The best new river cruise ships for 2021

·3-min read
Artist rendering of the AmaDahlia sun deck - AmaWaterways
Artist rendering of the AmaDahlia sun deck - AmaWaterways

With the cruise world beginning to open up again, river lines are preparing to welcome back eager travellers this year with new ships, new itineraries – and new heights of luxury.

On the Nile, Uniworld is launching the Sphinx with three gourmet venues, including a private restaurant and open-air dining on the top deck, as well as a pool, massage room and 42 suites. The ship, which will be decorated with Egyptian artwork, fabrics and hand-carved furnishings, will sail 12-day itineraries from Cairo.

Similar opulence will be on the line’s Mekong Jewel, a 68-passenger ship that had just a handful of sailings in 2020 before Covid-19 halted cruising. It will sail 13-day cruises from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, to Siem Reap, Cambodia, with visits including Phnom Penh and Angkor Wat.

In Portugal, Uniworld’s new ship, São Gabriel, will offer butler service in its upper-deck suites, allowing passengers to dine at any time they like as they sail along the Douro. And in Venice, River Countess has been completely refitted as La Venezia, sailing the Po River and around the lagoon islands of Burano, Mazzorbo and Torcello.

La Venezia restaurant with Venice window view - Uniworld
La Venezia restaurant with Venice window view - Uniworld

Viking is also introducing new ships on the Nile and Mekong – as well as four in France. The 82-passenger Viking Osiris will join sister ship Viking Ra in Egypt while Viking Saigon will debut in Asia and the Seine riverboats will dock by the Eiffel Tower.

AmaWaterways has three new ships coming up: 156-passenger sisters AmaSiena and AmaLucia on the Rhine and the 68-guest AmaDahlia on the Nile. As well as 16 suites, AmaDahlia will have a heated sun-deck pool and bar, a chef’s table restaurant, hair and nail salon plus two massage rooms.

Heading to the Danube is Avalon’s Avalon View, with two decks of panorama suites featuring wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling windows. Emerald Waterways is introducing its ninth “star ship”, Emerald Luna, which will sail along the Rhine, Main and Danube. The heated indoor pool transforms into a cinema in the evening.

Emerald Luna with river scene - Emerald Waterways
Emerald Luna with river scene - Emerald Waterways

Saga is bringing in the first of two new river ships, Spirit of the Rhine, which will carry 190 passengers on the Rhine and Dutch waterways during its inaugural season.

French company CroisiEurope is bringing a second ship to Africa, the Zimbabwean Dream on Lake Kariba. The boat carries only 16 passengers on its two decks as it makes breath-taking trips that end with a private flight to Victoria Falls.

CroisiEurope's African Dream - Alexandre Sattler
CroisiEurope's African Dream - Alexandre Sattler

Australian line APT Travelmarvel is introducing three sister ships in Europe that all include a pub, putting green and spa, while US operator Tauck is sailing on the Douro for the first time with new 84-passenger ship Andorinha.

Across the Atlantic, two new riverboats have already made their maiden voyages. American Jazz, from American Cruise Lines, and paddlewheeler American Countess, from American Queen Steamboat Company, have both been operating since March 21. The all-balcony American Jazz will be joined by new sister ship American Melody in August.

In the Amazon, Aqua Expeditions’ new 20-suite ship Aqua Nera will sail into the depths of the rainforest while guests dine on cuisine by Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, one of Peru’s finest chefs.

Entering the river cruise market is Tui, with the first of three 155-passenger ships, Skyla, on the Danube. The River Cruise Line has also been relaunched as Arena River Cruises and will introduce its ship, Arena, on the Dutch waterways, Rhine and Danube.

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