Archive for the ‘River Cruising’ Category

Thinking Of Taking Your First River Cruise?

April 20, 2017

A busy Danube – Three Amadeus vessels (Click to enlarge)

It’s spring, so the major European river cruise lines are once again starting to operate cruises along the Danube, Rhine, Moselle, Seine, Rhone/Saone and other European rivers.

River cruising is actually is the fastest growing segment of the cruise industry.

There are many myths about river cruising and many truths too.

As a brand new convert myself, I have created a short article to dispel some of the myths and confirm some of the truths. Enjoy!

River Cruising – Myth & Reality: HERE

Malcolm

Viking Order Two More Ocean Ships + Two

April 20, 2017

(Courtesy Viking)

Viking Ocean Cruises and the Italian Fincantieri shipyard have signed a memorandum of agreement for the construction of two additional 47,800gt ocean cruise ships, with an option for another two.

The newbuilds will be sister ships to the six ships already delivered/or on ordered and will enter the Viking fleet in 2021 and 2022, respectively. That makes a total of eight ocean ships + a possible two.

The first ship to be built by Fincantieri for Viking, Viking Star was delivered in spring 2015. The second and the third ships, Viking Sea and Viking Sky, were delivered in early 2016 and early 2017. Viking Sun joins the fleet this October 2017, Viking Spirit launches in June 2018. A third unnamed ship joins the fleet in 2019.

All ships will have an be identical specification: 47,800 gross tonnes and will accommodate 930 passengers.

(Viking)

Malcolm says: Not only are Viking dominating the worlds rivers, there Ocean fleet is expanding!

Viking Cruises Partners with National Geographic

Viking Cruises has announced that it has signed on to sponsor National Geographic’s global anthology series, “Genius”.

The first season of the season tells the story of Albert Einstein.

Viking To Cruise The Nile

Viking Chairman Torstein Hagen has announced that Viking River Cruises will be the first foreign company allowed to have a license to operate ships along the Nile River.

The new ship, named Viking Ra, will begin sailing March 2018.

(Viking)

Malcolm says: Viking seem to be intent on the world dominance of river cruising. They operate more than 60 river vessels. They certainly have a high media profile, a good reputation, an rapidly expanding fleet and are able sustain some high fares. They also plan to offer Mississippi cruises in the future.

My first river cruise was the Nile (see below), which I loved. They are 200 boats on the Nile and they all claim to be five star, but they ae not. I cruised on a very nice boat, but the food was simplistic buffet style and by no means fine-dining. However the fare was very low compared to European river cruise standards.

Viking will bring a brand to the Nile that people trust, some higher standards and fares to match.

Balloon ride over Luxor: HERE

The Pyramids: HERE

Delta Queen Could Cruise Again

April 9, 2017

The Delta Queen (© Jeremy Atherton, 2003).

The U.S. Senate approved Monday a bill sponsored by U.S. Sens. Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill that would let the historic Delta Queen riverboat operate once again on the Mississippi River.

Full St.LuisPublicRadio story HERE

dq_houma_slip

(Courtesy Delta Queen Steamboat Company)

The Delta Queen was launched in 1925 and first began cruising operations in 1927, to sail the Mississippi and its tributaries caring 176 passengers.

While designated as a National Historic Landmark, Delta Queen currently cannot sail with more than 50 passengers, based on requirements of the Safety of Life at Sea Act (SOLAS), passed in 1966.  That law prohibits overnight sailings on wooden vessels.

While the historic ship has a steel hull, the ship’s 88 staterooms and public spaces are mostly of wooden construction.

However she sailed for decades under a SOLAS exemption, but that expired in 2008.  The Delta Queen is currently docked in Chattanooga, TN, where it served as a hotel.

(Delta Queen Steamboat Company)

American Duchess Delays Inaugural Cruise

(Courtesy American Queen Steamboat Company)

American Duchess the third river boat in the American Queen Steamboat Company fleet (166 passengers), is moving its launch date back six weeks and changing its summer 2017 schedule.

Originally, the boat – a gambling vessel that’s being completely gutted and renovated – was going to launch on July 1, 2017. That’s been moved back to August 13.

Several itineraries have  been affected. Details can be found a the cruise lines web site.

It is believed that the renovation has simply over-run.

Malcolm

River Cruising – The Future

March 26, 2017
Douro River (Courtesy visit Portugal)

Douro River (Courtesy visitportugal.com)

River cruising is continuing it’s growth in 2017, with a dozen brand-new river cruise ships scheduled to entering service on Europe’s rivers.

