31 October 2014

CRUISE NEWS: European updates

A few updates on the river-cruise scene from Europe.

A Viking Longship at Melk on the Danube River, Austria.
Photo: Viking River Cruises
Viking invasion
Viking River Cruises has seen a remarkable number of ship launches over the last few years, yet shows no signs of slowing down. Next year, it breaks the champagne bottle on another 10 top-model Longships in Europe, bringing its total fleet to 64 vessels. Viking first debuted its Longships in 2012 to critical acclaim for their design, technology and quiet. The largest ships in Europe, Longships carry 190 passengers and feature a minimalist Scandinavian design, light-filled public areas and a sundeck stretching across the entire ship: just the spot to watch Europe drift by. More: vikingrivercruises.com.au

Sailing on the Rhine River in Germany with
Botanica World Cruises.
Photo: Botanica World Cruises
Flower power
Themed tour specialist Botanica World Discovery has launched its 15th anniversary program, with five new tours and six new cruises as part of its 33 itineraries. As well as branching out into art, history and gourmet tours, the gardening specialist will be visiting Hawaii, the Croatian coast and Morocco for the first time. Also on the agenda: a 15-day mostly river-cruise meander through the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and France with gardening journalist and television presenter Monty Don. It departs 23 April, with visits to some top public and private gardens and on-board gardening lectures. Sounds blooming marvellous. More: botanica.travel

The Pont de Pierre in Bordeaux, France.
Photo: Scenic Tours
Vine romance
Several river-cruise companies operate out of Bordeaux in France, and now Scenic Tours has announced a new cruise starting from July next year. The 11-day jaunt sails the Dordogne and Garonne River and the Gironde Estuary, docking at Cadillac, Libourne, Blaye, Pauillac and Bordeaux, all of which are destinations sure to please wine lovers. The cruise aboard Scenic Diamond also takes in market towns, fortresses and historic villages. And with no overnight sailing on this languid journey, even the lightest sleepers should be satisfied. More: scenictours.com.au

Tournon on the Rhine River, France.
Photo: River Cruise Insight
French accent

Avalon Waterways is following the river-cruise boom in France by doubling its ship numbers in the land of baguettes and berets next year. Two new river ships, Avalon Poetry II and Avalon Tapestry II, will be the first of the company’s Suite Ship class to sail the Rhône and Seine rivers. Avalon also rolls out a new itinerary, the 16-day ‘Rhine & Rhône Revealed’ that combines Amsterdam-Basel with a drift down the Rhône from Beaune to the Côte d’Azur – a wander from the North Sea to the Mediterranean across the heart of western Europe. More: avalonwaterways.com.au

27 October 2014

CRUISE NEWS: Asian updates

Looks like Asia remains the exciting frontier of the moment for river cruising. Heres a quick look at some of the most recent news coming from Asian rivers.

Design Suite on board the new Aqua Mekong in Vietnam.
Photo: Aqua Expeditions
Ship shape
Aqua Expeditions launched a third luxury vessel on the Mekong in September. The 20-cabin Aqua Mekong sails between Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam and Siem Reap in Cambodia and features five-star comforts such as walk-in rain showers, on-board spa and Vietnamese-influenced cuisine. Kick back and relax: with panoramic floor-to-ceiling windows, you don’t even need to budge as you watch bamboo forests, Buddhist pagodas, jungle-tumbled mountains and stilt villages float by. All accompanied by a gin pahit once the sun is over the yardarm, of course. More: aquaexpeditions.com

A Colonial Suite on Uniworld's new Ganges Voyager II.
Photo: Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection
Suite dreams
River-cruise companies have been eyeing up India for some time, and now Uniworld has announced the launch of a luxury all-suite ship on the Ganges in January 2016, open for bookings late this year. The company will offer a 12-night itinerary between Delhi and Kolkata, including seven nights afloat on the Ganges Voyager II and stays at plush Oberoi hotels in Agra and Jaipur. With the ship carrying just 56 passengers, it promises pampering and an oasis to calm after exploring the colourful tumult of India’s cities, villages and riverbank monuments. More: uniworldcruises.com.au

Artist's impression of Sanctuary Ananda, Myanmar.
Photo: Abercrombie & Kent
Burmese days
Myanmar is the river-cruising must of the moment, with numerous companies floating ships on the Irrawaddy. Abercrombie & Kent’s new all-suite 48-passenger Sanctuary Ananda joins the flotilla in November. Its journeys will vary between three and 11 nights and, as well as plying the mainstream route between Mandalay and Bagan (and twice a year further south to Yangon), also explore the upper river reaches close to the Indian and Chinese borders. Rather inventively, cigar-making lessons will entertain on board, along with more expected yoga, meditation and cooking classes. Cheroot, anyone? More: abercrombiekent.com.au

Entrance to the Temple of Heaven, Beijing, China.
Photo: River Cruise Insight
Shore things
With all the excitement over the Irrawaddy, and new ships coming to the Mekong and Ganges, river cruises on the Yangtze have been a bit overlooked of late – even though that river remains unbeatable for length, scenic drama and culture. The good news is that Uniworld is paying attention and offering new shore excursions on its 2015 China itineraries aboard Century Paragon and Century Legend. They might see you taking in the Temple of Heaven or a kung-fu show in Beijing, exploring Suzhou’s canals or tucking into dim sum in Shanghai. More: uniworldcruises.com.au