France has been the world’s favourite tourist destination for a number of years. More recently, the country has also seen river cruise companies expanding their operations to meet increasing customer demand for French waterway holidays and vacations.
Tauck introduced a 118 pax (passenger) ship, the Swiss Emerald, to the Rhone in 2011 and expanded partial season operation to full in 2013. In 2014, the river cruise line will introduce a sister ship, the Swiss Sapphire, onto the River Seine. Increasing capacity to meet demand looks like a sensible move, because pre-season bookings for 2014 are up 650% on 2013 and 1,300% on 2012.
Rival river cruise line Uniworld will launch the 164 pax Catherine on the Saone-Rhone route in 2014 and will move their current Rhone cruise ship, the River Royale, to Bordeaux for 2014 sailings.
Also in Bordeaux, Viking will introduce their new 190 pax vessel, the Viking Forseti, to ‘Chateaux, Rivers and Wine’ cruises in 2014. In fact, Bordeaux has become a new, highly popular, destination. Already sailing there at full capacity, CroisiEurope have their 138 pax Princesse d’Aquitaine and (new for 2013) 176 pax Cyrano de Bergerac river cruise ships.
Recognising the significant increase in market interest in France, both AmaWaterways and Scenic Cruises have moved ships from Danube routes to French rivers. AMA moved their 150 pax cruise ship, the Amalegro, which gave them 43% more French capacity than in 2012 and Scenic switched their 169 pax ship, the Scenic Emerald to operation in France.