Portugal’s Douro River, is becoming Europe’s most up and coming river destination. The Douro River is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

River cruising has traditionally appealed to mature couples, hence most of Europe’s river ships mainly offer double or twin cabins.

However CroisiEurope’s river vessels have some triples and quads cabins, on board some of its ships, with children being welcome.

MS AmaKristina (Courtsey AmaWaterways)

AmaWaterways’ new AmaKristina will feature triple-occupancy cabins in order to appeal to multi-generational families.

AmaWaterways’ has a partnership with ‘Disney’ in order to appeal to families with kids and persuade them to take a river cruise.

We may well see some river cruise products in the future which are a little more mainstream.

I would certainly welcome a more diverse range of river products and fares.

Malcolm

Amadeus Elegant ship review HERE

CroisiEurope’s Elbe Princesse

February 13, 2017

CroisiEurope’s remarkable paddle-wheeled river ship, designed for the shallow waters of the Elbe.

MS Sudan

February 11, 2017

Here is a feature on a classic river vessel:

sudan3

(Click to enlarge)

M/S Sudan Nile Cruise Is like being on no other cruise ship on the Nile, build at the dawn of the 20th century, the steam ship Sudan brings turn-of-the-century travel on the Nile to life again.

The 5 suites and 18 cabins are laid out between the two decks, off broad passageways where the passengers can sit, relax and read in the evening, or enjoy a drink. Each cabin proudly bears a name linked to Egyptian history.

On the upper deck, the Agatha Christie and Lady Duff Gordon suites, at the prow of the vessel, benefit from spectacular views over the river. The Aida and Queen Victoria suites nestle spaciously in the gentle curves of the stern. The warm-toned wooden panelling, gilded and copper bed-frames, classical furniture and distinguished parquet floors bestow a definite period charm, revealed in every detail, such as the bathroom fittings.

A Legendary boat

A boat inhabited by the memory of the King Fouad who received it as a gift in 1885, the memory of the Belle Époque travellers who used it, or that of Hercule Poirot who Agatha Christie had walking its decks in her writings. (The BBC’s ‘Death on the Nile’ with David Suchet, was filmed on-board).

Almost one hundred years old, the Steam Ship Sudan is the last witness to the Belle Epoque days of Nile cruising. In its wake floats the visionary spirit of Sir Thomas Cook and the history of cruises on the legendary river.

Poirot (Courtesy BBC)

Poirot on board Sudan (Courtesy BBC)

Sudan Web Site: HERE

History

1869 The Suez canal is created, opening the maritime trade route between Europe and Asia. Egypt’s economy and tourism immediately benefit. Thomas Cook, the visionary British entrepreneur, seizes the opportunity to explore a country boasting thousands of years of history and a uniquely comfortable climate and way of life.

Convinced that this potential would appeal to the British aristocracy, Cook and his son (Cook & Son) organise the first cruise on a boat rented from the Khedive, or vice-roy.

1876 Egypt becomes a British protectorate. Cook further develops his Nile cruises. In 1880, he obtains the concession for all tourism-related river sailing. In 1884, his vessels are requisitioned for the military campaign in Sudan, and return seriously damaged. The British pioneer therefore launches his own fleet of steam ships. Prince Abbas, Tewfik, Rameses are built in Scotland, and the parts later assembled in Cairo.

1899 Cook extends his empire along the Nile banks with the construction of the Old Cataract Hotel at Aswan, designed to cater to cruise passengers obliged to stop off on their way to the great temples of Upper Nubia, reached on another ship. The Aswan dam, inaugurated in 1902, changes the situation, and the numbers of tourists rises constantly.

1911-1921 Cook builds a new fleet of faster steam ships, composed of the Egypt, the Arabia, and the Sudan. They reduce the length of a Cairo-Aswan voyage to 20 days, and eager tourists flock on board.

1922-1935 The Sudan and Nile cruising in general enjoy a golden age. Diplomats, businessmen and archaeologists pay handsomely to discover the fabulous sites of Ancient Egypt. In 1933, Agatha Christie embarks, accompanied by her husband, on an archaeological mission. During the cruise, the grand dame of mystery is inspired to write Death on the Nile.

1939-1991 The Second World War rings the death knell of tourism in Egypt. The Sudan lies abandoned and docked for more than 50 years. In the early 90s, with the advent of more democratic tourism and a new boom in Nile cruises, an Egyptian shipowner relaunches the Sudan for a German tour operator, but the vessel is once more abandoned.

