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In Germany, Crystal River Cruises welcomed Crystal Bach to its award-winning fleet. The luxury river ship, the first of four “Rhine Class” ships set to sail the rivers of Europe, was delivered to Crystal by MV WERFTEN during the official handover ceremony in Wismar, Germany. In attendance to witness the occasion were Crystal’s CEO and president, Edie Rodriguez and several local dignitaries.

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I find river cruising to be one of the most enjoyable travel experiences available to those seeking to get to know Europe. Let me count the ways:

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Looks can deceive. Rarely, for example, will Scenic appear as the lowest-priced operator when comparing river cruises on similar itineraries. In my story, What Scenic Does Differently In Bordeaux, Scenic’s per diems for eight-day Bordeaux itineraries were considerably higher than AmaWaterways (by 28 percent), CroisiEurope (by 90 percent) and Viking (by 45 percent). On some sailings, Scenic’s per diems in Bordeaux approach $700 per person, compared to Viking at $481 per day. At first, I thought, “Wow, Scenic is over-the-top,” even though Uniworld came in higher (nearly $750 per day in staterooms that are a third smaller). A closer look at the numbers, however, reveals a much different picture than what I saw at first glance.

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Riverside Chat Episode 2: Rhone River Cruises

Hi, I’m Ralph Grizzle. I run and this week I’m on the Rhone River. What I love about this river is that it combines the beauty of the river with the charm of Provence. I get a lot of questions about the Rhone and about France in general. Here’s our Riverside Chat featuring the Rhone River.

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Scenic Luxury Cruises and Tours, working in partnership with PBS National Sales, has announced its sponsorship of the fourth season of The Great British Baking Show, airing Fridays at 9 p.m. as of June 16th.

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AmaWaterways Announces New Wellness Program

AmaWaterways announced it has launched a wellness program onboard AmaLyra’s Paris & Normandy sailings. The program – led by “Sports Scientist” Selina Wank features four to six classes daily, including morning stretches, jogging, yoga, cardio and core strengthening and circuit training. Activities will be complemented by discussion groups with a focus on healthy eating and relaxation techniques.

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In 2015, I spent six nights on Scenic Jasper, sailing from Budapest to Vienna. What I learned was that Scenic serves up a quality experience at a high level. The Australia-based company may already represent the most-inclusive river cruise company in the marketplace, though Scenic must contend with the likes of Crystal, Tauck and Uniworld.

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Next week, I’ll fly to Bordeaux to board Scenic Diamond for an eight-day voyage in France’s renowned wine-producing region. The itinerary is impressive, which I’ve outlined below, but it’s the ship that I am most curious to see. Scenic redesigned its France-based Space-Ships this year to include a private cooking emporium offering tailored cooking classes.

Scenic Culinaire is a new onboard cooking school using dedicated space that features cooking stations and a cheese and wine cellar as well as real-time cameras and screens to ensure each participant (including me) can see every cooking move in detail. Fresh ingredients are sourced from local markets and the cooking instructors will introduce guests to regional recipes based on the itinerary regions.

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You may have missed the news last week. AmaWaterways is going big. The company is building a double-wide river cruiser for the Danube.

Construction on AmaMagna started in March. The new ship will set sail in 2019. It will be interesting to see what AmaWaterways brings to the table – or rather, to the Danube. With the expanded space, AmaWaterways can include more features on AmaMagna than are on its current fleet.

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Koblenz, Germany — It had been awhile since I was on a Viking Longship, and although I had attended christening events and even did a couple of weeklong cruises on Viking a few years ago, too much time had passed since I’d stepped on a Longship. Last Sunday that changed when I boarded Viking Hlin in Basel for a seven-night “Rhine Getaway” voyage to Amsterdam.

After a quick transfer from Basel’s airport to the St. Johann docks, I felt good stepping into the familiar light-filled reception area of Viking Hlin (named for the goddess of protection in Norse mythology).

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CroisiEurope has officially kicked off its newest river cruise tours: combination land-and-cruise voyages that explore Africa’s Chobe and Zambezi rivers. The journeys include a four-day voyage aboard the African Dream, a brand-new luxury river cruise vessel that carries only 16 guests in its eight suites. Read the rest of this entry »

What. A. Great. Trip. In early April, I cruised with Avalon Waterways on the Rhine and Moselle rivers. The itinerary, bookended by Amsterdam and Paris, served up some of the same stunning scenery that inspired Dutch landscape painters such as Jacob Isaackszoon van Ruisdael. Just look at the photo below, for example, unfiltered and untouched, snapped with my iPhone from the Club Lounge, aft on Avalon Visionary, one morning on the Moselle.

I could have spent hours out on deck watching the landscape pass. Instead, I drew back the curtains and admired Europe in HD from my Panorama Suite. After only a few days on board Avalon Visionary, I understood what Avalon Waterways has been trying to market: framed postcard-like views from the bedrooms of its so-called “Suite Ships.”

