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Groups on Cruises: New on the River and at Sea

In four separate events across four countries in five days, Viking Cruises has christened nine of the 18 new Viking Longships that it is launching in Europe this spring. For those who might doubt the increased popularity of river cruising, in just three years, Viking has launched 30 new Longships, with a total of 52 vessels now in the company’s fleet worldwide.

The Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection inaugurated the newest addition to its own fleet, the SS Catherine, in Lyon, France, on March 27. In a ceremony featuring the breaking of a bottle of Dom Pérignon Champagne across the bow, the vessel was christened by her godmother and namesake, famed French actress Catherine Deneuve. At press time, I’m looking forward to cruising France’s Rhône and Saône Rivers aboard the Catherine’s first public departure from Avignon to Lyon on April 6, then reporting on the experience in these pages later this year.

Europe’s new river cruise company, Emerald Waterways, named Twiggy, the British style icon and supermodel, as godmother to its new twins, Emerald Sky and Emerald Star, in a gala celebration and christening event in Amsterdam on April 9. The new vessels each carry 182 guests and feature an onboard heated swimming pool with a retractable roof that transforms into an evening movie theater. After my Rhône and Saône cruise, I’ll be continuing aboard Emerald Sky on the Rhine and Mosel from Basel and Amsterdam, so be looking for my upcoming review of this inaugural public sailing, too.

Celebrity Cruises and major spa and wellness brand Canyon Ranch have created a partnership to feature Canyon Ranch SpaClub at Sea facilities onboard 10 Celebrity ships. Also, in 2015-2016, the line will offer itineraries to 261 destinations in 72 countries, sail to all seven continents and visit new ports of call in Alaska, Europe and Asia.

Norwegian Cruise Line is expanding its relationship with master baker Buddy Valastro, star of the TLC television series “Cake Boss” and “Next Great Baker” and will now feature his dessert creations on all of its vessels fleetwide. The line has also assigned its newest and largest ship, Norwegian Escape, to homeport year-round in Miami on an Eastern Caribbean itinerary. Along with Norwegian Epic’s move to Barcelona, Spain, with sailings year-round on Canary Islands/Morocco and Western Mediterranean itineraries, the line’s 2015-2016 winter deployment will include a return to South America, a larger ship sailing to the Mexican Riviera and the addition of Port Canaveral as a seasonal homeport.

From fall 2014 through spring 2015, Holland America Line will offer its most comprehensive South America program ever, with four ships positioned in the region for 20 voyages around the continent ranging in length from 14 to 68 days. With departures from Fort Lauderdale, Florida; San Diego; and Vancouver, as well as sailings originating within South America, the four liners will explore more than 50 exotic ports and offer visits to the ruins of Machu Picchu and the glaciers of Chile and Antarctica.