2000 Two directors of Voyageurs du Monde discover the Sudan in a pitiful state. They join forces with the Egyptian owner and after six months of refitting work the vessel is ready to sail.

2017 – onwards: This classic boat continues to charm its many passengers.

(egypt-nile-cruise.com)

Malcolm says: Here is a slide show from my Nile cruise, on-board  a more modest boat than Sudan:

CroisiEurope Builds Second Ship For The Elbe

January 28, 2017
Elbe Princesse (Courtesy CroisiEurope)

Elbe Princesse (Courtesy CroisiEurope)

CroisiEurope has started construction on a third paddle wheel riverboat to be called MS Elbe Princesse II, to cruise the shallow Elbe River.

This follows the success of the MS Loire Princesse in 2015 and the Elbe Princesse in 2016.

Taking into consideration the navigational limitations on these rivers, MS Elbe Princesse II also has only two decks, a very shallow hull draft and stern paddlewheels. These  do not require a lot of water under them, compared to conventional propellers. .

MS Elbe Princesse II will be the second ship operating between Berlin and Prague on the Elbe and the Vltava Rivers.

(CroisiEurope)

Malcolm says: Old propulsion technology being used on a new ship, clever. However I have heard that these ships can rattle a bit at higher speeds.

Interestingly the MS Loire Princesse (not surprisingly cruising on the River Loire) has two paddle wheels, one mounted on each side of her hull. However the Elbe Princesse has two mounted at her stern.

I wonder why the difference? Maybe the best technical location for paddle wheels is on the ships sides. Maybe this allows for more manoeuvrability? Maybe the Elbe is too just narrow for that configuration?

Loire Princesse (Courtesy Croisieurope)

Loire Princesse (Courtesy Croisieurope)

The British ocean going paddle steamer, the PS Waverly (1946) has two paddle wheels, one on the on the port side of the hull and the other on the starboard side of her hull. This is similar to the Loire Princesse.

However traditionally the Mississippi type paddle-steamers of course have one very large stern paddle wheel. This of course has more in common with the Elbe Princesse, although she has two smaller stern mounted paddle wheels rather than one large one.

American Queen: the biggest, carrying 436 passengers

American Queen: the biggest, carrying 436 passengers

Can anybody tell me why there are two different paddle-wheel locations on these ship?

Malcolm

Amadeus Provence – The New Flagship

January 15, 2017

Many of you may not have heard of Amadeus river cruises (formerly Luftner cruises) before, at least until you read my blog.

Amadeus are a family owned business (the Austrian Luftner family) who will introduce their fourteenth river ship in April year.

I have now cruised with them twice simply because of their good quality product and some very competitive fares.

Their new ship called ‘Amadeus Provence’ (not Silver 4) is currently being built in the Dutch shipyard ‘De Hoop’.

She will be 110 meters long and carry 140 passengers. She is  shorter than some newbuilds, probably because of the constraints the rivers she will be cruising on. She will sailing on the French rivers Rhône and Saône.

Amadeus Provence (Click to Enlarge)

Amadeus Provence (Click to Enlarge)

In their own words: The AMADEUS Provence offers custom-designed luxury and features a unique combination of modern elegance and superb amenities:
8 spacious Suites with comfortable corner sofa, luxurious bathroom and walk-out exterior balcony
62 Staterooms with mainly drop-down panoramic windows, luxurious bathrooms and walk-in wardrobes
Spacious public areas such as the pool deck with swimming pool and Lido-Bar or the outdoor glass-shielded “River Terrace”.

The AMADEUS Provence will transport you on the river cruise of a lifetime. Don’t miss the breath-taking 8-day cruise “French Savoir Vivre” from/to Lyon and experience world-famous sights such as Pont du Gard, Gorges de l´Ardèche, the nature reserve Camargue und the wine area Beaujolais. 

The design of Provence is a little different to all the other Amadeus ships.

The ship has to pass under a number of low bridges on these itineraries, which means the sun deck has to regularly be closed to passengers.

However I believe the new ‘pool deck’ at the stern (not featured on any of their other ships) is located lower so it can still be used when the sun deck is closed.

Malcolm

Amadeus Silver II ship review: HERE

Amadeus Elegant ship review HERE

Crowded Waters

January 10, 2017

There has been a lot of talk about the increasing number of ocean cruise ships in the past decade. In particular about the negative impact of mega-ships on the environment and their ports of call.

