Keep abreast of the fast-flowing river cruise sector with Jane Archer’s guide

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Agents are awash with river cruise news as vessels and itineraries flood on to the market to meet a seemingly insatiable appetite for river cruising.

Eight river cruise boats have already launched this year, but still the lines are running out of capacity. Many have launched 2013 programmes early to try to provide alternative dates.

Innovative and more luxurious river cruise boats, an increasingly-inclusive product, and exciting new destinations are driving demand. This year, clients can cruise from Cairo to Aswan for the first time since 1997, and relax on balconies on a Viking River boat in Europe. Next year Scenic Tours goes all-inclusive, with all drinks in the price.

Recognising this growth, the Association of Cruise Experts is holding a river cruise expo, most likely in Amsterdam in November, at which agents can learn how to make the most of the demand for this high-value product.

Keeping on top of the news is a challenge, so here to help is a run-down of the big changes in 2012/13. Why not download it at so you can keep it to hand?


Voyages of Discovery has this year launched a river cruise operation, offering voyages on the Rhine, Danube, and Dutch and Belgian waterways on the 90-passenger Royal Crown. It is also offering four 11-night holidays in Russia that combine a six-night cruise between St Petersburg and Moscow on the 112-passenger Volga Dream with three and two nights in each city respectively.

Prices from £2,395 per person including flights, transfers and wine with lunch and dinner.


Scenic Tours is going all-inclusive in 2013, when all passengers will also have access to a butler.

This winter the company is fitting its vessels (not Scenic Emerald) with balconies that can be turned into conservatories in cold weather, and cafes that serve sandwiches and cakes throughout the day.

The new-style balconies and cafe debuted on the new Scenic Crystal, which launched in May.

The River Cruise Line has more festive cruises this winter, including a new five-day Christmas markets itinerary on the Moselle, and 10-day Scenic Rhine and Switzerland voyages from Andernach to Basle and vice versa.

From £965 per person including return ferry from Dover to Calais.

Avalon Waterways is offering four excursion options next year. Essential sightseeing is the package for those who want an orientation tour and free time.

Traditional and leisurely sightseeing both take in all the highlights but at different paces, and there’s also the option of special-interest tours. The cruise line is launching tapas-style dining in the lounges on its Panorama-class vessels.

Two more of these, Avalon Artistry II and Avalon Expression, launch in May 2013.


Viking River Cruises is sailing the Douro for the first time in 2013, offering nine-night trips combining two nights in Lisbon with a seven-night cruise on Viking Douro.

From £1,995, including flights, transfers and excursions.

Uniworld River Cruises is launching a ship on the Douro in 2013. Queen Isabel carries 118 passengers and will be sailing seven-night round-trip cruises from Porto.

From £2,099 including flights, transfers, excursions and alcoholic drinks with dinner.

Sister lines AmaWaterways and APT are returning to the Douro in 2013 after a two-year absence, offering seven-night round-trip cruises from Porto on the new AmaVida.

Prices from £1,940 on March 26 including flights, transfers, excursions, drinks with dinner and gratuities.

Rivers Rising


All Leisure Holidays has launched river cruises on the Upper Mekong in Cambodia and Laos. Three itineraries are available – 10, 11 and 15 nights – all combining land tours with cruises that visit riverside villages, waterfalls, the Pak Ou Caves, which house hundreds of Buddha statues, and temples and monasteries in Luang Prebang.

From £2,399 for 10 nights including flights, transfers, excursions, a five-night full-board cruise and three nights’ bed and breakfast in hotels.

Uniworld River Cruises is launching the 30-passenger River Orchid on the Mekong in January 2013, sailing seven-night cruises between Siem Reap in Cambodia and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, sold as part of a 17-day tour that includes time in Siem Reap and Ho Chi Minh City.

Prices from £4,949 for a March 19, 2013, departure, including flights, UK and overseas transfers, excursions, and wine with dinner during the cruise.

Avalon Waterways launches the 32-passenger Avalon Angkor on the Mekong this September, sailing between Siem Reap and Ho Chi Minh City.

From £3,915 for a 16-night holiday combining a seven-night river cruise with time in Ho Chi Minh City and Siem Reap, including flights, UK and overseas transfers, wine with dinner and gratuities.


Discover Egypt has launched 14-night cruises between Cairo and Aswan in response to an Egyptian government ruling that has reopened the Nile between Cairo and Luxor to tourist boats for the first time in 15 years.

From £2,299 in May 2013 including flights, transfers and excursions.

Sanctuary Retreats has launched three boats on the Nile this year – Sanctuary Sun Boat IV, Sanctuary Sun Boat III and 12-passenger Sanctuary Zein Nile Chateau, between them offering three, four and seven-night itineraries.

A one-off 10-night cruise from Cairo to Aswan on August 19 this year will be repeated next year on May 10 and 24, July 2 and September 10.

From £1,740 cruise-only including excursions.


AmaWaterways is launching seven-night cruises on the Seine in March 2013. The seven-night round-trip cruises from Paris on AmaLegro can be combined with the line’s seven-night Rhône cruises from Arles to Lyon, which launched this year.

From £3,370 for 14 nights’ cruise-only including a high-speed train transfer from Lyon to Paris, excursions and drinks with dinner.

Scenic Tours is moving the Scenic Emerald to the Rhône in 2013, offering eight and 13-day cruises from Chalon-sur-Saône to Arles on the Mediterranean.

From £3,345 in October including flights, transfers, excursions, all drinks and gratuities.


Avalon Waterways is offering cruises in China on Century Cruises’ two newest ships, Century Legend and Century Paragon, in 2013 and 2014.

A new 16-night cruise tour in China combines a three-night river cruise on the Yangtze with four nights in Beijing, two nights in Xi’an, one night in Chengdu and two nights in Shanghai.

Prices from £3,765 including flights, UK and overseas transfers, sightseeing, most meals on tour, wine with dinner on the cruise and gratuities.