While there are no mass river ship christenings such as Viking's record-breaking 14 ships in one day in 2014, the next couple of years are still looking busy for river cruise lines. Viking will launch seven new Longships in 2019; six for Europe's rivers and one slightly smaller model, Viking Helgrim, for Portugal's Douro River.
APT's 156-passenger AmaLea starts cruising from Amsterdam later this month; next year AmaMora will launch in Portugal and the company's biggest ship yet, the 182-passenger AmaMagna, will start sailing the Danube.
Crystal Cruises' Crystal Ravel and Crystal Debussy set sail on the Rhine, Danube and Main in spring and summer this year; both vessels are identical to their 106-passenger fleetmates Crystal Bach and Crystal Ravel and offer ultra-luxury river cruising.
British-based company Riviera is launching MS Robert Burns in April, hot on the heels of its three new identical 169-passenger ships (MS Emily Brontë, MS Thomas Hardy and MS Oscar Wilde) and the 126-passenger MS Douro Elegance, which all launched last year.
In Asia, Avalon Waterways' all-suite, 36-passenger Avalon Saigon will start cruising the Mekong between Vietnam and Cambodia in September 2018, joining Avalon Siem Reap. Uniworld will introduce a new ship on the Yangtze River in 2019, the 124-passenger Sanctuary Yangzi Explorer, which will boast the largest cabins and suites on the river, all with private balconies. In the US, American Cruise Line's 184-passenger American Song, the first of the company's "new, modern riverboats" will start sailing Mississippi River itineraries in September.
As well as these new ships, there are radical refurbishments and new itineraries to look forward to. Uniworld's new brand U by Uniworld, aimed at Millennials, starts operating in April on The A and The B; Amadeus River Cruises has already followed suit, announcing it will start offering Millennial-focused sailings in 2019. Uniworld has also spent millions on refurbishing River Beatrice, which returns to Europe's rivers as SS (Supership) Beatrice in April, and upgrading the interiors of River Royale, its ship dedicated to the Bordeaux region.
New itineraries coming up over the next two years include the Nile in Egypt (Uniworld and Viking) and the Moselle river (Crystal and Uniworld). Pre- and post-cruise extensions are becoming increasingly popular and Viking is operating two river and ocean cruise combos in 2019. There are two departures of the 22-day Grand European and Viking Fjords in May and June, which visits 19 ports from Bergen, via Amsterdam to Budapest, or vice versa; and two for the 15-day Rhine and Viking Shores and Fjords, between Bergen and Basel.
THE PORT Napier, NZ
WHO GOES THERE Azamara, Carnival, Celebrity, Crystal, HAL, NCL, Oceania, RSSC, Royal Caribbean, P&O, Princess, Seabourn, Silversea, Viking.
WHY WE LOVE IT Set on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island, Napier is surrounded by Hawke's Bay, the country's oldest wine-making region. An earthquake in 1931 destroyed most of the original city and it was rebuilt in the striking Art Deco architecture of the time.
TAKE A TOUR OR GO IT ALONE? Ships dock at the industrial port, one kilometre from the city centre – cruise lines provide a shuttle bus service to the I-Site information centre. You can pick up a map for a self-guided walk at the centre, book a guided walk with a local Art Deco expert or a tour in a vintage car. Book a tour to a selection of Hawke's Bay wineries to sample chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and pinot noir; alternatively, you can walk to the Urban Winery in Napier's historic National Tobacco Company building, the latest addition to the Hawke's Bay Wine Trail. Other excursions include rafting on the scenic Mohaka River; hiking, biking and hang-gliding from Te Mata Peak; and a cultural tour to Hakikino Conservation Reserve, an important Maori site.
MUST SEE Museum Theatre Gallery (MTG) features an excellent exhibition about the 1931 earthquake; the National Aquarium of New Zealand has a nocturnal kiwi habitat along with an impressive collection of marine life; and Cape Kidnappers is home to the world's largest gannet colony.
MUST EAT Pacifica restaurant was voted NZ's top restaurant in 2017 by Cuisine magazine; its specialty is locally sourced seafood and it's excellent value for high-end dining. Emporium Eatery and Bar, inside the landmark Art Deco Masonic Hotel, is a top spot for a coffee, glass of wine or meal.
NEED TO KNOW Remember to take your photo ID with you when going ashore – port authorities board the shuttle bus on the way back to the ship and check you're complying.
Cruising Alaska's Inside Passage started in 1881, when the Pacific Coast Steamship Company began offering monthly sailings aboard two ships, the Ancon and the Idaho.
Celebrity Cruises has teamed up with the Galapagos National Park to plant more than 30,000 trees on Santa Cruz Island, helping to conserve this pristine archipelago that's home to flora and fauna found nowhere else in the world. Reforestation preserves the natural ecosystem and regenerates areas that have been affected by humans and introduced species. "We want to help ensure future generations have the same incredible Galapagos experience with our industry-leading stewardship and conservation efforts," said Celebrity Cruises' managing director Bernardo Carrillo. Celebrity operates three ships in the Galapagos: the 100-passenger Celebrity Xpedition, 48-passenger Celebrity Xperience and 16-passenger Xploration. The new, 100-passenger all-suite Celebrity Flora will replace Xperience and Xploration when it arrives in the Galapagos Islands in May 2019. See https://celebritycruises.com.au
Gourmet Mekong cruises
Acclaimed Australian chef David Thompson is hosting two four-night cruises from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh in June and August onboard Aqua Mekong. Thompson has been Aqua Mekong's consulting chef since its inaugural cruise in October 2014 and his London restaurant Nahm was the first Thai restaurant in Europe to receive a Michelin star. Thompson will host tours to local markets, where guests will learn about local ingredients used in Aqua Mekong's dishes; lead master cooking classes; and take part in Q&A sessions focusing on the dynamic international food scene. Aqua Mekong accommodates a maximum of 40 guests in 20 spacious suites and the ship has a fully equipped gym, screening room, outdoor cinema, observation deck and an upper-deck pool. There is a 30 per cent saving on these departures. See www.aquaexpeditions.com.au