River cruise news to watch in 2016


KV Ganges Voyager

As I look ahead at what news the river cruise industry will bring in 2016, I’ve got my eye on several stories and developments.
As we kick off the year, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection is launching its first-ever program on India’s Ganges River with Haimark Travel’s luxury vessel, the 56-passenger Ganges Voyager II. We’re bound to start hearing some of the initial feedback and reviews from that product launch in the coming days and weeks after completion of the first few cruises.
Michelle Baran
Michelle Baran

This spring, I’ll be keeping a close eye on the launch of CroisiEurope’s 80-passenger Elbe Princesse, a paddlewheeler the French company has custom-built for Germany’s shallow Elbe River. And of course I’ll be looking for new innovations and ideas among all the ship launches in Europe this spring. With Viking River Cruises, Amawaterways, Avalon Waterways, Tauck, Scenic and Emerald Waterways all adding inventory this year, someone is bound to surprise us with something, no?

Come summer, I’ll be looking for word on how the new Adventures by Disney river cruising product plays out after the first sailings begin in July on AmaWaterways’ AmaStella. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say one of the developments I’m most curious about is the introduction of Crystal Cruises’ first river cruise effort, the renovation and relaunch of the former Peter Deilmann Mozart, which will set sail anew on July 13.

This will be our first glance not only at Crystal’s version of river cruising but at how an ocean cruise line interprets the river cruise market. I, for one, am agog. And Crystal only has additional excitement planned for us in 2017 when it introduces us to its version of four river cruising newbuilds.

Elsewhere in the river cruising world, I’m wondering how and whether the Nile will pull out of its perpetual slump, and if the Amazon will see an uptick in interest due to the Rio Olympics. I’m also following developments in Asia, where Pandaw River Expeditions keeps surprising with new river routes and other companies keep adding capacity.

And imagine, that’s just the stuff we more or less already know about. There’s no telling what river cruising bombshells (either good or bad) are yet to be dropped on us. Take cover!

A challenging start to a promising year

By Michelle Baran
As European river cruise vessels file into winter dry-dock this week, closing up the 2015 season, there is bound to be some nervousness for an industry waiting to see how the 2016 season will play out once it gets underway in the spring.

The dormant winter season offers an opportunity to spruce up older vessels and make final arrangements for the launch of new ones, investments that will hopefully pay off throughout the season. And this coming year has a lot to offer; Both Crystal Cruises and Adventures by Disney (through a partnership with AmaWaterways) will introduce new river cruise products in Europe, and all the major river cruise lines are adding new vessels to their fleets.

Michelle Baran
Michelle Baran

There’s a lot to look forward to, and yet 2015 ended with a bit of a question mark in the aftermath of the Nov. 13 Paris attacks in terms of how much the attacks will impact travel in Europe (and consequently river cruising) this year. Surely the hope is that a quiet couple months  – fingers crossed – prior to the start of the 2016 season will help keep pre-existing bookings on the books and reinvigorate the flow of new ones to get 2016 back on track to being as robust as it promised before the attacks.

Meanwhile, there are a lot of exciting developments elsewhere in the world to distract from the situation in Europe. Uniworld is starting its first cruises on India’s Ganges River this month, a new product the company has said has exceeded its expectations in terms of how successful the bookings have been.

And back in the US, it will be interesting to see if we hear anything more from Viking about its plans to launch modern-style Mississippi River vessels in 2017 and from the Delta Queen Steamboat Company about whether the fabled 89-year-old Delta Queen will receive the Congressional exemption it needs to sail again.

Indeed, despite some uncertainty as we start off the year, 2016 still promises to be an exciting and interesting one in river cruising, both in terms of the announcements we already know about and in terms of the surprises we’re always counting on the industry to provide us.

Pandaw to introduce Ganges cruise in 2015

Pandaw River Expeditions is introducing a new river cruise for 2015 on India’s Ganges and Hooghly rivers on the 40-passenger Rajmahal.

The 16-day itinerary will begin with a three-night land tour from Varanasi to Patna. Passengers will embark the Rajmahal in Patna on day four of the itinerary and sail toward Kolkata. A detailed itinerary can be found here. There is one Pandaw departure of this cruise scheduled for Oct. 27.

The Rajmahal was built in Kolkata in 2013 and features climate-controlled staterooms with en suite bathrooms as well as in-room refrigerators and coffee and tea makers. The onboard restaurant will serve Western and Indian cuisines. There is also a spa on the main deck, a sun deck with open and shaded lounge chairs and a small library and saloon.

The cruise price includes an airport transfer in Varanasi, all meals during the cruise, excursions, port fees and government taxes, porterage, English-speaking tour guides, drip coffee and tea, bottled water, a cruise director and crew gratuities. It excludes laundry, visas, drinks, fuel surcharges and gratuities for local guides and drivers.

Pandaw River Expeditions' 40-passenger Rajmahal will sail a 16-day itinerary on India’s Ganges and Hooghly rivers.
Pandaw River Expeditions’ 40-passenger Rajmahal will sail a 16-day itinerary on India’s Ganges and Hooghly rivers.