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Crystal River Cruises: In A Class Apart

Crystal Mozart stands apart because of its width alone. At 22.85 meters (roughly 75 feet), Mozart is nearly twice the width of the standard river cruiser. With so much real estate, Mozart can boast features that most river cruise vessels cannot, such as an indoor pool and Jacuzzi, a spacious gym, four restaurants, an ultra-wide sundeck with a retractable bar and much more.

Of course, all that space comes at a cost. Mozart can navigate up the Danube not much past Passau. That’s not a huge handicap. The section of the Danube that Mozart can cruise is among the most popular stretches on the river, with marquee attraction such as the Melk Abbey and the Wachau Valley, and storied cities like Vienna, Budapest and Bratislava. Read the rest of this entry »

Cruising The Rhone On AmaWaterways: Lyon To Arles

April 20-27, 2017, I will cruise along the Rhône river through France’s legendary wine growing regions. The region is home to such famous vintages as Beaujolais and Côte du Rhône, and I’m sure we’ll sample plenty of wine. We’ll enjoy wine tastings at local vintners, marvel at ancient Roman ruins, stroll through medieval villages and shop for Provencal crafts. Our itinerary includes the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Avignon as well as Arles, the city where Vincent Van Gogh spent much of his life.
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Amsterdam, April 12, 2017 — The skeptic in me thought it would be boring. A painting workshop. I’m not a painter. Why would I want to waste my time putting a brush to canvas when all of Amsterdam was out there for me to explore? I wasn’t alone in my thinking. A colleague of mine confessed that he too was not terribly excited about the afternoon excursion that our host, Avalon Waterways, had graciously organized for us. It wasn’t that we weren’t appreciative. It was just that painting was not our forte. Nor was it an aspiration or even something I would consider taking up as a hobby. That all changed one afternoon in Amsterdam. Read the rest of this entry »

Just in time for the start of 2017 sailings on Portugal’s Douro River, Scenic Luxury Cruises and Tours has opened a new dock for exclusive use by both Scenic and its sister company Emerald Waterways river ships. Unlike other river ship docks, this is conveniently located in Cais de Maragaia, a historic area of the World Heritage city of Porto and only a five-minute walk to Ribiera Street, one of Porto’s most popular riverfront promenades known for its distinctive small alleyways and pastel-hued buildings. Read the rest of this entry »

River Cruise Advisor’s Aaron Saunders & Ralph Grizzle talk about new trends in river cruising, including the trend that mixes river cruising and bicycling. Be sure to follow us as we report live from rivers in Europe during the months of April and May during Six-Plus Weeks Of River Cruising On Live Voyage Reports. Read the rest of this entry »

Emerald Waterways has announced a brand new Provence sailing for 2017, “Sensations of Southern France,” an eight-day voyage that will take place aboard the company’s newly built Emerald Liberté.

The sailing takes passengers from Lyon to Arles along the picturesque Rhône and Saône Rivers, passing through Chalon-Sur-Saône, Tournon and Avignon, where guests will be treated to an on-board, Provençal style dinner by acclaimed local chef and Top Chef France finalist, Fabien Morreale.

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Scenic is bringing Southeast Asia closer to a reality for US travelers. Booking any departure between August and December 2017 means free air from 25 US gateways or $2,000 savings per couple on its 13-day “Treasures of the Mekong” and 14-day “Mystical Irrawaddy”; and $1,000 per couple savings on the eight-day “Luxury Mekong” and 11-day “Luxury Irrawaddy.” These itineraries exploring the culturally-rich Mekong and Irrawaddy River destinations of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. The deadline for the offer is based on availability and is for new bookings only. Read the rest of this entry »

Every week, I get up to 100 emails from people interested in river cruising. Many are well-heeled and can afford river cruises that cost more than $400 per day per person. Not everyone is so fortunate. Just last week, a gentleman wrote me asking to unsubscribe from the River Cruise Advisor newsletter. He was apologetic. “Sadly,” he wrote, “I cannot afford a river cruise at these prices.”

River cruising in Europe is a dream come true for travelers. Imagine passing the beautiful landscapes along the rivers, past fairy-tale villages dotted with castles and church spires, all from the comfort of your floating boutique hotel. Step ashore into enchanting towns and immerse yourself into the milieu of an age-old culture. Read the rest of this entry »

We head to the Tal Harba Chapel, situated on the Valletta waterfront. This small chapel is beautifully detailed. The style of the façade is definitively Baroque, and it is carefully adapted to not be dominated by the adjacent large warehouses, façades and restaurants.

The Maltese architect, Andrea Belli (1703—1772) ensured that the narrow façade of this chapel included all the typical elements of a larger church façade—two bell towers, imposing cornices and sumptuous Baroque detailing, making for a tiny-mighty street presence. The cartouche and the high window assembly in particular highlight the architect’s finesse. The chapel’s interior is domed and the altar nave is a true high Baroque masterpiece.

Inside we took a seat to enjoy a 20-minute concert performance by a talented soprano and three musicians. Read the rest of this entry »