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Exotic locales mark 2012 river cruising

Courtesy AmaWaterways

River cruising has never been more popular, and 2012 will see not only the expansion of company fleets with shining new vessels with all the amenities of a resort hotel, but also more options around the world, from exotic Asian locales to American inland rivers.

AmaWaterways marks its 10th anniversary this year with the launch of the new 164-passenger MS AmaCerto, the line’s first venture into France and a new Africa Safaris and Wildlife Cruise program.

The AmaCerto, which will have several distinctive features, including a glass elevator, al fresco cafe in the forward portion, a heated swimming pool with a swim-up bar and two tapas and wine venues, debuts in April with Tulip Time cruises through the Netherlands and Belgium.

The MS AmaDagio will become the first AmaWaterways vessel to operate on France’s Rhone River with its In Celebration of Wine cruises. Similar specialty cruises will also be conducted on the Danube and Rhine rivers.

The new African program has three options that all include a four-night cruise aboard the MS Zambezi Queen, which is specially designed for wildlife viewing, on the Chobe River and two nights at Victoria Falls. The programs include stops in South Africa, Botswana, Kenya and Tanzania.

Also new this year are Culinary Delights – Bites and Sights, shore excursion walking tours that explore the culinary heritage of Europe.

Beginning this year, the line will offer its Russia, Vietnam and Cambodia itineraries under a new AmaVoyages product line.

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Viking River Cruises
Viking River Cruises is accelerating the pace of expansion of its European river fleet, adding six new Longships in 2012, making it the largest single season expansion in the river cruise industry.

Viking had announced that it would launch four of the new, innovatively reconfigured Longships this year.

“To accommodate the demand, we have decided to accelerate the new builds schedule and bring two more Viking Longships into the fleet in 2012,” said Torstein Hagen, chairman and CEO of Viking.

Named after key individuals from Norse mythology, the new state-of-the-art Viking Freya, Viking Idun, Viking Njord and Viking Odin will be christened in March. The Viking Embla and Viking Aegir will make their debuts in July and August, respectively.

Designed by maritime architects Yran and Storbraaten, the 443-foot-long, 190-passenger ships have a patent-pending design of an asymmetrical corridor that creates additional space and a variety of stateroom choices on all levels. Three-quarters of the staterooms will have a veranda, French balcony or both.

The new ships will allow Viking to add capacity to its existing European itineraries, especially the two most popular: the 15-day Grand European Tour from Amsterdam to Budapest and reverse; and the eight-day Romantic Danube, sailing from Budapest to Nuremberg, Germany, and reverse.

The company has also added more departures in late 2012 for Europe’s Christmas markets.

The ships are part of Viking’s $250 million fleet development program that includes several complete refurbishments and 10 new Longships by 2014.

The stem-to-stern refurbishments and renaming of Viking’s four Russian river ships will be competed this year, the company’s 15th anniversary. The renamed and refurbished ships — Viking Rurik, Viking Helgi, Viking Ingvar and Viking Truvor — have larger staterooms, with private verandas in all staterooms on the upper and middle decks.

In addition to updates on its Russian itineraries, Viking has a new eight-day program, the Glories of the Hermitage, which features exclusive access and private tours of the museum.

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