Uniworld to launch new Super Ship, add itineraries in 2015

By Michelle Baran

Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection is introducing the 155-passenger S.S. Maria Theresa in spring 2015, a vessel that will sail the Danube River.

A sister ship to the S.S. Catherine, which launched earlier this year, and the S.S. Antoinette, the S.S. Maria Theresa will sail along Rhine, Main and Danube rivers in 2015.

It will feature a main lounge, an additional Bar du Leopard lounge, a restaurant, terrace, sun deck with chess and shuffleboard, heated swimming pool, fitness center, a spa, boutique, elevator, 24-hour specialty coffee and tea bar, free WiFi access and a cinema.

It will have 11 staterooms at 162 square feet each, 61 staterooms at 194 square feet each, 10 suites at 305 square feet and one royal suite at 410 square feet.

The main and upper deck staterooms and suites will have French balconies, and all staterooms will be outfitted with Savoir of England beds, individual thermostats, flatscreen TVs with infotainment center, and marble bathrooms with L’Occitane en Provence products and towel warmers.

All suites will include butler services and a complimentary in-suite wellness treatment for each suite guest.

The S.S. Maria Theresa will sail four Uniworld cruises in 2015: Tulips & Windmills, Danube Holiday Markets, Enchanting Christmas & New Year’s Cruise and European Jewels.

Additionally, Uniworld is introducing six new itineraries in 2015, including: the eight-day Holland & Belgium at Tulip Time; the 10-day Delightful Danube & Prague; the 10-day Eastern Europe Explorer; the 13-day Jewels of Spain, Portugal & the Douro River; and the 22-day Ultimate France.

Uniworld will offer 33 European itineraries in 2015, including 45 more departures on the Rhine and Danube rivers than in 2014 in order to meet demand on those waterways, according to Uniworld President Guy Young.

Which new river vessels are you most excited about?

By Michelle Baran

InsightIt just sunk in: A ton of brand new river cruise vessels are about to launch in March and April (my Outlook calendar is blowing up). I’ve been writing about the upcoming christenings all year, but now that the launches are upon us, I’m finally thinking about the actual new hardware we’re about to see and some of the developments to be on the lookout for.

Here are some points of interest:

On 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.

Uniworld has a history of going all-out on its interiors — and judging by the early photos and renderings of the Catherine, this vessel will be no exception. A Leopard Lounge with safari-themed details? A mosaic-tiled pool and spa area? Have you seen those black-and-white stateroom interiors on their website? Needless to say, the vessel promises to be a feast for the senses.MichelleBaran

Totally switching gears, on March 31 the 220-passenger paddlewheeler American Empress (formerly the Empress of the North) will be reincarnated by the American Queen Steamboat Co., bringing back a vessel to the Pacific Northwest that was built in 2003 and that has been laid up since the end of Majestic America Line in 2008. Steamboat enthusiasts and historians will surely be curious as to how well the company pulls off its resuscitation effort.

And let’s not forget that an entirely new river cruise line is launching in April: Emerald Waterways, Scenic Tours’ four-star European river cruising project.
I’m intrigued by the heated swimming pool with retractable roof and movie theater that are slated to be features of the 182-passenger Emerald Star and the 182-passenger Emerald Sky, which will set sail on April 15. I’m envisioning Starwood’s Aloft brand in river cruising form.

Speaking of mass brands, we can’t leave out Viking’s 14-ship-strong launch taking place in France in March. Will the new batch of Longships really be identical to their sister ship predecessors? Or will there be some new little personality and amenity tweaks to the 2014 flock?

And also, I’m curious how Viking will pull off a 14-vessel simul-christening. My best guess is live broadcasts from multiple launch sites. But Viking is good at surprises. They’ve been awfully quiet about the launches, and that could mean a lot of different things. It’s a nail-biter to be sure.