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The 2019 season is building up to an exciting one with river cruise lines debuting new ships and rolling out new shore excursions.

River Cruise Passenger has put together a season preview so you can find out all that is new on the rivers in 2019.

“Scenic, APT, Viking and Uniworld are very popular this season,” says Kathy Pavlidis at Travel Associates, one of Australia’s leading travel agents in river cruising.

The best time to sail the European rivers is in spring and autumn as the weather is pleasant and there are fewer crowds, says Avalon Waterways.

Get in by May, just before the start of the European summer advises luxury boutique line, Uniworld.

In terms of itinerary, the Amsterdam to Budapest route remains a best seller among the cruise lines. The tried and true route explores the Danube, Main and Rhine rivers and remains ever popular among first-time cruisers.

The French rivers and the lower Danube are also gaining popularity among repeat cruisers looking to explore the region further.

“France is definitely the flavour this year with Avignon to Lyon being the most booked route with repeat cruisers,” says Ms Pavlidis.

For a cultural adventure, you can look slightly east to the Egyptian rivers. They are gaining popularity quickly in the last few years after river cruise lines reintroduced itineraries to the region.

Scenic has sold out their 2019 Egypt program and Viking has only a handful of cabins remaining. Luxury lines like Uniworld and APT also have itineraries there. Scenic is calling guests to book ASAP for 2020 to reserve limited spots. Uniworld will also be debuting their new super ship, S.S. Sphinx, in 2020.

Scenic River Cruises

Which itineraries are booking well?

Their ‘Jewels of Europe’, the Amsterdam to Budapest classic is doing well along with their ‘Unforgettable Douro’, ‘Normandy & Gems of the Seine’ and ‘South of France’.

New shore excursions

The line introduces new e-bike tours through ancient cities like Koblenz, capital city, Bratislava, and the charming streets of Vienna. Find these tours on the ‘Romantic Rhine and Moselle’, ‘Danube Delta Discovery’ and ‘Iconic Danube’ itineraries.

To get the best views in the ‘Iconic Danube’, go on the new and easy hike to the top of Castle Hill.

Scenic is also introducing a new tour extension in ‘Danube Delta Discovery’ river cruise to explore Bran Castle, home to the legend of Count Dracula.

New ships/New on ships  

Scenic has remodelled its European river cruise fleet to include Salt Therapy Rooms and the Royal Owners Suite on board. The Salt Therapy Lounge feature handcrafted salt bricks along with humidity and temperature control. Relax in the inclined lounge chairs in low lights and calm music.

Viking River Cruises

Which itineraries are booking well?

The Amsterdam to Budapest itinerary that sails over 15 days is selling well for Viking, along with the shorter itineraries on the Rhine, Main and Danube. Russia and Portugal also remain favourites.

New shore excursions

Viking rolls out new pre and post-cruise extensions on their popular river itineraries. This includes a two-night extension in Brussels and a three-night in Bruges, one of Europe’s most well preserved medieval cities. These can be added on to the Holland and Belgium itinerary.

They also have a five-night extension for history buffs, where guests can get privilege access to the Churchhill War rooms, and the estate where Alan Turing and the team worked to break German codes in WWII and more.

New ships/New on ships  

Viking is set to launch seven new river ships on European waterways in 2019. Six of which are Viking Longships that will sail popular itineraries on the Rhine, Main and Danube Rivers. The seventh is a specially designed vessel to sail Portugal’s Duoro River.


Which itineraries are booking well?

Amsterdam to Budapest continues to shine as Australian travellers are still exploring this stretch of Europe in droves. Sail in their Concerto River Ship that has custom built Twin Balcony Suites, an exclusive on European rivers.

New shore excursions

APT has introduced an exclusive new shore excursion to take the Grand Empress Steam Train to Gödöllő Palace in central Hungary. Following in the footsteps of Elisabeth of Bavaria, affectionately known as Sisi, guests will embark on an imperial rail journey. You can also feast on a traditional game lunch worthy of royalty on board and a private guided tour of Gödöllő Palace.

New ships/New on ships  

The line will be launching their much-anticipated new river ship AmaMagna. The world’s largest river cruise ship will be nearly twice in width of traditional European river ships.


Which itineraries are booking well?

At the moment the most popular selling rivers are the Rhine and the Danube followed closely by the Seine relative to Uniworld’s most popular luxury river cruise itineraries – Castles Along the Rhine, Authentic Danube and Paris and Normandy.

New shore excursions

Brilliant BordeauxSauternes Vineyard with Private Artisanal Wine Tasting at Château de Cazeneuve. It is the favoured residence of Henry IV, who inherited it from his mother, Jeanne d’Albret, the beautifully restored château still belongs to descendants of the Albret family.

Magnificent Moselle & RhineEberbach Abbey Medieval Monastery Tour with Riesling Tasting. The monastery built in Romanesque and early Gothic style is one of the most significant architectural sites in the region and one of the filming location off the 1986 movie ‘The Name of the Rose’.

New ships/New on ships  

The S.S. São Gabriel, Portugal will launch on March 29, 2020 and sail the Douro River.

The S.S. La Venezia, Venice – The River Countess will undergo a complete design renovation and re-emerge as S.S. La Venezia on March 27, 2020 bringing guests complete luxury while exploring Northern Italy.

U River Cruises, the first river cruise dedicated to a new generation of adult travellers is also moving The B to Central Europe for the 2020 season.

Avalon Waterways

Which itineraries are booking well?

The Danube and the Rhine are as popular as ever however the line is also seeing a rise in bookings to the lower Danube on cruises from Budapest to Bucharest. Active & Discovery cruises on the Danube, Rhine & Rhone are also gaining a lot of momentum says Avalon Waterways.

New shore excursions

Avalon Waterways is offering more active excursions in response to the health-conscious travel trend. Explore an Ice Cave in the Salzburg area or take part in hands on experiences like cooking classes, microbrewery tours, street art tour in Prague and a sunrise photography tour.

New ships/New on ships  

New for 2019 is the introduction of the Avalon Envision Ship in April. Also new for this year is the addition of an Adventure Host on every Avalon Waterways sailing.

This dedicated staff member suggests activities to do in your free time, provide maps and guidance on popular walking/hiking trails, hire bikes and provide Nordic walking sticks. They also accompany some of our “Active” choice excursions and host morning stretch classes on the Skydeck.

The line has also introduced FlexDining, which gives guests more freedom to decide where and when they dine.


Which itineraries are booking well?

Their best seller is the ‘European Gems’ river cruise sailing the Amsterdam to Budapest route. The itinerary allows guests to select from Insider Experiences such as visiting iconic Naschmarkt in Vienna and World Heritage-listed Augustusburg Castle in Brühl.

New shore excursions

The line is rolling out two new railway and cruise combo journeys with their ‘European Gems’ and ‘Douro Discovery’ itineraries. They are pairing a ‘UK Escape’ by rail with ‘European Gems’, which makes stops at London, Oxford, Bath and St Ives.

You can also explore Bordeaux, Basque, Spain and Morocco by rail before sailing the ‘Douro Discovery’ itinerary.

New ships/New on ships  

The line has newly refurbished Travelmarvel Diamond and Jewel. The Classic Class River Ships, custom designed for Europe’s waterways adds McGeary’s Bar, offering pub-style meals, to existing features such as a terrace garden, rooftop bar and heated whirlpool.

Travelmarvel will also be launching the first of their Contemporary Class vessel in April 2020 and she sail her maiden voyage on the ‘European Gems’ itinerary.