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Exploring the Wonderful World of Cruise Ships

Uniworld Launches Its Best Ship Yet

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SS Antoinette

Uniworld Boutique River Cruises latest and best ship, SS Antoinette, was christened last Sunday by her godmother and namesake, Antoinette (Toni) Tollman in Amsterdam.  Ms. Tollman, daughter of parent company Travel Corp’s CEO, Stanley Tollman, was also the lead designer and guiding spirit for the ship’s interior decor.

The ship’s design was inspired by the Chateau de Versailles, and embodies an 18th century French style brought into the 21st century.  As she explains it: “The design of the ship began with the spectacular blue sapphire 10-foot Baccarat chandelier that adorns the Antoinette’s two-story lobby.  This very chandelier once hung in New York’s famous Tavern on the Green restaurant. My family and I had dined many times under that chandelier, and when the restaurant closed, we purchased it for sentimental reasons, planning to use it somewhere.”

Guests will see echoes of Versailles throughout the ship.  Of particular note, the Salon du Grand Trianon was inspired by the Hall of Mirrors, and the Restaurant de Versailles by the ornamental gardens there.

The Antoinette, sister ship to River Beatrice (launched in March 2009 and named for Ms. Tollman’s mother), is 443 feet long and 37.5 feet wide.  She has 73 staterooms, ranging from 167 square feet up to 391 square feet for the Owners Suite.  Suites and staterooms on Deck 4 have private, open air balconies which can be enclosed by a retractable glass wall in cooler weather.

Among other innovations, the Antoinette has the first heated indoor pool on a river boat, as well as a 20 seat movie theater.

The Antoinette will sail the Rhine River, offering the “Castles Along The Rhine” itinerary.  Service begins this Sunday, March 27th.

Technorati Tags: Antoinette Tollman, Rhine River, River Beatrice, river boat cruises, river cruise, river cruises, SS Antoinette, Tavern on the Green, Trianon, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises, Versailles

Viking River Cruises Unveils Details Of Four New Ships

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Artist's Depiction of Viking Freya

As I first mentioned in a previous post, Viking River Cruises is in the midst of a $250 million fleet development program, solidifying even more strongly its place as the leading river cruise company in the world.

In a recent announcement, Viking has released details of four new vessels, designated longships, which will be introduced into European waters at the beginning of the 2012 river cruising season.  No other river cruise company has matched this milestone.  For Viking, however, this is the second time since 2001 that they have accomplished this feat.  I would imagine they are quite proud of this, and justifiably so.

Named after four gods in the Norse pantheon, the ships – Viking Freya, Viking Idun, Viking Njord and Viking Odin – will blend cutting edge technology with unrivaled amenities, including the largest real suites available on European rivers.

Each ship will have two Explorer Suites, measuring 445 square feet with wrap around veranda, and seven Veranda Suites of 270 square feet with a full veranda.  All of these suites will feature separate bedrooms and living rooms.  The ships will measure 443 feet in length and offer 95 staterooms.  In addition to the suites, 39 Veranda Staterooms will feature full verandas as well.

The four longships will sail some of Viking River Cruises’ most popular European river routes, including the 10-day Tulips & Windmills, 8-day Romantic Danube, 15-day Grand European Tour and 8-day Danube Waltz.

With the two new ships entering service this year, Viking Emerald and Viking Prestige, and the four ships just announced for next year, Viking is more than half way to their stated goal of ten new ships by 2013.  Add in several refurbishments of ships already in service, and the outlook for river cruising with Viking just keeps getting brighter.

Technorati Tags: 2012, Danube River, European river boat cruises, longships, newbuilds, river boat cruises, river boat cruises in Europe, river cruise, river cruises, riverboat cruises, Viking River Cruises

Single Supplement Begone!

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River Queen

Uniworld Boutique River Cruises has waived the single supplement on dozens of European river boat cruise departures in 2011.  And lest you think these departures are relegated to the less desirable early Spring and later Fall, many of them sail in June, July and August, the height of the river cruise season in Europe.

With river boat cruises becoming increasingly popular, this is an excellent opportunity for the single traveller to experience one without the onerous supplement with which they are usually saddled.

