What's new in the 2020 European river-cruise season

EUROPE'S NEW RIVER SHIPS

This year's river-cruise season in Europe will see the arrival of several new ships on its main waterways – not as many as in previous years but an interesting collection.

Viking, renowned for its multi-ship christenings and for having the world's biggest fleet of river ships, has built four ships specifically to sail on the Seine in France. At 125 metres long and accommodating up to 168 passengers, they are slightly smaller versions of the 135-metre Longships, meaning they can dock in the heart of Paris – about 10 minutes' walk from the Eiffel Tower.

Viking Fjorgyn, Kari, Radgrid and Skaga share many of the popular features of their bigger sisters, including an Aquavit Terrace and understated Scandinavian décor. They will sail eight-day cruises round-trip from Paris, visiting Rouen, Monet's Giverny gardens, and the World War II landing beaches of Normandy.

Two more Viking Longships will make their debuts on the Rhine in March, the 190-passenger Viking Gersemi and Viking Hervor. They will visit Oberammergau in Germany for this year's once in a decade Passion Play, although spots for this itinerary are now very limited.

Uniworld is adding two more Super Ships to its collection: SS La Venezia on Italy's River Po and SS São Gabriel on Portugal's Douro. La Venezia is not new, being the fully refurbished and redesigned River Countess. Avid cruisers will recall that this was the ship that was involved in a headline-grabbing crash with an MSC Cruises ship in Venice last June, a matter that is now subject to legal action.

The 100-passenger SS São Gabriel is replacing Queen Isabel in April. It features lavishly appointed suites, butler service and is designed to "bring the destination to life through its décor and delectable food and wine", according to Uniworld.

Another new ship for the Douro is Tauck's 84-passenger MS Andorinha, which sets sail in March. According to Tauck  chief executive Dan Mahar, the ship has been "purpose-built for hot summers and daytime sailing through pastoral scenery". The sun deck will have canopied Balinese day beds for shaded lounging, an infinity-style pool, an outdoor grill and full-service bar, and a pop-up restaurant.

New ships for the Rhine include Avalon Waterways' 164-passenger Avalon View and Travelmarvel's 182-passenger Travelmarvel Polaris (Polaris will also sail on the Danube and Main rivers). Amadeus River Cruises' 168-passenger Amadeus Imperial will cruise the Danube and Rhine, while AmaWaterways' latest Concerto-class ship, AmaSiena, joins the fleet in July to cruise the Maine, Rhine and Mosel rivers.

ARANUI EXPANSION

Tahitian cruise line Aranui Cruises, which operates the much-loved freighter-cruise ship Aranui 5 in French Polynesia's remote Marquesas Islands, is building a cruise-only vessel to complement Aranui 5's itineraries. AraMana will accommodate 280 passengers for cruises in French Polynesia's Tuamotu, Gambier, Society and Austral islands as well as Pitcairn and the Cook Islands, and is due in mid-2022. "With an observation lounge, a dance floor, a spa, two restaurants, a swimming pool and 11 cabin categories including a new Grand Suite, the 280-guest AraMana has been designed solely with cruising in mind," said the line's regional representative Laurent Wong. See aranuicruises.com.au

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EMERALD SUPERYACHT

Emerald Waterways is well-known to river cruisers as the premium sister company to upmarket brand Scenic, sold in Australia under the Evergreen Cruises & Tour label although, confusingly, overseas everyone knows it as Emerald. Emerald Cruises is now adding a 100-passenger superyacht to its fleet of eight river ships, scheduled to set sail in July 2021. Emerald Azzurra is designed to cruise in warm-water regions such as the Adriatic Coast, Red Sea and Mediterranean, and will feature an onboard marina stocked with paddleboards and snorkelling kit, as well as three tenders and two zodiacs. Most suites will have balconies; bookings are open now. See emeraldyachtcruises.com.au

OFFICER CLASS

During the recent major refurbishment of Windstar Cruises' five-masted flagship Wind Surf, one of the officers' suites was transformed into luxurious guest accommodation. Believed to be the only one of its kind at sea, the 22 square metre suite is guaranteed to appeal to serious cruise enthusiasts. "Guests in this suite share exclusive company with the captain, chief officer, hotel manager and chief engineer. It's absolutely 180 degrees from ordinary," said Windstar president John Delaney. Wind Surf now has 16 new cabins, bringing the capacity to 342, and crew quarters have been expanded to retain the 1:1.5 crew to guest ratio. For bookings, email reservations@windstar.com.au

CRUISE FACT

RSSC's newest ship Seven Seas Splendor will be christened on February 21.

STOW IT

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CONSTANT CRUISER

JAN WILLIAMS, NORTH RYDE, NSW

NUMBER OF CRUISES TAKEN Four

LAST CRUISE Dubai to Singapore on Celebrity Constellation for 15 days. We spent two wonderful days in Dubai before sailing to Oman, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Singapore. In Oman, we walked along Muscat's corniche, a beautiful curved pathway flanking the Arabian Sea, where we excitedly spotted two turtles and hundreds of fish. Next we were in India for four days, two of which were in busy Mumbai, where we visited the Gateway of India and saw the world's largest outdoor laundry. We visited a spice plantation in Goa and saw the amazing Chinese fishing nets in Kochi, plus took a houseboat tour through the backwaters of Alleppey. In Sri Lanka, we explored the back streets of Colombo on foot while attempting to avoid the tuk-tuks. Onward we sailed to Phuket, visiting temples, the Big Buddha and admiring the coastal scenery before sailing on to Singapore two days later.

NEXT CRUISE There are so many to choose from but a river cruise along the Rhine looks like a tempting option.

DREAM SHIP It would have a mix of top-notch entertainment, excellent speakers and delicious food.

DREAM CRUISE I would love to see the icebergs and wildlife of Antarctica on a ship that provides comfortable accommodation and great food.

DREAM PORT Venice, Italy. Looking over the rooftops as we departed this wonderful city of canals was a tremendous experience.

BEST CRUISE TIP Join an organised tour to explore Colombo as the tuk-tuk drivers are very aggressive.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR CRUISE

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