Set Sail on a European River Cruise

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Uniworld's SS Antoinette

When it comes to cruise vacations in Europe, there are few better ways to experience the sights of some of this region’s most picturesque destinations than aboard a European river cruise. And with well-known river cruise companies like Uniworld Boutique River CruisesViking River Cruises and AMAWaterways all recently introducing some pretty impressive new vessels to their fleets, it’s an ideal time for travelers to book a vacation where they can see Europe from a whole new point of view.

Just last month, Uniworld inaugurated its newest and largest ship, S.S. Antoinette, in a ceremony at the Port of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Attending the ceremony were travel agents, local dignitaries and journalists from around the word, as well as members of the Tollman family, who own and operate Uniworld.

The concept of the S.S. Antoinette’s design was based on 18th century France, taking inspiration from France’s Chateau de Versailles with marble walls and floors adorning the ship’s lobby. “The design of the ship began with the spectacular blue sapphire 10-ft. Baccarat chandelier that adorns the Antoinette’s 2-story lobby,” says Antoinette Tollman, godmother and namesake of the ship. “This very chandelier once hung in New York’s famous Tavern on the Green.”

From there, Tollman adds, the ship’s Salon du Grand Tranon was inspired by Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors, while the ornamental gardens of Versailles served as the muse for the ship’s Restaurant de Versailles.

The 164-passenger Antoinette also features 73 staterooms, each with handcrafted Savoir of England beds, vanities, built-in closets, individual climate-control thermostats, and flat-screen TVs with satellite. Other onsite amenities include a mosaic-tiled heated pool; massage room; fitness center; and the Le Cinema Pigalle movie theater.

For more information, visit uniworld.com.

March was also a big month for Viking River Cruises, which announced the next phase of its $250 million fleet development program, unveiling details of four state-of-the-art vessels expected to launch at the start of the cruise line’s 2012 sailing season.

Viking FreyaViking IdunViking Njord and Viking Odin will be the first of Viking’s Longships, a new class of vessel within the fleet characterized by their long and graceful design, reminiscent of ancient Scandinavian vessels. The new vessels will also feature several high-tech features designed by architects Yran & Strobrattem—the same team behind theDisney Dream.

Viking Longships will feature larger staterooms with separate sleeping and living rooms in its Explorer and Verandah suites, as well as more full-sized rooms than other Viking ships. Other features include sustainability upgrades such as energy-efficient hybrid engines, solar panels and an onboard organic garden; an all-weather indoor/outdoor Aquavit Terrace lounge; and al fresco dining areas on the the upper deck.

Viking Longships will sail four of the line’s most popular European itineraries, including the 10-day Tulips & Windmills, the 8-day Romantic Danube, the 15-day Grand European Tour and the 8-day Danube Waltz. Bookings are already available. For more information, visit vikingrivercruises.com.

Meanwhile, AMAWaterways has introduced its latest ship, the MS AMAVerde. Sister ship to the MS AMABella, the 161-passenger AMAVerdeboasts the line’s signature Twin Balcony stateroom design, featuring a French balcony, plus a full-sized balcony.

The AMAVerde offers larger staterooms ranging from 170-350 sq. ft. All staterooms include flat-screen TVs with complimentary Internet access and marble bathrooms. Dining options on board include four distinctive restaurants, including dining options such as an “Early Riser’s” breakfast, light lunches, late-night snacks and a wine room available for private dining and the Erlebnis Chef’s Table.

On board, guests can also enjoy the Main Lounge & Bar, a library, observation lounge, 24-hour speciality coffee and tea station, fitness center and sauna, beauty salon and heated pool. The AMAVerde will sail AMAWaterways’ 14-night Magnificent Europe itineraries from Amsterdam to Budapest beginning October 2011. For more information, visit amawaterways.com.