River boat cruises are a particularly pleasant way for a single traveller to experience the very heart of Europe.  There are, of course, the general benefits of river cruises – unpack once, let the destination come to you, avoid fickle train schedules, no need to manhandle your luggage every other day.

Beyond those, however, are benefits of particular interest to the single traveller.  Instead of retuning each evening to another unfamiliar, lonely hotel, one returns to a ship full of faces which become more and more familiar and welcoming.  Each day brings the opportunity to strike out on one’s own, or to join a group in exploring a new destination.

Opportunities abound to share the day’s experiences with like-minded fellow passengers.  Conversations flow naturally, without the awkwardness usually associated with such encounters when travelling alone.

One can dine alone, if that’s the preference.  But if the thought of sitting at an empty table is daunting, dinner companions are in abundance.

The following are a sample of  the departures being offered with single supplement waived:

Paris & Normandy                7 nights             July 3, 17, 31 August 7

Enchanting Danube             7 nights             June 26, July 10, 31 August 7

Imperial Capitals                14 nights            July 17, 25

Space is limited and subject to availability.  Sales have been very brisk.  If this is of interest to you, I’d suggest you look into it as soon as you can.

The savings are wonderful, the experience is memorable, and the opportunity won’t last.

Technorati Tags: European river cruises, river boat cruises, single supplement, single traveler, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises

Top 10 Reasons to Take a River Boat Cruise

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River boat cruises are becoming more and more popular.  Over the past 5 years, bookings have increased as much as 60% for some cruise lines.  Many of the lines are introducing new ships in 2011, and quite a few of the existing ships will be undergoing complete refurbishments.

Viking River Cruises plans to build 8 new ships and totally refurbish two other ships over the next 3 years; Avalon Waterways will introduce the gound-breaking Avalon Panorama in 2011; AMA Waterways will deploy the Amalotus in the Mekong River and the completely refurbished Amakaterina in Russia; and Uniworld Boutique River Cruises will introduce 2 new ships in Europe and 1 in Russia, along with the refurbishment of 3 other ships in 2011.

Why all the interest?  Consider the top ten reasons to take a river boat cruise:

1. Modern river boats are luxurious, offering fine dining, and small but excellent accommodations.  Travel on a river boat cruise is leisurely, elegant and easy.

2. River boats offer the easiest way to see and explore multiple destinations, sometimes more than one in a day.  Unpack once and relax.  There’s no need to haul luggage on and off trains or buses as you make your way from one destination to the next.

3. River boats are small enough to pull right into the heart of small towns along the rivers of Europe, Egypt, Russia, China, Southeast Asia, and North & South America.  This convenience extends to the larger cities as well.  In Paris the ships dock at Port de Grenelle, within walking distance of the Eiffel Tower.

4. Sit on the deck or at your cabin window – most open wide for a clear, unimpeded view – and take pictures of picturesque villages, ancient castles, and beautiful countryside, sometimes mere feet from your chair.

5. Like their far larger brethren, the ocean going vessels, modern river boats have all the amenities you’ve come to expect – fitness centers, libraries, spas, internet centers and, in many cases, pools.

6. Gourmet meals are served in beautiful surroundings, often with complimentary wine.  There is one seating with a casual, relaxed dress code.  Seating is open, so you can sit wherever and with whomever you wish.  Meals are prepared with fresh, local ingredients, often reflecting the cuisine of the country through which you are passing.

7. Entertainment is low key.  Gone are the glitzy Las vegas revues and Broadway samplers.  Local entertainment and folkloric troupes come on board, while local experts give talks on the area, further immersing the passengers in the detination.

8. Local guides lead the shore excursions, typically included in the price of the cruise.  Time is built in to the day for the all-important souvenir and gift shopping.  For the adventurous who’d rather take their own path, bicycles are provided, usually free of charge.

9. River boat cruises are on far smaller ships than most ocean going vessels, allowing for easy navigation about the boat.  Instead of traveling with thousands of strangers, you sail instead with 200 like-minded travelers as eager as you to delve into the destinations.  Fellow passengers become friends.

10.Rivers flow smoothly, without swells and waves.  The leisurely pace will make you forget you’re on water at all.  Motion sickness is not a concern.

Technorati Tags: AMA Waterways, Avalon Waterways, river boat cruise, river boat cruises, top 10 reasons, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises, Viking River Cruises