Two announcements by major companies in the river cruising arena demonstrate the growing popularity of river cruises.
Viking River Cruises has announced its intention to devote $250 million to
fleet development over the next three years. The plan includes 8 new vessels and the complete refurbishment of two vessels already in service. The addition of 8 new vessels will bring the total number of ships in the fleet to 26, representing a 40% increase in capacity. With twice the market share of its nearest competitor already, the new ships will further solidify Viking’s dominance in this arena.
Viking Prestige will make its debut in Europe in 2011, while Viking Emerald will replace Viking Century Sun in China in the same year. Additional ships will join the European fleet in 2012 and 2013.
Two ships already in service will receive full bow-to-stern refurbishments, Viking Schumann in 2010, and Viking Pakhomov in 2011. Viking Schumann, purpose built to sail the Elbe River, will receive renovations matching those of her sister ship, Viking Fontane. All public areas will be refurbished as will all standard staterooms. In addtion, 8 new deluxe staterooms will be created.
The Viking Pakhomov, part of Viking’s Russian fleet, will be stripped down to its hull and rebuilt to the standards of the rest of the European fleet. Once refurbished, it will rejoin sister ships Viking Surkov and Viking Kirov, which were relaunched after similar refurbishments in 2008 and 2009, respectively.
Avalon Waterways, in an announcement not nearly so far-reaching, unveiled
plans for a vessel they are dubbing the “Suite Ship”. When the 166 passenger Avalon Panorama enters service in May 2011, she will feature staterooms 15% to 30% larger than the industry norm, with floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall windows.
The majority of the staterooms will be Panorama Suites, measuring a substantial (for river boats) 200 square feet, with 11 foot wide windows that open an impressive 7 feet wide, giving an outdoors feel to the cabin. The average cabin size on river boats in Europe is 150 square feet.
When christened in May 2011, the Avalon Panorama will spend most of her first season sailing Avalon’s popular 14 night Magnificent Europe itinerary between Amsterdam and Budapest.