There are now ships on order that will carry in excess of 6,000 passengers, plus crew.

However, what about European river cruising which is a now booming business?

‘Viking River Cruises’ are a good example of success and expansion…

Read more…HERE

A busy Danube - Three Amadeus vessels (Click to enlarge)

A busy Danube – Three Amadeus vessels (Click to enlarge)

 

The Danube

January 7, 2017

Below is a short slide show of the Danube River form on-board Amadeus Elegant:

 
Amadeus Elegant ship review HERE.

Don’t Book An Ocean Cruise…

January 5, 2017

…until you have read my latest review.

dsc_0115

For twenty years I have been ocean cruising. I am lucky enough to have experienced many big ships, small ships, old ships and new ships.

To keep the whole thing fresh I tried many different ships and some different cruise lines. These have included Cunard, P&O, Fred. Olsen, RCI, P&O, Princess, Celebrity, Thomson and CMV.

Each ship and line is different, yet they are all similar.

While searching for something different, I tried my first European River Cruise in 2015.

I did enjoyed it, it made a refreshing change, but the experience still felt a little ‘alien’ to me compared to an ocean cruise.

However something drew me back to river cruising this year (after fitting in another ocean cruise) and I took my second European river cruise over Christmas 2016.

This time something ‘clicked’ inside of me. (And I don’t mean my spine or knee cartilage.)

I really got into the format and style of the experience this time around. Many aspects of the experience were actually better than on-board most ocean ship.

Amadeus Elegant ship review HERE

I’m NOT seriously suggesting that you give up ocean cruising, but maybe your New Year’s Resolution should be to seriously consider the idea of a River cruise in 2017.

I would bet that some of your most dreaded annoyances about ocean cruises probably do not exist on river cruises.

Happy New Year

Malcolm

American Queen Steamboat Company- New Vessel

September 18, 2016

easid-31247-media-id-9237

Two-floor loft suites will be among the features on a new US river cruise vessel to be built by American Queen Steamboat Company.

The 166-passenger American Duchess is due to join the fleet in June 2017 as the Memphis-based line’s third ship.

The company claims the all-suite American Duchess will be the first purpose-built boutique paddlewheeler, featuring the largest suites in every category.

The vessel will sail on the Mississippi and its tributaries offering new overnight stays in destinations such as Nashville as well as shorter itineraries from New Orleans. Departures from Chicago will also be available for the first time.

The American Duchess will feature a generous space ratio showcased by three 550 sq. ft. Owners’ Suites, and in an US riverboat first,

Accommodation will include four 550 sq. ft. duplex-style, two floor, two bathroom loft suites.

(American Queen Steamboat Company)

Malcolm says: I’ve always fancied the idea of cruising down the Mississippi on board a paddle-steamer (sorry, paddle-wheeler, there’s no steam here).  However I think somebody will have to pay for me. Any offers?

New Paddlewheeler Debuts on the Mississippi

May 29, 2016
(Courtesy American Cruise Lines )

(Courtesy American Cruise Lines )

The American Cruise Lines newest ship, the America, started its inaugural season on the Mississippi River, on 7th May.

The America is the cruise line’s largest ship with a capacity of 185 guests. The launch of America brings its fleet up to eight small ships, four of which are authentic paddlewheelers while the additional four are coastal cruisers.

(American Cruise Lines)

Oldest River Vessel

April 29, 2016

 

(Courtesy Gota Kanal)

Cruis Blog reader ‘Max M’ suggested that after discussing the biggest river boats (here) we should discuss the oldest.

I have done a little research and it would appear that the oldest registered marine vessel with overnight accommodation, is in fact a vintage steam canal boat called M/S Juno.  Juno was built in 1874 (yes, 1874) and has 29 passenger cabins.

M/S Juno operates on the 120 mile Göta Canal between Stockholm and Gothenburg, built with the help of Scottish engineer Thomas Telford.

In fact there are three vintage vessels on this route: The M/S Wilhelm Tham was built in 1912 and their youngest ship, is the M/S Diana, in 1931.

More Information HERE

Doulos – The Oldest Ocean-Going Ship

The Medina was built in 1914 by Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company for the Mallory Steamship Company of the United States. She was a freighter serving the Atlantic; during World War II she served with the United States Coast Guard.

The Panamanian company Naviera San Miguel SA acquired the Medina in 1948; they renamed the ship the Roma, and converted her into a passenger ship with cabins for 287 people, and dormitories for an additional 694 people.

