Anthem of the Seas christened in England

Anthem of the Seas godmother Emma Wilby performed with the Only Boys Aloud choir.

British travel agent Emma Wilby on Monday named Royal Caribbean International’s newest ship, the 4,200-passenger Anthem of the Seas, in Southampton, England.

The naming took place in the ship’s Royal Theater, where Wilby, a 27-year-old travel agent from Sunderland, U.K., performed onstage with the Welsh choir Only Boys Aloud for more than 1,300 invited guests, dignitaries and media.

The Anthem, the second ship in Royal’s Quantum class, will sail from the U.K. on various European itineraries this summer and fall. In November, it will arrive in New York Harbor to dock at its permanent home port of Cape Liberty, N.J.

Wilby, an agent at Thomson Holidays, is a military wife and budding singer who performs in the Military Wives Choir in Kinloss, Scotland, where she is based with her husband, a Royal Engineer for the British Army. She was picked from a large group of agents who applied for the honor.

I think we all should talk

By Michelle Baran
InsightAmid another busy river cruise ship christening season, talking shop and comparing notes about the competition with executives in the river cruise industry, it occurred to me that the river cruising sector could use a good old-fashioned coffee talk.

Whenever I meet up with executives in the river cruise industry, inevitably some of the same issues come up: things like whether crowding on the rivers in Europe is increasingly becoming an issue as more newbuilds continue to launch, and the pros and cons of onboard amenities like balconies and pools.

In a recent post, I addressed the fact that the river cruise industry could benefit from an association dedicated to the issues that are specific to this quickly growing segment of the travel marketplace.

But until that happens, I think those of us who cover river cruising, those who sell the product and, of course, the river cruise lines themselves would benefit from a meeting in which the heads of the major river cruise companies all got together and had a sort of working group discussion.MichelleBaran

I have proposed the idea of moderating such a forum with some of the major river cruise lines, and interest was expressed. With all of our busy travel and work schedules, and with an already jam-packed calendar of industry events ahead of us, I’m not sure how and whether we can pull it off.

But I’m putting it out there anyways. This is a critical time for the river cruise industry. Things are developing quickly, and the business is growing at a lightning pace. This is exactly the time to tackle potential problems as well as to highlight the opportunities that lie ahead.

A certain degree of cooperation already exists between the river cruise lines — they aren’t entirely silent foes — especially when it comes to concerns that everyone has to address, such as staggering departures in a way so that lines can share limited port space and not overwhelm the smaller towns they visit by all pulling in at once.

But beyond that, there are topics that could use further dissection, and circumstances that could become detrimental to the industry if not addressed, such as crowding and sustainability.

A look ahead at 2014 launches and christenings

By Michelle Baran

InsightOK, I’ll be honest: This end-of-year insight in which I summarize the christenings and launches for the following year has become an invaluable tool for me in planning my year ahead, and that’s largely why I’ve maintained this tradition over the past few years.

But my hope, of course, is that it can and does serve as a useful tool for all you travel planners out there, as well. Happy 2014!

March 17: Viking Cruises will hold a christening ceremony in Avignon, France, for the 14 Viking Longships that are launching next year. Viking has not said which or how many of the Longships will be in Avignon for the ceremony, but the three 2014 Viking Longships that are slated to sail in that region are the Viking Buri, Viking Heimdal and Viking Hermod.

March 26: Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection will inaugurate the 159-passenger S.S. Catherine in Lyon, France, marking Uniworld’s first expansion of its European fleet since 2011, when the vessel’s sister ship the S.S. Antoinette set sail.MichelleBaran

April 5: The 223-passenger American Empress (formerly the Empress of the North) will be rechristened in Portland, Ore., and will sail on the Columbia and Snake rivers, after having been refurbished by the American Queen Steamboat Co.

April 15: Emerald Waterways, the first new river cruise line to launch since Scenic Cruises came onto the scene in 2008, will kick off with the launch of two newbuilds in Europe, the 182-passenger Emerald Star and the 182-passenger Emerald Sky. Emerald Waterways is aiming to be a more value-oriented alternative to existing river cruise lines.

July: Pandaw River Expeditions is launching two new 40-passenger vessels in Myanmar, the Kindat Pandaw and the Kalaw Pandaw.

September: Haimark Ltd. is introducing the 56-passenger Irrawaddy Explorer in Myanmar; as well as the 68-passenger Mekong Navigator that will sail in Vietnam and Cambodia.

November: AmaWaterways is introducing the all-suite AmaPura on Myanmar’s Irrawaddy River.

Late 2014: Sanctuary Retreats, a division of Abercrombie & Kent, is launching the 48-passenger, all-suite Sanctuary Ananda in Myanmar.

Also in 2014:

• Tauck is launching two newbuilds in Europe, the 130-passenger Inspire and Savor, that will each have 57% more suites than the company’s existing vessels.

• AmaWaterways will introduce two more ships in Europe in 2014, the 164-passenger AmaSonata and AmaReina. The vessels will be sister ships to the 164-passenger AmaCerto, which launched in 2012.

• Avalon Waterways is introducing three new river cruise vessels in Europe in 2014 — the 128-passenger Avalon Poetry II; the 166-passenger Avalon Illumination; and the 166-passenger Avalon Impression.