Ocean-going Crystal Cruises slides smoothly into the luxury niche on Europe’s rivers

We were new passengers, my wife and I, when we boarded the Crystal Bach, docked at Mainz, Germany, on the River Rhine near Frankfurt. As we walked into the Palm Court lounge, fellow passengers made no secret of their curiosity. Most of them were at the midpoint of a two-week cruise from Amsterdam. Warm and friendly, they acted as if we were new members of their private club. “Welcome.” “You’re new, we haven’t seen you before.” “Just …

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American Cruise Lines names 2nd new riverboat American Harmony

American Cruise Lines is pleased to announce American Harmony, the 2nd ship in its revolutionary Modern Riverboat Series. The Line began construction on American Harmony earlier this year, a sister-ship to the state-of-the-art American Song.  A special sneak peek video tour of the ship’s interior and this remarkable series is available at https://vimeo.com/258981154 American Song, the 1st ship in the series, makes its inaugural cruise October 6th, 2018 on the Mississippi River. Just last week, one of …

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Avalon Waterways adds “Adventure Host” to ALL 2019 Europe sailings

On the heels of announcing Active DiscoverySM itineraries on the Rhine, Danube & Rhône Rivers as well as a new Avalon Choice® program featuring included “Classic,” “Discovery” and “Active”excursions on each and every itinerary throughout Europe, Avalon Waterways is also announcing plans to add an Avalon Adventure HostSM, based in a new Adventure Center, to all 2019 European cruises. “Heartwarming discoveries have always been available on every Avalon Waterways cruise,” said Pam Hoffee, managing director of Avalon …

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Construction has begun on the 2nd modern riverboat in the American Cruise Lines’ series

American Cruise Lines has announced that construction has begun on the second modern riverboat in the series of five. The second riverboat is the sister-ship to state-of-the-art American Song, the first modern riverboat available in the U.S., which will make its inaugural cruise on the Mississippi River this October. The Line’s commitment to building only new ships has given it a decided advantage in the U.S. market, where most other companies refurbish older ships which do not …

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France Cruises, Day 6: On The Way to Carcassonne

Today we sail to our final port, and the one excursion that convinced everyone onboard to take this barge cruise – Carcassonne. The medieval city is listed by UNESCO as a world heritage site, and showcases 1,000 years of military architecture. During the morning, we sail through five locks, patiently waiting at intervals for the lockmaster to allow other barges through. The Midi Canal is full of families sailing their own private boats and barges, and traffic …

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France Cruises, Day 5: Exploring Minerve

Overnight the weather has turned. Rain and blustery winds have blown in out of nowhere, and as the thunder and lightning woke us up in the middle of the night, you could hear Mathias working throughout the barge, closing windows, battening down the hatches and making sure all was well. He is always scrubbing or washing or taking care of something on the barge – not that it needs it, but because he takes great pride in …

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France Cruises, Day 4: Off to Le Somail

After a late breakfast and a mid-morning start to sailing, we are journeying off to our next port – Le Somail. Along the way, there are plenty of low bridges that we will be sailing under. As one of the largest barges on the canal, we barely fit underneath the ancient stone bridges. Each passage seems precarious to us, but Matias has clearly mastered the art of tight sailing. As inches separate our barge from the edge …

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France Cruises, Day 3: Our excursion to Narbonne

ABOARD THE ESPERANCE — At 10 a.m. we’re sailing again (well, give or take a half hour or so, but what’s the rush?!). The scenery starts to look just a bit like Tuscany and we’re suddenly sailing along vineyards and will be for the rest of the cruise. We’re in prime French wine country now. The Minervois appellation is France’s largest, according to Mathias, with the greatest output of grapes for wine. Some of the wine produced …

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France Cruises, Day 2: A slow journey to Capestang

ABOARD THE ESPERANCE — On our first full day onboard the Esperance, we find out that today is a very relaxed day. Every other day of our journey we will be met by a tour guide in the afternoon who will drive us to a destination to explore. Today, though, there will be no tour guide. Just gentle cruising and peaceful scenery. A breakfast buffet is put out each morning at 8 a.m. for the six passengers. …

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France Cruises, Day 1: Arriving in Beziers

Could I possibly adjust to the slow paced nature of a canal barge cruise? That was the big question as we embarked on the Esperance, a hotel barge that sails through the Midi Canal in the south of France. After several months of fast-paced travel where other people and companies were always dictating my itinerary, arranging a six-night stay on the Esperance was a breath of fresh air, if not just a little bit unnerving. From the …

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