River Talk

Douglas Ward Cruise BerlitzThe Berlitz River Cruising in Europe and the USA

The third edition of the book was published in June 2018. The 320-page book was greatly expanded to include the steamboats (and replica steamboats) plying the USA’s main rivers. A labour of love, it is intended to help you to decide which riverboat and river cruise company to book, and provides much comparative information unavaialble anywhere else.


Reduced is good

Some river cruise companies have reduced the number of cabins aboard some riverboats (examples include Scenic and Tauck), and adding larger suites in order to provide a greater comfort factor for those looking for more personal space. Taking the examples shown, Scenic  has reduced the number of passengers on its (135-meter) Scenic Pearl and Scenic Ruby from 171 to 161, while Tauck has reduced the number of passengers on its smaller (110-meter) riverboats Esprit and Treasures from 118 to 98.  Several other riverships have already undertaken a reduction in the number of cabins, while increasing the size of some cabins.


New is good

A number of new riverboats debuted in 2019, but perhaps the most newsworthy and interesting is AmaMagna of California-based Ama Waterways. This is a double-wide riverboat built exclusively for the Danube, with a lot of space per passenger (rather like the Crystal Mozart of Crystal River Cruises).

I am continuously sailing aboard riverboats – all belonging to different companies and operators. Since the introduction of the 280-page Berlitz River Cruising in Europe guidebook (2016-2017 edition), companies have been busy competing to provide better cruise experiences. This is good news, because my objective is always to keep standards high, and for the river cruise companies to improve their product and deliver the best cruise experience possible, given the limitation that the rivers, and nature, impose.


Douro rising

Interest in cruising on Portugal’s Douro river has increased. So has the number of companies and riverships being built and introduced. Operating from Oporto, the city famed for its port wine industry, cruises take you through some of Europe’s most beautiful scenery, as well as through five locks (the largest of which is Carrapatelo – with a 35-metre lift/drop – one of the largest in the world).


Riverships  and upgrades

Now that Crystal Cruises is building four riverships with ‘smart’ facilities, and AMA Waterways and Scenic are adding additional elements to their vessels, we will see other companies, such as Tauck, making “upgrades” or “catch-ups” to their fleet. In fact, in 2016, Tauck reduced the number of cabins on its 110-metre Swiss Emerald, Swiss Sapphire, MS Esprit and MS Treasures. In 2017, Scenic will reduce capacity aboard Scenic Diamond and Scenic Sapphire (both operating on French rivers) from 84 to 78. By reducing the number of cabins, the ambiance aboard provides a more intimate less crowded feeling in what were previously cramped main lounges.


Crystal Mozart debuts real-time live camera views

Crystal River Cruises started broadcasting real-time river views from Crystal Mozart via cameras positioned at three vantage points—forward, port and starboard, in August. The Danube River scenes can be accessed via the ‘Live Views’ option on Crystal’s homepage.


 Amsterdam beefs up river cruise security

The Port of Amsterdam is working to improve the security of river cruise vessels and passengers at Western Europe’s leading turnaround point for river cruises.  As a result, the port has stepped up monitoring of its river cruise mooring locations and the busiest river cruise locations in the Amsterdam port area will get extra surveillance at night.


 MV Werften lays keel for Crystal’s river ships

Construction began in August on Crystal River Cruises’ first newbuilds Crystal Bach and Crystal Mahler in Wismar. They will sail on the Rhine, Main and Danube, and each accommodates 11 passengers.


Belmond to introduce two new cruise barges in 2017

Belmond (the travel and hotel group) will add a pair of new luxury barges to its fleet in the French wine region of Burgundy in 2017.  Joining the five existing barges that comprise Belmond Afloat in France, Belmond Lilas and Belmond Pivoine will sail the canals of Champagne and Alsace in France.


Capacity reduction on the French rivers

Crystal Cruises has stated that its newbuild riverships Crystal Debussy and Crystal Ravel  will now be redesigned and redeployed to the Danube itineraries. Meanwhile, Scenic is redesigning its France-based Scenic Diamond and Scenic Sapphire in 2017, reducing passenger capacity from 167 to 155.


Crystal Mozart named by Viennese Hotelier

Elisabeth Gürtler served as the godmother for Crystal River Cruises’ first vessel, Crystal Mozart, during festivities in Vienna on July 11.  She is managing director of Vienna’s famous Hotel Sacher, and acting director of the city’s historic Spanish Riding School, home of the Lipizzaner stallions.  Crystal Mozart sails from and to Vienna, the vessel’s homeport.


AmaStella, AmaViola named in Vilshofen

In two days of festivities in Vilshofen, Germany, AmaWaterways’ AmaStella and AmaViola were named by Jackie Friedman and Carole Smethurst. Each carries 158 passengers