Since we are ringing in a new year, I thought I’d spend the next couple of weeks giving you some insight into “what’s new for 2019”as provided by Vacation Agent magazine’s December issue. This week I’ll touch on small ship cruising. Cruising is poised for another booming year, especially when it comes to new ships. Thanks to innovative new onboard features, the wow factor will stay ramped up all year long. River cruises will have added features and amenities designed to broaden river cruising's appeal to Millennials, younger families with children, and active and health-conscious travelers.
Here’s a rundown of some new “small ship” offerings for 2019:
Celebrity Cruises - On the expedition front, Celebrity plans to debut the 100-passenger Celebrity Flora in May. Built for the Galapagos Islands, the all-suite ship features staterooms and suites that range in size from 330 to 1,288 square feet. Room amenities include suite attendants, drinking water filtration systems and espresso machines, plus 24-hour in-suite room service. The ship also offers a stargazing platform and observatory.
Ponant - Luxury yacht expedition with a French twist is Ponant’s hallmark. The line plans to introduce the third and fourth of six Explorer ships in 2019. The 184-passenger Le Bougainville and Le Dumont d’Urville debut in April and August, respectively. The eye-catching Blue Eye “multisensory lounge” is but one feature that makes the ships stand out in a crowded field.
Scenic - The much-anticipated Scenic Eclipse is scheduled to make its debut in Antarctica in mid-April. The 228-passenger ship (200 in the polar regions) combines luxury with some flashy features. Among them: two Airbus H130 helicopters that seat up to six guests; a submarine that can descend to nearly 1,000 feet; nine dining venues; and a 6,000-square-foot spa.
Star Clippers - Adventure on the high seas isn’t limited to the expedition category. The romance of the “Golden Age of Sail” is alive and well at Star Clippers. The line’s long-awaited Flying Clipper sets sail in early summer of 2019. It’s the first newbuild for Star Clippers in nearly two decades. The fourth and biggest ship in the fleet, Flying Clipper will carry 300 passengers. With 35 sails, it will be the world’s largest square rigger. The ship is a replica of the legendary France II, circa 1911. But today’s version features three pools, a glass Dive Bar, water sports platform, library, and several balcony stateroom categories. High-tech engines will provide power in a pinch.
Viking Ocean Cruises - The company will debut the 930-guest Viking Jupiter in February 2019, which will be the sixth in its class of 930-passenger ocean ships. Like its sisters, it is equipped with 465 veranda staterooms, blond woodwork and other Scandinavian touches, extensive spa facilities and al fresco dining venues. Named in honor of the planet Jupiter, the ship will operate on Mediterranean and Northern Europe itineraries during its maiden season.
AmaWaterways - AmaWaterways is slated to introduce three ships this year, the first of which, the 102-passenger AmaDouro, will begin sailing in April on itineraries plying Portugal’s Douro River. The much-anticipated 196-passenger AmaMagna, which is virtually twice the width of standard river vessels, will enter service in May on Danube River itineraries between Vilshofen and Budapest. The vessel will feature a significant range of suites, most of which are upward of 355 square feet; and a generous choice of dining options, including the new Al Fresco Restaurant and Jimmy’s Wine Bar Restaurant. The 164-passenger AmaMora, a sister ship to AmaLea, which debuted in 2018, will be introduced in July on Rhine River itineraries between Amsterdam and Basel. In 2019 AmaWaterways’ new wellness activities led by Wellness Hosts will be available on all European ships (except in Portugal), and the cruise line will continue to expand its hiking and biking options.
American Cruise Lines - American Harmony, the second of American Cruise Lines’ class of new contemporary riverboats, will make its debut this spring on Mississippi River itineraries. Like its sister, American Song, which was introduced last year, American Harmony will be equipped with large lounges set 40 feet above the water, and staterooms with floor-to-ceiling glass doors and balconies. It will also have a four-story, glass-enclosed atrium with a domed skylight.
American Queen Steamboat Company - In 2020, the line plans to introduce a new 245-passenger paddle wheeler, American Countess, which will be the fourth vessel in the fleet. The riverboat will be constructed with the existing hull of the Kanesville Queen, a gaming boat built in 1995. The line currently operates two vessels on the Mississippi River complex, American Queen and the newly unveiled American Duchess. Its third vessel, American Empress, operates on sailings in the Pacific Northwest on the Columbia and Snake rivers.
Avalon Waterways - Avalon Envision will inaugurate service this spring on 10-day “Legendary Danube” and 12-day “Blue Danube Discovery” itineraries. Like its Suite Ship sisters, the 166-passenger vessel will feature 200-square-foot staterooms with wall-to-wall French balconies, and with beds that face the views. The vessel’s public venues include the glass-walled Dining Room, the Panorama Bistro and the al fresco Sky Grill. In 2018, Avalon added a third ship to its Asia fleet—Avalon Saigon, which inaugurated service on the 13-day “Fascinating Vietnam, Cambodia and the Mekong River” itinerary.
Emerald Waterways - In August, Emerald Harmony will enter service on the Mekong River, sailing on three new itineraries that explore Vietnam and Cambodia. The vessel’s design will enable it to dock in the center of Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City. Accommodating 84 guests in 42 staterooms and suites, Emerald Harmony will house the Reflections Restaurant, with an emphasis on local cuisine; two lounges; and a pool.
Viking River Cruises - It’s a big year for Viking River Cruises, which plans to introduce six Viking Longships, along with a seventh vessel custom-designed for cruising Portugal’s Douro River. The seventh new ship, carrying 106 passengers, will become the fourth in Viking’s Douro River fleet. The vessel, which will include a number of Viking Longships’ signature features, will sail on 10-day “Portugal River of Gold” itineraries.
Looks like an exciting year for cruising. Be sure to check in next week to see what is new for “guided tours”. Happy travels!