The vessels that sail the waters of Europe and beyond are embracing rarefied levels of luxury which have never been seen before. Thirteen new river ships have been launched this year and with the arrival of each new ship the bar seems to climb ever higher.

“Our annual Cruise Review revealed that a record number of passengers are opting to cruise with one of the ultra-luxury brands, a near nine per cent rise year on year”

ANDY HARMER, SVP MEMBERSHIP & DIRECTOR, CLIA (CRUISE LINES INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION) UK & IRELAND

Perfect 10

  1. Private mooring: Viking Cruises own all of its moorings: guests get to prime locations in all destinations quicker and easier

  2. Two for one: AmaWaterways’ staterooms feature two private balconies: a French balcony and a full outside balcony to provide a unique panoramic view

  3. Michelin-dining: On each Crystal Mozart voyage guests are treated to a complimentary culinary event at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Vienna or Budapest

  4. Space matters: Scenic’s fleet of ‘Space Ships’ offer some of the most spacious suites of any European vessel each suite

  5. Signature experiences: APT gives guests special VIP access and experiences that they couldn’t arrange for themselves, such as an exclusive dinner in a German Royal castle

  6. Generations together: Uniworld’s ‘Generations’ itineraries feature fantastic excursions, onboard activities and dedicated ‘family hosts’ to ensure the children are entertained while the adults relax

  7. High ambition: Tauck River Cruising is climbing to new heights with an excursion on its Rhine, Swiss Alps and Amsterdam itinerary to Europe’s highest railway station. The Jungfraujoch, which stands at 11,332ft

  8. Electric wheel: Wherever they moor, Crystal River Cruise guests can reserve electric bikes on the ship for independent touring

  9. Curated artwork: Carefully curated artwork, antique furniture and bespoke design schemes are a hallmark of Uniworld’s top-tier ships, which are designed to emulate the artistic influences of the destinations they visit

  10. Be free: APT offers a ‘freedom of choice’ concept in certain locations, enabling guests to choose an activity to suit their preferred interest, thus tailoring their holiday to suit

A higher class

Today’s river cruise vessels come equipped with state-of-the-art cinemas, pools, spas, fitness centres and even cookery schools, offering no end of high-end opportunities for travel agents to suggest to their customers.

Added to that are ‘privilege passes’ offering passengers access to places that could otherwise be difficult to visit, with culture and history generally high on the agenda.

The good news for everyone is that many of the luxury river cruise lines are offering room upgrades, premium drinks packages, shore excursions and VIP transfers as part of the experience.

Added to this is the benefit of the ships being able to dock in the very heart of every destination, giving guests easy access to excellent sightseeing and in small numbers.

What the experts say

“Luxury is very subjective. For some it is about high levels of personal service from attentive staff, for others it is having a beautifully appointed stateroom or suite. It can also be the inclusion of immersive shore excursions which can range from cycling and hiking tours to wine-tasting on a private cellar tour at a local vineyard.”
JAMIE LOIZOU, SALES, MARKETING & DIGITAL DIRECTOR, AMAWATERWAYS UK

What’s new

Itineraries: Viking’s Culture Curriculum is an exclusive onboard programme with lectures on history and art as well as destination performances featuring folkloric shows and musicians. Destination-focused dining uses highly trained chefs who are passionate about food and committed to providing authentic regional specialties or American classics.

Tauck River Cruises is featuring an exclusive cowboy experience on a family-owned ranch in the Camargue on its ‘Bon Voyage! Family River Cruise’ programme.

APT’s (aptouring.co.uk) exclusive Golf & Sail itinerary combines luxury river cruising and the opportunity to indulge in some of Europe’s leading Golf courses.

Ships: Viking River Cruises has announced details of its all-suite Viking Ra, which will begin sailing on Egypt’s Nile in March 2018. Tailored to take just 48 guests, the Viking Ra will feature a 12-day ‘Pharaohs and Pyramids’ itinerary including an 8-day round trip from Luxor to Aswan.

Riviera Travel has added the five-star all suite MS Robert Burns to its luxury fleet as well as two new cruises for 2018. Budapest to the Black Sea – Gems of Eastern Europe’will highlight cultural heritage while Amsterdam, Kinderdijk and the Dutch Bulbfields will appeal to floral entusiasts.

Uniworld’s new S.S. Joie de Vivre is a step back in time, designed with the artistic influences of 20th century Paris. The company’s farm to table philosophy for meals served on board shapes the dishes served as well as the ingredients used. Guests can join the chefs on their shopping trips to explore the culinary culture in destinations across Europe.

APT has recently refurbished the AmaLotus and has also built its own exceptional luxury rivership,for its cruises on the Irrawaddy.

Brochures: Titan has launched its first dedicated luxury river cruise brochure. Featuring five of the best river cruise operators, the programme offers the finest cruise experiences on the rivers they cruise.

Where to book it

APT’s fully-inclusive 15-day Vietnam and Cambodia Highlights river cruise from Saigon to Siem Reap on the AmaLotus – Ho Chi Minh City, Cai Be, Sa Dec, Tan Chau, Phnom Penh, Koh Chen, Oudong, Kampong Tralach, Kampong Chhnang and Angkor where guests disembark – is priced from £3,690pp, twin-share. It departs the UK on August 11 2017.

Crystal River Cruises’ 10-day Danube Christmas Markets cruise, round-trip from Vienna on Crystal Mozart to Melk, Linz, Passau, Vilshofen an der Donau, Krems and Bratislava, is priced from £2,410pp, departing the UK on December 3 2017.

An 11-day Beautiful Bordeaux all-inclusive river cruise on Scenic Luxury Cruises’ Scenic Diamond, sailing around the Gironde, Dordogne and Garonne, region is priced from £2,645pp departing from up to 15 UK airports on July 19 2017.