this out: If your clients book the Maharaja or Viceroy suites, they’ll get daily butler service, laundry service, and a complimentary spa treatment per person. Public areas include the Governor’s Lounge with cultural events; the 360-degree-view observation deck; a spa/fitness center; and the East India Restaurant with menus showcasing both Indian and Western dishes. The 13-day itinerary includes seven days aboard the Ganges Voyager II and five nights at three Oberoi properties in New Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. Among the captivating sights your clients will set their eyes on are Mother Theresa’s tomb and former home in Kolkata; a Verdic temple in Mayapur; the Taj Mahal, which on this journey will be visited twice, at sunset and sunrise; and medieval bazaars in New Delhi. Cool experiences include a horse cart ride to Katra Mosque; visiting an orphanage; and seeing the sights of Kalna via a trishaw ride. uniworld.com
Viking River Cruises
It’s full steam ahead for Viking River Cruises in 2016 with 10 new cruise and cruisetour itineraries—many of them expand on Viking’s most popular routes—as well as six new river ships, including five Viking Longships and a smaller custom-built ship for the Douro River featuring, among other amenities, a sun deck with shaded sitting area and al fresco dining area, a pool, and putting green. Included in the new itineraries is a return to Ukraine for Viking with an 11-day journey between Odessa and Kiev (2-for-1 rates start at $3,530 pp). Other cruise-only itineraries include the 10-day Bavaria to Budapest along the Danube with a full day in Vienna (2-for-1 prices start at $2,222 pp); the 8-day Lyon & Provence, sailing along the Saone and Rhone rivers with time to explore the region of Beaujolais (2-for-1 prices start at $1,956 pp); the 10-day Switzerland to the North Sea along the Rhine River (2-for-1 prices start at $2,322 pp); and the 18-day Undiscovered China that sails from Shanghai to Beijing (2-for-1 prices start at $6,092 pp). One of the most alluring of the line’s new cruisetours is the 19-day Grand European Tour & Belgium, which harks back to a time when wealthy Americans spent their time in Europe on a grand tour of the Old World. It explores five countries, including two nights each in the canal-lined lanes of Amsterdam and Ghent (2-for-1 prices start at $5,012 pp). vikingrivercruises.com
Crystal Cruises to Launch Crystal River Cruises
Come spring 2017, Crystal River Cruises will enter the river cruise market. Although not many details about this brand extension were available at press time, Crystal’s president and CEO Edie Rodriguez did point out in the announcement that “the hallmarks of the Crystal experience—six-star service, world-class dining, delightful shore adventures and the largest suites in river cruising—will be applied to an exquisite new class of river vessels that will feature expertly curated itineraries.” crystalcruises.com