New river cruise ships to set sail in 2020

As APT prepares to launch the super-sized AmaMagna on the Danube in May, its sister company Travelmarvel has ordered three new river ships. The first is due to set sail in April 2020 and its fleet mates will follow in April 2021.

Travelmarvel is a more budget-friendly premium line than APT. It has three ships in its European fleet – Jewel, Diamond and Sapphire – and charters a range of vessels in Russia, Portugal, south-east Asia, India and Egypt.

Its new 182-passenger Contemporary Class ships will sail Travelmarvel's European Gems itinerary between Amsterdam and Budapest. Travelmarvel CEO David Cox says they will have "more social spaces, modern fittings and state-of-the-art design". New features include the casual dining spot McGeary's Bar and a rooftop bar, terrace garden and heated whirlpool on the sun deck. See travelmarvel.com.au

Tauck, which has been operating river cruises in Europe since 1992, has also ordered a new vessel, also launching in 2020, to offer its first cruises on Portugal's Douro River. The company's CEO, Dan Mahar, says the 84-passenger Andorinha will carry fewer guests than any other vessel operated by a major line on the Douro.

"We measure success by the quality of the experience we provide our guests, and one of the best ways to ensure a warm, relaxing and engaging atmosphere on board is to avoid crowding too many guests into a limited space."

As on all Tauck ships, Andorinha will be staffed by a Tauck cruise director and three Tauck director guides. It will sail three itineraries, including an eight-day Tauck Bridges cruise designed specifically for families, with four departures slated for late June or early July 2020. See tauck.com.au

Avalon Waterways' Avalon Envision, which is due be christened in April by best-selling author Elizabeth Gilbert, will be joined by sister ship Avalon View in 2020. Beds that face the passing views are one of the most popular design features on Avalon ships, as are their open-air balconies with wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling windows. Avalon Envision will cruise the Danube and Avalon View will cruise the Rhine. See avalonwaterways.com.au

Luxury line Uniworld is replacing some of its older vessels in south-east Asia, Egypt and Portugal with new Super Ships in 2020. The 56-passenger Mekong Jewel will start sailing 13-day Mekong itineraries in January, with stops in Vietnam and Cambodia. SS Sphinx also sets sail in January, offering 12-day Nile cruises to and from Cairo; the 84-passenger ship will take over from River Tosca. SS Sao Gabriel will launch on the Douro in March 2020, replacing Queen Isabel. See uniworld.com

SHORE THING

THE PORT

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Trieste, Italy

WHO GOES THERE

Azamara, Celebrity, Costa, HAL, SeaDream, Silversea.

WHY WE LOVE IT

Sitting on the border of north-east Italy and Slovenia, and a short hop from Croatia, Trieste is an intriguing mix of cultural influences past and present. On the hill above the city, a Romanesque cathedral dating back to the fifth century is surrounded by Roman ruins and overlooked by a medieval fortress; at sea level you'll find grand palazzos, churches and a spectacular waterfront piazza, built when Trieste was a strategic port under the Austro-Hungarian empire. Dozens of historic cafes attest to the region's coffee industry (Illy has its headquarters in Trieste) and the cakes and pastries are to die for – the sachertorte and strudel are as irresistible as anything you'd find  in Vienna.

TAKE A TOUR OR GO IT ALONE?

Ships dock at the Maritime Station of Trieste, a short walk from the main square (Piazza Unita d'Italia).  Trieste is the perfect city for leisurely exploration on foot. Steps from the Roman amphitheatre lead up to San Giusto cathedral and castle, or you can take a tram-funicular from the station to the village of Villa Opicina for more panoramic views. Organised tours visit places such as Duino Castle, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed village of Aquilea and Slovenia's Postojna Cave and Predjama Castle.

MUST SEE

Castello di Miramare, a 19th-century Austro-Hungarian extravaganza about eight kilometres from the city centre; the Jewish Quarter and Grand Canal district; the tiny James Joyce Museum, for fans of Irish literature; and Museo Revoltella, for collections of 19th-century, modern and contemporary art.

MUST EAT

The local cuisine reflects the city's blend of cultures, including Austrian, Slavic, German and Northern Italian, so eating well and heartily is a given. Seafood, pork and beef appear on many menus, along with pasta, pizza and risotto. Look for a traditional "buffet" (cafe) serving great-quality, reasonably priced dishes such as the famous cotto in crosta – ham baked in a bread crust.

NEED TO KNOW

Check opening times for museums and other attractions before you go. While many museums in Italy close on Mondays, in Trieste individual opening times vary considerably.

ESSENTIALS

italia.it

CRUISEFACT

Over a 40-year lifetime, Cunard's youngest ship, Queen Elizabeth, will travel a distance equivalent to 12 return trips to the moon.

NEWS

SHIP SHAPE

Evergreen Cruises and Tours is upping its onboard fitness and games programs this year with the introduction of activity managers across its seven Emerald Waterways Star-Ships in Europe. Activity managers will co-ordinate EmeraldACTIVE guided hiking, biking and canoeing tours onshore and run a range of daily onboard yoga, Pilates and aqua-aerobics classes, plus "walk-a-mile" sessions on the Sun Deck. In the evenings there will be activities such as karaoke nights, card tournaments and gameshow-style quizzes. Emerald Waterways has five Star-Ships sailing on the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers, and two smaller versions, Emerald Liberte and Emerald Radiance, sailing on the Rhone and Saone rivers in Southern France and on the Douro in Portugal. The super-modern ships feature  an indoor pool that converts to a cinema. See evergreentours.com.au

NEW SHIP FOR BRISBANE

Hong Kong-based Dream Cruises – part of the cruise company that owns Crystal Cruises and Star Cruises – is sending its 1856-passenger Explorer Dream to Australia and New Zealand in October for a five-month season that includes six cruises from Brisbane. Explorer Dream, formerly known as SuperStar Virgo, will undergo a US$30 million transformation later this month that will add Dream Cruises' signature private enclave (a complex of 50 butler-serviced suites), new dining options and a new Crystal Life Spa. Explorer Dream is the first Dream Cruises ship to sail outside Asia and it is expected to attract both local and Asian cruisers. Itineraries from Brisbane will include four six- to eight-night Australian coastal cruises, calling at Sydney, Newcastle, the Sunshine Coast, Gladstone and Mooloolaba, and two seven and nine-night trans-Tasman sailings to New Zealand. See dreamcruiseline.com

CENTRAL AMERICA JUST GOT NEARER

The diverse countries of Central America have much to offer travellers – Mayan mysteries, UNESCO World Heritage sites, exotic wildlife and cultural delights – and the Panama Canal is on the To Do lists of all serious cruisers. Ponant has 31 itineraries in the region and is offering a $1300 a person flight credit for Central America cruises booked by March 31, 2019. Seven, 10 and 13-night cruises feature a range of evocative destinations including the Great Blue Hole in Belize, Antigua, Granada, Honduras, Guatemala, the often-overlooked Mayan ruins in El Salvador and the exotic bird life of Costa Rica. New Ponant Explorer ships Le Champlain and Le Dumont-d'Urville join their (slightly) bigger sisters L'Austral, Le Boreal and Le Soleal on voyages departing between September 2019 and April 2020. See au.ponant.com

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