Crystal Cruises redeploys new river vessels away from France

The new river cruise arm of Crystal Cruises is delaying plans to deploy two new vessels on rivers in France.

Instead Crystal River Cruises is to increase its presence on the Danube, Main and Rhine, deploying four of its planned new build ‘river yachts’ in the region in 2017 and 2018.

The shift in focus means redesigning and enlarging the company’s two Paris-class river vessels – Crystal Debussy and Crystal Ravel – as Rhine-class boats, and redeploying them east in 2018.

Previously, Crystal Debussy and Crystal Ravel were to travel along the Seine, Rhone and Dordogne rivers in France from June and August 2017 respectively.

No mention was made of recent terrorist incidents in France and the extension of the country’s state of emergency for six months following the deadly truck attack in Nice earlier in July.

The luxury line, which draws a large proportion of passengers from the US, said the change away from France was based on passenger feedback “lauding the itineraries planned in Germany, Austria, Belgium, Amsterdam and Holland”.

As a result, “the company has elected to delay its entrance into the French river cruise market, choosing instead to prioritise its offerings in the German/Austrian region in order to meet travellers’ demand for those experiences”.

Chief executive and president Edie Rodriguez said: “Unlike an ocean-going ship that can accommodate a change in itinerary with short notice, a river ship operates within more confined parameters and is unable to re-route easily.

“We are listening carefully to what travellers are telling us and have concluded that the best way to anticipate, meet and surpass their expectations is by making this move earlier rather than later.”

The line is offering a series of compensation packages to people who have booked 2017 voyages on Crystal Debussy and Crystal Ravel including on board credits and future cruise credits worth up to $1,000.

No details were given of how many bookings the line has received for the sailings in France.

The new design places the vessels as part of the line’s 106-passenger Rhine-class series currently comprising Crystal Bach and Crystal Mahler, which are due to enter service June 18 and August 29, 2017 respectively.

Crystal Debussy and Crystal Ravel are now due for maiden voyages in April 2018 and May 2018 respectively with detailed itineraries to be announced shortly, the company said.

They will be increased in size from 110 metres to 135 metres, the maximum size permissible on the Rhine, Main and Danube. The increased length allows for the addition of a swimming pool with a sliding glass roof and more large suites.

The move follows the recent launch of the line’s first luxury river cruiser, Crystal Mozart.


PHOTOS: World’s Largest Lock Opens in Belgium

PHOTOS: World’s Largest Lock Opens in Belgium

Photo credit: Jan De Null
Photo credit: Jan De Nul

The new world’s largest lock was opened for business at the Port of Antwerp on Friday with the push of a button by King of Belgium.

The new Kieldrecht Lock, or Kieldrechtsluis, connects container terminals at the port’s Deurganck tidal dock with the Waastland Canal. It is the second lock in an area Antwerp known as Waasland Port, located on the left bank of the Scheldt. Until now the area was only accessible by the Kallo Lock, which has been in service since 1979, but has been outgrown in terms of capacity, size, and reliability.

The new lock was symbolically inaugurated with the Grimaldi Lines vessel, Grande Lagos. 

A cargo ship crosses the world's biggest lock "Kieldrechtsluis" during its inauguaration at Belgium's port of Antwerp, June 10, 2016. Picture taken through a window.  REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
A cargo ship crosses the world’s biggest lock “Kieldrechtsluis” during its inauguaration at Belgium’s port of Antwerp, June 10, 2016. Picture taken through a window. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

The Kieldrecht lock measures 68m wide, 500m long and 17.8m deep, making it slightly larger than the nearby former world record holder, the Berendrecht Lock, also located at the port of Antwerp but in a different area. In fact the two locks, along with the new Neopanamax locks in the Panama Canal, are all the same type, using rolling gates to form watertight the lock chambers.

A cargo ship crosses the world's biggest lock "Kieldrechtsluis" during its inauguaration at Belgium's port of Antwerp, June 10, 2016. Picture taken through a window.  REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Construction of the Kieldrecht Lock started in 2011 and was led by THV Waaslandsluis, a consortium between Jan De Nul NV, BAM Contractors, Herbosch-Kiere and Antwerpse Bouwwerken.

To build the lock, a total of 5,500,000 m3 of ground was excavated, 800,000m3 of concrete was poured and 55,000 tonnes of reinforced steel – three times the amount of steel than the Eiffel Tower – had to be installed. On top of that, another 12,000 tonnes of steel were processed in the lock’s 4 gates and 2 bascule bridges.

The Kieldrecht Lock is so big that it can even handle the world’s largest containerships, but preparing the port for future growth does not come cheap. The lock came with a price tag of €382 million (US$430 million).

REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Lindblad’s National Geographic Orion to cruise Europe

The National Geographic Orion.

Lindblad Expeditions’ National Geographic Orion vessel will spend the spring, summer and fall on a series of one-week cruises in Europe.

Itineraries include exploring Portugal, Spain, France, England, Ireland, Holland, Belgium, the Baltic republics and Scandinavia.

“A ship like National Geographic Orion depends heavily on past guests, and a vast majority of her past guests have been to the Kimberley and the South Pacific,” said Sven Lindblad, founder and president of Lindblad Expeditions. “We are committed to providing them the most compelling opportunities available on the Orion and have listened to their feedback for new destinations.”

Lindblad said the 22 voyages on the 102-guest ship will be led by a team with a a diverse scope of expertise about history, political science, art, viniculture and music of the destinations, and will include active options like hiking, biking and kayaking.