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Passenger Ship Technology

Asia and Europe river cruise markets on upwards trajectory

Wed 08 Mar 2017 by Rebecca Moore

Asia and Europe river cruise markets on upwards trajectory
The boom in river cruise newbuilds continues this year. Pictures is the Amadeus Silver III, built by Shipyard De Hoop

The river cruise market is continuing to expand, particularly in Asia and Europe, with several cruise operators increasing capacity with new orders and deliveries

The boom in the river cruise industry shows no sign of abating. Owners are showing their interest in serving the Asia markets and Europe continues to receive new vessels to cover increasing demand for capacity. Inevitably, after a record number of vessels on order in April 2016, the orderbook has thinned a little but new designs and new owners are waiting in the wings to take advantage of the boom.

German owner A-Rosa Flussschiff will press ahead with more expansion later this year. The company has considerably increased its fleet complement recently, with 10 new vessels from local yard Neptun Werft. Both builder and owner are domiciled in Rostock, the yard being an affiliate of Meyer Werft, Papenburg.

The new vessels offer more than 100 cabins that are designated as luxury, but there is still not enough capacity to cope with future demand, according to the owner. A-Rosa is looking forward, and is in negotiations with financiers including Neptun Werft, banks and shareholders to raise finance for more newbuildings.

Strong booking demand from tourists in 2016 has carried through into 2017 and with so much competition A-Rosa cannot afford to lose out. Builder and owner are evolving a new concept as the current generation of vessels will not be totally suited to future demand. Environmental features must also be given close attention, as controls tighten on emissions.

Fast expanding tourism group Genting Hong Kong formally concluded the takeover of Nordic Yards in Wismar, Rostock-Warnemünde and Stralsund as part of a 10-year cruise expansion plan and lost no time in resurrecting new construction. The shipbuilding yards, which collectively cost €230.6 million, now come under the group name MV Werften and are under the management of Lloyd Werft Group, following its purchase by Genting Hong Kong. There has already been further investment in steel fabrication capacity of around 150,000 tonnes a year.

Construction is underway at Wismar for the first two of four luxury river cruise vessels for Genting Hong Kong’s Crystal Cruises brand. Crystal Debussy and Crystal Ravel will be delivered in spring 2018 and will cover the Rhine, Danube, Main and Mosel rivers, spanning The Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Hungary. Up to 106 passengers will be able to enjoy all-suite, all-balcony accommodation and luxury facilities including a swimming pool. Ambition is unlikely to end there, with the possibility of building tonnage for the Asian market.

Genting Hong Kong is another of the deepsea cruise companies now providing river choices in addition to ocean cruising, or a combination of both in one trip. Viking Cruises, which has its operational headquarters in Switzerland, is another, having taken delivery in the last year of 10 luxury river cruisers from Neptun Werft. German construction continues to stand out and remains competitive.

AMA Waterways introduced a further Concerto class river cruiser to complement three sisterships already in service. Named AmaKristina, it will live up to the owner’s boast of having the grandest ships on the river. Seven night voyages are offered including calls in France, Germany, The Netherlands and Switzerland, with optional land extensions to Zurich and Lucerne. With accommodation for 158 passengers, these ships are among the largest in operation.

AmaKristina will participate in the owner’s partnership with Adventures by Disney, offering family friendly itineraries and optional extensions in Amsterdam.

These Concerto class ships offer a revolution in ship design and experience on Europe’s rivers. A fourth sistership is projected to be built by Valhali but the building slot has been reserved for over a year now, and no decision has yet been taken. Delivery has been delayed until 2018.

Russia continues to invest in the river tourist industry. A second 500 passenger river cruise liner will be built by Krasnoye Sormovo Shipyard to complement a sistership already under construction by Lotos shipyard. Both builders are members of the United Shipbuilding Corp and the vessels will be operated by Moscow River Shipping Co and Vodohod. The former will offer Caspian cruising while the latter will serve passengers between Moscow and St Petersburg.

Each four-deck cruiser is costing around 3.2 billion roubles (US$54.03 million). This is financed through leasing schemes and state support, in keeping with the government’s policy of reviving shipbuilding in Russia.

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