Big changes are underway among the river fleets of Europe and Asia, as operators step up activities on board and step down the number of passengers.
Uniworld is making the boldest changes to its existing fleet. This year The A and The B made their debut in Europe, having been transformed from River Ambassador and River Baroness respectively; both ships now sport sleek black exteriors with neon signage and top decks designed for partying. In April, River Beatrice became the first of three Uniworld ships to be rebuilt and redesigned as a lavishly endowed Super Ship – River Royale is set to receive the treatment when she goes out of service next month, returning in April as SS Bon Voyage. River Empress is also scheduled to be upgraded to Super Ship status in 2019.
Scenic redesigned its two France-based Space Ships, Scenic Diamond and Scenic Sapphire, in 2017, adding the Scenic Culinaire cooking centre, a larger fitness centre and two new Royal Owners Suites. As on Uniworld’s Super Ships, passenger numbers are reduced but staffing remains the same, thereby increasing the level of service. Eight Scenic Space Ships that cruise the Rhine, Main and Danube will be similarly refitted this winter – they will be the first river ships to offer a therapeutic salt lounge.
Tauck’s down-to-the-studs renovation program on four of its ships (MS Sapphire, Emerald, Treasures and Esprit) involved installing larger cabins and reducing the passenger capacity from 118 to 98 while maintaining the same number of crew and Tauck Directors. The ‘reimagined’ Treasures and Esprit set sail in April this year.
We are waiting to hear what, if any, refurbs are in the pipeline for APT and Avalon Waterways; Viking said that as most of its ships are less than seven years old there are no plans for upgrades. Watch this space …