The fabled rivers of Europe, rich with looming castles, shore-side vineyards and romantic cafés, remain the special domain of very small vessels. Among the premium and luxury cruise lines plying the Rhine, the Rhone, the Danube, the Seine and other great European waterways, Viking River Cruises set the standard, and it set it high. The world’s largest river cruise line, Viking has more than one dozen ships based in Europe, including no fewer than six longships launched this year. Viking’s hallmark longships each carry 190 passengers, all in outside-facing cabins, and each European sailing includes guided shore excursions, onboard lectures and open-seat dining with regional specialties and complimentary wines. Viking’s Explorer Suites, two on each longship, are the largest on Europe’s rivers. It’s not surprising many passengers consider Viking’s river cruises an experience of sheer luxury, although its fares are quite affordable.
Meanwhile, fully half a dozen luxury river cruise lines, focusing on North American passengers, are stepping up efforts to outdo Viking. AmaWaterways, the first line to offer two-balcony cabins, a fleet of bicycles and a specialty restaurant, is highly regarded for its wine cruises and Christmas market sailings; its three dozen luxury riverboats each carry fewer passengers than Viking’s longships. A second rival, Avalon Waterways, boasts the youngest fleet in Europe, and its two newest ships, both launched this year, come with an extraordinary number of small suites. The Avalon Imagery II has 52 suites and 12 staterooms; the larger Avalon Passion features 67 suites and 16 staterooms. In the suites, glass walls retract to create “open-air balconies.”
Another luxury riverboat line, Scenic, is known for its Space Ships, so named to emphasize their spacious cabins and public areas. Scenic includes tips, tours and drinks in its fare, as well as a fleet of bicycles with electric motors and private butler service for each stateroom. In 2017 Scenic will introduce Scenic Culinaire on its Bordeaux and Rhone cruises, an onboard cooking class with local ingredients, cooking stations and a cheese and wine cellar.
Tauck River Cruises, known for the “relaxed elegance” of its small European ships, will launch its newest vessel, the 130-passenger MS Joy, in 2017. The Joy offers the most space per guest of any European riverboat, with 22 suites measuring 300 square feet and eight two-story loft cabins. Not to be outdone, Uniworld launched the Danube River-based SS Maria Theresa in 2015. This ornate 150-passenger vessel, dubbed by Uniworld president Guy Young a “floating castle,” boasts regal, 18th-century-style interiors. Moving ahead, Uniworld will launch another elegant, all-inclusive super-riverboat in 2017, the 128-passenger Joie de Vivre, for cruising the Seine River from Paris to Normandy.
And there’s more. Crystal Cruises created Crystal River Cruises as its entry into the crowded waterways of Europe. This year marks the inaugural sailings of the 154-guest, all-suite Crystal Mozart, the only riverboat with a full wrap-around promenade. The Crystal Mozart currently waltzes its guests up and down the Danube River. And in 2017 and 2018 Crystal will debut no fewer than four more ultra-luxury riverboats. No doubt Crystal’s rivals, including Viking, can be counted on to add yet more high-end vessels to the interiors of Europe, a region said to have more navigable rivers than any other in the world.
I had just taken off my sandals, stepping onto the white-sand beach for a late-morning walk to a secluded spot I heard about from a front desk clerk, when I glanced down and saw the time on my phone. It had just turned 11 a.m., which meant it was only 7 am back home, the perfect time to call and say good morning to by husband before he left for work. Not quite ready to head back to my room, I decided I’d test the WiFi signal and made the call as I continued walking toward the shoreline.
San Antonio celebrated 300 years of progress in May 2018. With a clear vision following that anniversary year, the Texan city set its sights firmly on 300 more. While commemorating this milestone, the city underwent a major overhaul to prepare for the next phase in its history.
Though air travel slowed as airports temporarily closed and borders shuttered to stifle the spread of coronavirus, the airline industry — led by oneworld alliance member airlines — enacted enhanced protective measures to reduce risk and protect passengers.
When you think of a relaxing spa day, mountains, rivers and view of gorgeous landscapes pop in your head; a place to get away from the hustle and bustle of any city’s booming music and honking taxis. SoJo Spa Club and Hotel gives you the relaxing feeling of being away while still staying close to the busy center of Manhattan.
Dance the night away with Grand Hotel’s Ballroom Dance offer, available May 16–18. Dancers of all skill levels will experience a diverse range of ballroom dance styles, alongside daily breakfast and dinner, a welcome reception and complimentary golf green fees.
Step right up to the greatest show on Earth as FXExpress Publications, Global Traveler, trazeetravel.com and whereverfamily.com celebrate their 2020 award winners! Join the big top on Dec. 14 as we virtually award the winners of the 17th annual GT Tested Reader Survey awards, including the Airline and Hotel of the Year; the 17th annual Wines on the Wing Airline Wine Survey; the eighth annual Leisure Lifestyle Awards; the sixth annual The Trazees; and the third annual Wherever Awards.