In 1952 Naviera San Miguel resold the Roma to Linea Costa, an Italian company. At this time the SS Roma, a steamship, was converted into a motor vessel and renamed the MV Franca C. She carried passengers between Italy and Argentina. In 1959, the Franca C was adapted into a cruise liner, principally cruising the Mediterranean.

In 1977, Gute Bücher für Alle (Good Books For All) acquired the Franca C, and renamed her the Doulos (Greek for servant). She was manned by a volunteer crew and made sea port visits worldwide as a missionary ship. The MV Doulos held the biggest floating library in the world. Normally there were somewhere between 3000 to 5000 books on the shelves and half a million in the hold.

She made her last world tour in 2009 and was de-commissioning at the end of 2009 due to expense of making her compliant with SOLAS (maritime safety) regulations .

The ship is currently known as the MV Doulos Phos. She is now owned by Mr. Eric Saw, Director and Chief Executive of BizNaz Resources International Pte Ltd in Singapore.

There are plans to use the ship as a floating hotel with restaurants, a bookshop and a banqueting hall. However such plans do not always come to fruition. The QE2 is a prime example.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Malcolm Says: As Doulos is no longer operational as cruise ship, this raises the question what ocean going ship is now the oldest? anybody know?

I got to go on-board MV Doulos in 2004, when she visited Southampton. Her interiors were quite a mess, looking more like a Hippy peace-camp than an historic ship. However you could certainly still see some of the Costa décor in places.

What’s The Biggest River Boat?

January 14, 2016

Continuing with a river cruise theme, I was wondering what the ‘biggest’ river vessel in operation is.

Now the terms ‘river vessel’ and ‘biggest’ are open to some debate. However in this case I am talking about non-ocean going vessels with passenger cabins for overnight travel.

I believe the vessel below must be one of the biggest river ships, but if you know of a bigger vessel, please do let me know.

Photo by Thegreenj (click to enlarge)

Photo by Benroethig (Click to enlarge)

American Queen is said to be the largest river steamboat ever built.

I suppose her size was not constrained by the need to fit in locks or pass under low bridges  like many of Europe’s river vessels.

The vessel was built in 1995 and is a six-deck recreation of a classic Mississippi riverboat , built by McDermott Shipyard.

Although the American Queen’s stern paddlewheel is indeed powered by a genuine steam plant, her secondary propulsion, in case of an emergency and for manoeuvrability around tight areas where the paddle wheel cannot navigate, comes from a set of diesel-electric propellers on either side of the sternwheel.

She has 222 state rooms for a capacity of 436 guests and a crew of 160. She is 127m long and 27m wide.

“American-Queen-Dubuque” by Thegreenj (Click to enlarge)

Victoria Jenna

Victoria Jenna (Victoria Cruises) is a large river boat which cruises exclusively on the China’s Yangtze river.

(Courtesy Victoria cruises).

(Courtesy Victoria cruises).

Victoria Jenna certainly was biggest ship on the Yangtze in 2009 and may well still be?  She is 133.8m long, 18.8m wide, carries 378 passengers and 180 crew. So she is slightly longer than the ‘American Queen’, but not as wide and carries 20 more crew, but 58 less passengers.

Reader ‘Max M’  (see comments below) has kindly pointed out that the Russian waterways have some big vessels such as the Valerian Kuybyshev and Dmitriy Furmanov class.

1280px-Projekt_92-016_Michail_Frunse_15

A Russian waterways vessel (Source Wikipedia)

To properly eventuate which ship is really bigger, we need to compare the gross tonnage (internal volume) figures of the above ships, as we do with ocean cruise ships. Their respective length, width or the passenger capacity is not so helpful.

However I do not accurately know their respective gross tonnages, although I believe the bigger river vessels are generally between 6,000-10,000 gross tonnes.  I’m not even sure that river vessel gross tonnage is measured in the same way as ocean ships?  Can anyone help?

(Source: Wikipedia, American Steamboat Company, Victoria Cruises)

Malcolm says: Do readers know of any bigger river vessels? Have you cruised on these impressive vessels? Please let me know your experiences.

Stop Press: Ben Roethig kindly tells me: As for the largest ships, that’s the Yangtze Gold 2-6 which are are just a hair under 150m by 24m x 2.6m of draft and 17m in height. These are more like small ocean vessels in size and amenities than your traditional boutique river cruise. SEE HERE

 Extensive review of River Vessel: Amadeus Silver II