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River Cruises: Intimate Access

Offering intimate experiences and memorable excursions, river cruising is a fast-growing sector of the cruise industry. 

Instead of the thousands of passengers onboard large ocean ships, river cruise ships usually hold a maximum of a couple hundred. Unlike an ocean cruise, passengers don’t spend days on the water. These vessels dock frequently, allowing cruisers plenty of excursions to the port cities teeming with exciting attractions and delicious cuisine. 

From exciting new itineraries to onboard delights, here are some of the river cruise industry’s latest developments.

AmaWaterways Seven River Journey

Known for its river cruises in Europe, Asia and South America, AmaWaterways has been bringing its guests a refined cruising experience for 20 years. The line has continued to produce innovative and exciting itineraries during its two decades in the industry, and one of its most recently announced itineraries is no exception. The Seven River Journey will premiere in the spring and summer of 2023. This voyage is Ama’s longest continuous river cruise, lasting a total of 49 nights aboard the AmaMora, a 156-passenger luxury ship. This eliminates the added stress of moving ships and allows guests to focus on the riverside experiences.

Setting sail from Amsterdam in the spring, the AmaMora will give cruisers the opportunity to see 15 European countries by way of its rivers and canals, sailing the length of several rivers, such as the Rhine, for the first time. In summer, the ship will depart from Romania and travel in reverse order back to Amsterdam. The 2023 itineraries will include some new destinations, including a weeklong exploration of the Danube Delta, where cruisers can enjoy a new port in Moldova and six new towns. With stops in the Netherlands, Germany, France and several Balkan countries, among others, the itinerary offers guests aboard the AmaMora plenty of cultural sites and attractions to explore and an array of international cuisine to try in addition to the gorgeous scenery of the European countryside in full bloom.

Viking Introduces Expedition Cruises

Expedition cruising, a subset of the cruise industry, focuses more on the experiences ashore than onboard the ship. Viking, a well-known river and midsize-ship ocean cruise line, has recently expanded to include expedition cruises. Two new vessels designed for this purpose, Octantis and Polaris, were introduced this fall, and their itineraries include unexpected destinations such as the Great Lakes and Antarctica. 

The longitudinal world cruises set for 2023 take cruisers to dozens of countries over the course of nearly 70 days, traversing rivers, lakes and oceans to give guests unforgettable trips. From observing the wildlife off the coast of Antarctica to cruising by the bustling city of Milwaukee, the new itineraries include rare experiences and wondrous destinations uncommon to most travelers. 

The sister ships can accommodate 378 passengers each, making them larger than many other expedition vessels. Still, they retain the intimate and luxurious feel typical of Viking cruises, with well designed, comfortably furnished staterooms with ocean views, as well as Nordic spas and buffets stocked with international foods. However, unlike a typical Viking vessel, the expedition ships have more amenities and features focused on getting guests to leave the ship than to remain on it. Kayaks, zodiac boats and even submarines are included on both vessels to boost each visitor’s adventures. The ship’s staff includes knowledgeable guides, naturalists and cultural experts to keep guests safe and aid in their exploration of each port of call and excursion.

Avalon Waterways Offers Free Drinks at Happy Hour

Nothing says hospitality like a complimentary happy hour. Avalon Waterways, the award-winning river cruise line that’s earned a reputation for luxury, has found yet another way to elevate its passengers’ experience. In 2023, Avalon will host a daily happy hour where guests can enjoy free beverages in the hour before dinner. House wine, beer and spirits will be available, as well as a featured cocktail, on all the European Suite Ships. This is in addition to the complimentary spirits served at lunch and dinner. With the ship’s selection of international wine and beer, signature cocktails and gourmet meals, prepared with fresh, regional ingredients, passengers will have ample opportunity to indulge in a first-rate culinary experience onboard.

The European Suite Ships offer passengers a range of amenities and features, such as panoramic views, spacious suites and a fitness center, in addition to the free happy-hour beverages. The cruise itineraries for these ships feature countries such as France, the Netherlands, Belgium and even the Balkans. Multiriver cruises and seasonal cruises are also available for an unforgettable trip along Europe’s rivers.

American Queen’s Lakelorian Program

What started as a single riverboat on the Mississippi River has grown into one of the most recognizable river cruising companies in North America. With an array of steamboats and paddle-wheelers at its disposal, American Queen Voyages has developed a range of itineraries in the rivers and lakes of the United States, including the Great Lakes. 

Because of their small size, American Queen vessels can dock at many smaller ports where larger ships can’t. The cruise line announced in 2023 it would partner with the National Museum of the Great Lakes to introduce the Lakelorian Program. This will entail the inclusion of an expert guide on the staff of the Ocean Voyager and the Ocean Navigator, two of the ships with Great Lakes itineraries. Lake Chats about each destination on the itinerary will be included to ensure cruisers don’t miss out on the fascinating history of the Great Lakes while enjoying their breathtaking scenery.

These American Queen Great Lakes cruises take guests down the St. Lawrence River and include stops in cities like Toronto, Chicago and Detroit. Excursions to prominent area attractions like Niagara Falls and Mackinac Island are also included. The vessels each offer guests an array of comforts to enjoy on their cruises, such as fresh, locally sourced and inspired meals, hospitable service and quaint cabins.

Uniworld’s Rivers of the World Itinerary

Keeping with the industry trend of expanding the timelines of river cruises from weeks to months, Uniworld announced its Rivers of the World itinerary for 2023. The boutique river cruise company released a 46-night itinerary that involves sailing on five different vessels and visiting nine countries by way of their rivers. 

This river cruise is packed with highly appealing destinations, such as Cairo, Milan and Paris. The five ships will glide along famous rivers like the Nile and the Seine, allowing passengers to glimpse the diverse geography and cultures nestled alongside them. From ancient Egyptian temples to small villages in northern France, cruisers will experience a broad range of cultures, dining, nature and historic sites that are sure to check many items off their travel bucket lists. The cruises are also all-inclusive, arranging the airfare and overnight stays between countries and offering cocktails, beer and wine with meals for no extra charge.

Each ship features tasteful interior decor aligned with the culture of the river it’s sailing; for instance, the S.S. Sphinx is adorned throughout with opulent golden accents and ornate regional furniture, while the S.S. Maria Theresa, which takes passengers through Hungary, features elegant, 18th century-style furnishings and baroque details.