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River focus: Delights of the Danube

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With new ships and itineraries, there are plenty of reasons for clients to sail on one of Europe’s most popular rivers this year, writes Jeannine Williamson.

Five ships – including the largest all-new river vessel – are making their debuts on the Danube this year. Combined with an increased choice of itineraries and excursions, there has never been a better time for clients to set sail.

The Danube has been one of Europe’s most popular river cruising destinations for many years, and with good reason, explains CLIA UK & Ireland director Andy Harmer. “Itineraries are varied in duration, ranging from three days to two weeks and longer, and go in both directions, upstream or down, giving agents plenty of itinerary options,” he says. “This makes the Danube perfect for first-time river cruisers, as sailings of less than a week are a great way to get a taste of what the Danube has to offer.”

Vienna, cruise, cruising, agent incentive, river danube,
Vienna is a favourite on the Danube.

New ships

The big news, in every sense, is the May unveiling of AmaWaterways’ AmaMagna. The vessel, double the width of standard river ships, is already accounting for 36 per cent of the line’s Danube sales for 2019. Carrying just 196 passengers and with four restaurants, five bars, a pool, watersports platform and private speedboat, the ship is an ideal springboard to introduce ocean clients to river cruising.

Riviera Travel has two new Danube ships: the 167-passenger William Wordsworth and the boutique 132-guest George Eliot, which will feature a fine dining bistro. Geared to UK guests, both ships offer cabins for single occupancy with no supplement. Additionally, Riviera has three dedicated Danube sailings for single travellers with no supplement. The seven-night cruises depart on 1 April, 28 October and 4 November 2019 and lead in at £1,699pp.

Amadeus River Cruises continues to expand with the luxury 164-passenger Amadeus Star. It features a wine bar and trademark Amadeus amenities such as a gym and massage room. Itineraries include a six-night Passau round-trip Christmas cruise starting from £1,389pp.

Avalon Envision is the latest addition to Avalon Waterways’ suite-ship vessels and will sail on itineraries including the 10-day Danube Dreams, 10-day Legendary Danube and 12-day Blue Danube Discovery. Also new for 2019 is an Avalon adventure host on all European ships to assist with active excursions and activities.

Meanwhile, APT has announced plans for three new ships, with the first sailing on the European Gems route from Budapest to Amsterdam in 2020.

Uniworld, U by Uniworld, The B, river cruise, cruise, Uniworld, Europe
The B is being repositioned for 2020.

More choice for passengers

The River Cruise Line has introduced an itinerary on MS Serenity that, unusually, begins on Romania’s Black Sea coast and follows the river back through the heart of Europe, passing through the spectacular Iron Gate Gorge. The line’s sales and business development manager Tim Fleming says: “For anyone looking for a longer trip, something more adventurous and a chance to explore beyond the best-known destinations, a journey through the Danube Delta is an ideal next step.”

Uniworld has a new nine-night Authentic Danube & Prague cruise aboard River Princess, leading in at £2,499pp, with the option to explore Jewish heritage.

Fellow upmarket line Crystal River Cruises also has a new itinerary based around Jewish history, plus a themed wine cruise with vineyard visits, tastings and food pairings. Tauck has introduced a new festive family cruise, with departures on 22 and 23 December 2019, including a scavenger hunt in Bratislava.

This year APT has added exclusive Signature Experiences to its included excursion programme. Passengers can ride on an atmospheric steam train from Budapest to Godollo Royal Palace and attend a private concert by members of the Mozart Boys’ Choir at Vienna’s Liechtenstein City Palace.

A-Rosa has begun a multi-million euro ship revamp, and A-Rosa Donna, one of the international vessels serving the UK market, is the first – in March – to emerge, with updated cabins, public areas and new Bavarian-themed dining venue.

U by Uniworld’s striking contemporary ship The B is being repositioned from France to Central Europe for the 2020 season and will join sister ship The A on the Danube. Full details of the itineraries designed for young-at-heart clients will be announced soon.

Final word to Janet Parton, sales director at Avalon Waterways, who advises: “The Danube sails through 10 different countries. It pays to know the different destinations on offer as the river takes in four fascinating capital cities and offers great upselling opportunities.”

Selling tips

  • One of Europe’s most scenic rivers
  • Choice of air, rail and coach travel
  • Multiple options from taster cruises to itineraries of two weeks or more

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