River Cruising for 2011

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In 2009, Uniworld debuted the River Beatrice, and next year she will be joined by sister ship River Antoinette, which launches in March to cruise on the 9-day Castles Along the Rhine itinerary between Basel and Amsterdam. At 443 ft. long, River Antoinette will be Uniworld’s largest ship, devoting additional space to creating more spacious staterooms (193 sq. ft.) and eight jr. suites measuring 294 sq. ft., as well as an Owners Suite occupying 391 sq. ft. Top deck suites and staterooms will have full, open-air private balconies, English Savoir beds (originally designed for the Savoy and Claridges hotels in London), marble bathrooms, designer bath products and towels. Additional new features include a heated pool and a sky lounge on the sun deck.

Uniworld’s second new ship, the 128-passenger Douro Spirit, is under charter, and will have river-view staterooms and suites with French balconies; hotel-style beds; flat-screen satellite TVs; and built-in closets. Public areas include a main lounge with a bar and dance floor; a sun deck with jacuzzi and a small pool; restaurant with open seating; fitness and massage rooms; beauty salon and boutique. The ships will sail on Uniworld’s 11-day Portugal, Spain & the Douro River package that includes three nights in Lisbon and is priced from $2,999 pp.

And finally, Uniworld will be re-entering the Russian market in 2011 aboard the completely refurbished River Victoria. “We exited this market last year because of the quality of the ship and its onboard services,” reports Young. “Pulling out of Russia was a very difficult decision for Uniworld, for we were the first North American river cruise company to offer North American-style cruises on the Volga River, and Russia has always been a very profitable venture.” And Young is delighted to be back, with a ship delivering river-view staterooms and suites offering individual climate-control thermostats, telephones, flat-screen satellite TVs, and bathrooms stocked with high-quality bath products. Guest facilities include three restaurant/bar choices, a sundeck patio, fitness and massage room, library/reading room and wireless Internet access in public areas. Sailings start in May on the Imperial Waterways of Russia itinerary, a 13-day journey from Moscow to St. Petersburg, priced from $3,299 pp dbl.

viking river cruises Swiss-based Viking River Cruises is credited—even by its competitors—with unleashing an unprecedented marketing push that brought the river cruise product steaming into the North American marketplace. As the only river cruise company operating in Europe, Russia and the Ukraine, China, Southeast Asia and Egypt, Viking now captures 24 percent market share in the river cruise market. Since its 1997 inception, the company has grown to a fleet of 18 vessels, and with a $250 million investment in a fleet development program, by 2013 Viking will have completed several refurbishments and introduced eight new ships.

“Over the past decade, Viking has established river cruising as a mainstream means of travel,” “says Torstein Hagan, chairman of Viking River Cruises. “At the same time, we believe that river cruising is still in its infancy, and has tremendous growth potential. This multi-year fleet development program reinforces Viking’s commitment to our guests, to our travel agent partners and to an industry that will continue its double-digit growth for years to come.”

And indeed the company, operating the largest fleet among cruise lines of its own vessels, continues sailing forth, announcing earlier this year that it plans to build eight ships in the next three years.

Making its debut in 2011 is Europe’s Viking Prestige, a 189-passenger sister ship to the company’s flagship Viking Legend, the industry’s first “green” river cruises vessel. According to a company spokesperson, with the same efficient, hybrid propulsion system, Viking Prestige will use significantly less fuel and provide a smoother, quieter ride than other ships, and major features include staterooms on upper and middle decks with floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors that open to balconies. Prestige will sail on Viking’s 8-day Romantic Danube itinerary from Budapest to Nuremberg, and on the 15-day Grand European cruise. Additionally, the company’s newest ship in China, Viking Emerald, will replace the Viking Century Sun on China’s Yangtze River in 2011. Its features include full-size balconies in every 269-sq.-ft. hotel-style stateroom and the largest suites ever in river cruising: the 840-sq.-ft. presidential suites with separate sitting and sleeping areas, two flat-screen TVs, panoramic windows and private wrap-around balconies. The river cruiser will sail on the Imperial Jewels of China cruise-tour.

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