(1 p.m. EDT) — Every cruise line has to start somewhere. In the growing field of river cruising, a handful of small, one-ship lines is setting sail in 2017, hoping to carve a niche from a field of already established operators.
Current contenders that have appeared on the Cruise Critic radar include Teeming River Cruises, a budget-oriented a la carte option being chartered in Europe; Grand Majestic Riverboat Company, a boat offering cruises on the Ohio River out of Cincinnati; and Rivers & Forest Expeditions, a Peruvian company launching an upscale vessel on the Amazon in April 2017.
One-ship companies can evolve in several ways. They can grow into a full-fledged river cruise lines with direct and agent bookings, they can charter their ships to other well-established cruise lines and tour operators or do a combination of both. Teeming River Cruises is beginning by chartering one ship from another company; they are hoping to expand with more ships later in the year.
Unfortunately, they can also go out of business, leaving passengers stranded with little recourse. Additionally, newcomers to river cruising often have to delay their launch dates, as French America Line discovered in 2016.
Here’s a look at 2017’s river newcomers:
Rivers & Forests Expeditions
- River: Amazon
- Ship: Amazonas
- New? Yes. Amazonas was built in 2016.
- Launch Date: April 8, 2017
- Passengers: 32
- Itineraries: Three- and four-day cruises on the Peruvian Amazon
- Embarkation Port: Iquitos
- Inclusions: Gratuities, meals, wine with meals, excursions, tour guides and entrance fees into national reserves
- Website: Rivers & Forests Expeditions
Teeming River Cruises
- Rivers: Rhine, Main and Danube
- Ship: Royal Crown (Teeming will be chartering the ship, which is owned by Neerlandic Shipping Group.)
- New? No. Royal Crown was built in 1996 and refurbished in 2010.
- Launch Date: June 2017
- Passengers: 90
- Itineraries: So far, the line has scheduled one 15-day cruise between Amsterdam and Budapest. The website says that another cruise may be added in fall 2017, as well as some Christmas Market cruises.
- Embarkation Port: Amsterdam
- Inclusions: Teeming River Cruises is positioning itself as a more affordable option than most river cruises. Fares include soda, house wine and beer at lunch and dinner; all meals; Wi-Fi; onboard speakers and enrichment; and an app for walking tours in most ports. (Passengers are encouraged to explore on their own.) Excursions and transfers are a la carte.
- Website: Teeming River Cruises
Grand Majestic Riverboat Company
- Rivers: Ohio, Mississippi, Cumberland, Tennessee, Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri and the Intercoastal Waterway
- Ship: Grand Majestic
- New? No. The line is renovating a gambling boat, Diamond Lady.
- Launch Date: September 2017
- Passengers: 70
- Itineraries: Nine-night cruises on a variety of American river itineraries
- Embarkation Ports: St. Louis, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Nashville, Memphis, Tulsa, New Orleans, Galveston
- Inclusions: One-night hotel stay and transfer to the boat before the cruise; bottled water and soft drinks; select beer and wine at dinner; and regular shore excursions
- Website: Grand Majestic Riverboat Company
–By Chris Gray Faust, Senior Editor