New ships mean new port calls in the U.S.

Image result for grand majestic paddlewheel steamer

Sure, it may not be growing as aggressively or rapidly as the European river cruise market, but the U.S. river cruise industry continues to see a steady number of new vessels being launched each year, the latest being a passion project of Cincinnati native Capt. Joseph Baer.

And while it’s always exciting to see new vessels coming online, to get the first sneak peeks at interior renderings and to witness the ways in which different companies are interpreting the U.S. river cruise experience onboard, what some of these new vessels symbolize is more than just new hardware; some are promising to take U.S. river passengers on entirely new river routes and new ports.

For instance, the 70-passenger paddlewheeler Grand Majestic, being launched by Baer’s Grand Majestic River Co. this fall, will reportedly be able to sail along some smaller inland waterways due to its shorter height and shallower draft. Baer said that the smaller size of the Grand Majestic means it can clear some bridges and sail in shallower waters that will enable it to cruise to or near Tulsa, Okla.; Omaha, Neb.; Sioux City, Iowa; Charleston, W.Va.; and into the outskirts of Chicago by next year.

American Cruise Lines, too, has said that it plans to look into some new and different waterways in the U.S. as it develops a fleet of five more modern riverboats for the U.S. market. The first two of those are slated to hit the more traditional Mississippi River System and the Columbia and Snake rivers in the Pacific Northwest, but the company has previously said that it has its eye on numerous additional waterways, including the Sacramento River, San Joaquin River, Missouri River, Des Moines River, Wabash River, Illinois River, Apalachicola River, Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, Mid-Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, Erie Canal, Hudson River, Oswego Canal, Potomac River and Alaska’s Inside Passage.

Hopefully the trend will continue. Because while everyone wants to see places like New Orleans, Memphis and Portland, Ore., when it comes to U.S. river cruising, there is clearly still a fair amount of untapped potential in terms of where to go and what to see.

AmaWaterways introduces enhanced hiking, biking excursions

AmaWaterways is beefing up its biking and hiking tour options for its 2016 Europe river cruises, in response to customer demand.

“Over the past two seasons, we have seen steadily increasing demand from our passengers for more active excursions,” Kristin Karst, executive vice president and co-owner of AmaWaterways, said in a release. “While we have always maintained a commitment to healthy and active travel, we decided to start the New Year by kicking it up a notch.”

The company introduced an array of new tours that will debut in the upcoming season. AmaWaterways has been carrying a fleet of bicycles onboard its vessels for passengers to use for several years now, but for 2016 it is introducing several new escorted bike tours. They include:

  • A tour of the historic waterfront town of Willemstad, the Netherlands;
  • Cycling along the Sava River and through Kalemegdan Park in Belgrade, Serbia;
  • A ride through the Belgian town of Antwerp;
  • Tours of the Wachau Valley along the Danube;
  • A ride through the historic town of Bamberg, Germany;
  • A tour along the Inn River in Passau, Germany

Additionally, in 2016, there will be new hiking tours in 12 port cities. They include:

  • A hike to the castle ruins in Durnstein, Austria, which includes two wine tasting options;
  • A hike up Fourviere Hill in Lyon, France;
  • A Passau Castle hike in Passau, Germany;
  • A hike up Mount Pipet in Vienna, Austria;
  • A hike to Chateau Gaillard in Les Andelys, France;
  • A hike to the Dom Luis Bridge, Old Harbor Quarter and the cathedral in Porto, Portugal

The new guided biking and hiking tours are included in the cruise fare in addition to AmaWaterways’ standard excursions that are often offered at a variety of paces, including gentle, regular and active.

Last year, AmaWaterways developed a partnership with tour operator Backroads to create a series of river cruises that include Backroads-led biking, walking and hiking excursions, which will have their first departures this year. More information about the Backroads Danube river cruise departures can be found on the Backroads website.

Scenic creates new itineraries for 2016

Scenic is introducing several new river cruise itineraries for 2016, including a new route on the Danube, a longer combined France cruise and an extended 21-day Christmas Markets cruise bookended by Paris and Prague. 

Starting next year, Scenic will begin sailing an 8-day Iconic Danube river cruise from Passau, Germany to Budapest, Hungary, which will begin with a pre-cruise stay in Munich. The cruise will go from Passau to the Austrian cities of Salzburg and Vienna and will finish in Budapest. 

The 21-day Christmas Markets cruise will begin with three nights in Paris at the Marriott Opera Ambassador, and will include guided excursions of the Louvre and Eiffel Tower. Other highlights include the German cities of Wurzburg, Freudenberg and Nuremberg, as well as Vienna. The itinerary concludes with three nights at the Prague Marriott hotel.

Additionally, Scenic has combined its Gems of the Seine and Breathtaking Bordeaux cruises to create a 21-day itinerary that combines Paris and the Seine with France’s Bordeaux region. 

With the launch of two new vessels this year, the 169-passenger Scenic Opal and Scenic Jasper, Scenic’s European fleet consists of 12 vessels.