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River Cruising Highlights For 2016

19th December 2015

River cruising remained the fastest growing travel style of 2015 at Travel Associates – our clients booking almost 40% more river cruise holidays compared to last year.

But there's no sign river cruise operators will rest on their laurels in 2016. Our favourite cruise lines will enter new rivers, launch stunning new ships and introduce impressive itineraries. To make things even more interesting, next year heralds the dawn of a all-new luxury river cruise brand in Europe too.

Driven by a maturing cruise market and unprecedented competition along the worlds fabled rivers – these cruise lines are collectively redefining how we as travellers can experience the world. Come down river with us, as we explore the highlights of river cruising for 2016.

Crystal Along Europe's Rivers

Known as "the world's most awarded luxury cruise line", Crystal will expand its offering from the high seas to the rivers of Europe next year. Crystal River Cruises will offer the largest luxury suites of any river vessel in the region, which is great news for shoppers, who can reserve a suite with a walk-in closet. The 160-passenger Crystal Mozart will set sail on its maiden voyage from Vienna in July 2016. Four additional brand-new Crystal river "yachts" will launch between June and August 2017.

Crystal Mozart's inaugural season also includes special Christmas and New Year's itineraries including the 13-day Christmas & New Year's Eve Along The Danube. Guests can ring in the New Year in one of the most storied cities in the world, with stunning firework displays and the chance to experience the New Year’s Eve Path – Vienna’s grand street party.

Artists impression of a Crystal River Cruises suite. Image: Crystal Cruises

Avalon First On The Meuse

In 2016, Avalon will become the first river cruise company to sail the Meuse River on its new Enchanting Belgium itinerary. River cruise itineraries that straddle the bordering canals and rivers of Belgium and Holland are nothing new, however this 9-night voyage takes guests past Maastrich – traditionally the last stop – further down the Meuse to the picturesque town of Namur which dates back to Celtic times.

Guests will enjoy the charms of Namur’s cozy medieval squares and streets, Dordrecht’s historic harbours, and Amsterdam’s iconic canals. There’s a moving excursion to the Battlefields of Ypres and Eastern Flanders, plus guided visits of Maastricht, Antwerp and Ghent. The 138-passenger Avalon Luminary and 128-passenger Avalon Artistry II sail the itinerary from April.

Namur's imposing medieval Citadel from the Meuse River. Image: Getty

Scenic Aura's Irrawaddy Debut

Scenic’s new 5-star luxury river cruise ship, Scenic Aura, will launch on the Irrawaddy River from September 2016, sailing between Mandalay and Pyay over 10 nights. Each of the ship's 22, all-balcony, suites boast a separate bedroom, living room and balcony, ranging in size from 24sqm to 70sqm. With an almost 1:1 guest-to-staff ratio, guests will be pampered with butler service, fully inclusive beverage options, a range of exciting Scenic FreeChoice activities.

Take tea with the locals, visit intriguing ancient cities and discover the natural beauty of Inle Lake where fishermen row their delicate craft with one leg. It's all part of Scenic's Luxurious Irrawaddy experience and will leave you understanding why Rudyard Kipling described Burma (aka Myanmar) as "quite unlike any land you know about".

Artists impression of Scenic Aura debuting on the Irrawaddy in 2016. Image: Scenic

The new cool: Best Hotel Openings For 2016

Next-gen cruising: New Cruise Ships Launching In 2016

Uniworld's Connoisseur Collection

Uniworld, the cruise company known for its boutique river excursions and fine culinary experiences (1995 Nikolaihof Riesling anyone?), has set about outdoing themselves in 2016, offering themed based sailings based exclusively on the flavours of France. It's three new Connoisseur Collection themed sailings will depart from June through August, making stops at famous and intimate French settings.

Gourmands won’t be able to resist Uniworld's 8-day Bordeaux, Vineyards & Château itinerary in particular. Highlights include a food and wine pairing at Renaissance Château de Roquetaillade, visit to the Rémy Martin Estate for cognac tasting, a sunset cocktail party on the island of Patiras and Valrhona chocolate tasting and wine matching on board the exquisite S.S. Catherine.

Enjoy matched food and wine at Château de Roquetaillade with Uniworld in 2016. Image: Getty

Tauck's New Rhine Inspiration

Tauck is launching two new Inspiration Class ships next year. The ms Grace and ms Joy will each embody the signature amenities and club-like elegance the operator is known for and feature Tauck's innovative lofted cabins extending from the first deck to the second. At 135 metres long, they will carry 130 passengers, compared to 150 or more on similar sized river ships.

A new ship needs a new itinerary – and the ms Joy will follow the romantic Rhine on its winding journey from the Swiss Alps to the Netherlands on the new 10-day Rhine, Swiss Alps & Amsterdam. It kicks off with a luxurious two-night stay in Bern and an idyll in Lucerne, before guests set sail from Basel over seven nights. Taking in Colmar, Stuttgart, Rudesheim and Cologne, guests will enjoy an exclusive Tauck experiences like dinner and music at Schloss Ehreshoven, before finish up in Amsterdam.

A glimpse inside one of Tauck’s Loft Cabins on its Inspiration Class ships. Image: Tauck

APT Expands India River Cruising

APT has added a brand new itinerary to its India river cruising program for 2016. The all-inclusive 20-Day Wonders of India includes a 12 night land journey showcasing India's many icons – Mumbai, Udaipur, Taj Mahal, Delhi, the ‘Pink City’ of Jaipur and Varanasi – but it's the seven night river cruise on the Lower Ganges which is sure to be a stand out.

Sailing aboard the RV Ganges Voyager on a round trip from Kolkata to Murshidabad, guests will have the opportunity to visit Mother Theresa’s house, learn about the local Hari Krishna culture, explore the 1,000 doors of Hazarduari Palace in Murshidabad and shop at shore side bazaars. Launched in 2015, this ship is said to rival the finest hotels of India offering a soft landing from the destination's raw beauty and intensity.

A glimpse inside a suite onboard the rv Ganges Voyager. Image: APT