The finest new ships on 2019's river cruises

Kaye Holland
It's a big year for Viking River Cruises - Viking Cruises

We round up the river cruise ships coming to a port near you.

River cruises are on the rise… a record 210,400 Brits took a river cruise in 2017, an increase of 21 percent year-on-year and a much higher rate of growth compared with 2016, according to figures from Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) UK. Little wonder then that river cruise operators can't build ships fast enough. 

Case in point? Viking River Cruises will launch seven ships  – six Viking Longships featuring two Explorer Suites, seven two-room Veranda Suites, 39 Veranda Staterooms and 22 French Balcony Staterooms – plus a seventh vessel custom-designed for cruising Portugal’s Douro river in 2019, all of which means the Norwegian owned line will have 69 river cruise ships sailing around the world before the year is out. 

AmaWaterways isn’t slowing down either and is set to introduce three ships this year: the 102-passenger AmaDouro which will ply the Douro from April, the much-anticipated 196-passenger, 72 feet wide (almost twice the width of AmaWaterways' existing river cruise ships) AmaMagna that will sail the Danube, and the 164-passenger AmaMora which will make its debut in July on the Rhine. Regardless of which AmaWaterways ship and itinerary you choose, passengers can look forward to new wellness activities led by “Wellness Hosts” and more hiking and biking options than ever before.  

Elsewhere Amadeus River Cruises will unveil the 164-passenger Amadeus Star, designed to woo millennials with yoga and meditation lessons and a “celebrity influencer” in April. The new ship, an identical sister to Amadeus Queen, also offers 70 staterooms and 12 suites, a sun deck and, our favourite, a wine cellar bar located at the back of the ship and surrounded by 270 degrees of panoramic windows. To start with, Amadeus Star will sail on voyages featuring the canals of Holland and Belgium before commencing itineraries between Holland and Basel.

American Queen is currently building its fourth vessel, American Countess Credit: American Queen Steamboat Company

Other river cruise companies raising the bar on the rivers include American Cruise Lines who are launching American Harmony this spring on Mississippi River itineraries. Expect staterooms featuring floor-to-ceiling glass doors and balconies, large lounges set 40 feet above the water and a four-story, glass-enclosed atrium with a domed skylight. We approve.

Meanwhile American Queen Steamboat Company is introducing American Countess in 2020, a new 245-passenger paddlewheeler created from the existing hull of the 1995 Kanesville Queen, which will be the fourth vessel in the line’s fleet.

Avalon Waterways is also getting in on the act with the launch of Avalon Envision this spring. Standout features on-board the 166-passenger ship include 200-square-foot staterooms with wall-to-wall French Balconies, the alfresco Sky Grill restaurant and a glass-walled dining room.

The season of new river cruise ships continues with CroisiEurope's Amalia Rodrigues Credit: CroisiEurope

Other river cruise lines launching new ships include CroisiEurope (MS Amalia Rodrigues will debut on the Douro while MS Rhone Princess will, as its name suggest, ply the Rhone), Emerald Waterways (Emerald Harmony will take passengers on a journey along the Mekong) and Riviera River Cruises. The UK based operator will introduce the 167-passenger MS William Wordsworth and 132 passenger MS George Eliot, both boasting chic marble floored lobbies and French balcony staterooms, on Rhine, Danube and Moselle river sailings.

Bottom line? River cruise lines are refusing to stand still when it comes to ordering innovative new ships.