Uniworld Launches S.S. Catherine in Lyon

Another day, another river ship christening. Seriously, it’s beginning to feel like that as the market, especially in Europe, keeps booming with no signs of slowing down any time soon.

Oo la la

Last week, on what was a beautiful sunny day in Lyon, France, Uniworld launched its new 159-passenger Super Ship S.S. Catherine – done up with fancy accents that include zebra stripes – on cruises on the Rhone and Saone rivers of Burgundy and Provence.

Legendary French actress Catherine Deneuve did duties as the gorgeous ship’s gorgeous godmother. “It is my pleasure to be here today celebrating the ship that bears my name,” said Deneuve.

After she cut a blue ribbon to send a bottle of Dom Pérignon Champagne smashing against the ship’s hull, Deneuve was honored with a band playing movie themes, including the score from The Godfather and The Pink Panther.

Uniworld’s new all-inclusive policy – which means all drinks are now on the house – is the star on board. So are sizeable cabins and suites.

Meanwhile, up north in Strasbourg, ceremonies were held to launch French river line CroisiEurope’s 84-passengerMS Lafayette – along with two smaller river barges. The line has been newly trying to market to North Americans.

RELATED: Cruise Exec: Uniworld’s Ellen Bettridge

MS Lafayette will cruise from Basel, Switzerland, to Amsterdam.

Growth on the Rhine and Rhone and Beyond

Also within the past two weeks, Avalon Waterways christened two of its Suite Ships (with two decks of suites with wall-to-wall balconies that open) in Dordrecht, Holland, with British Olympic gold medal-winning rower and authorKatherine J. Grainger serving as godmother of Avalon Poetry II, and J. Mara DelliPriscoli, president of Travel Learning Connections, Inc., doing duties as godmother of Avalon Impression.

The ships will cruise on the Rhine and Danube, among other waterways. The line launches yet another new ship in June, with Australian celebrityDeborah Hutton as godmother.

For those keeping a running tab, Viking River Cruises, the Big Kahuna of the industry, launched 18 ships in March in ceremonies in France, Germany and Portugal, with 12 additional ships planned for next year.

Most are 190-passenger “longships,” with alfresco cafes and real balconies on cabins and suites. The slightly smaller ships in Portugal have the addition of a lovely swimming pool on top – for the warmer weather route.

What’s next?

Emerald Waterways, owned by Australia’s Scenic Tours, will be in the spotlight April 9, when the line officially launches – the first new river cruise line to debut in six years. The line’s “Star Ships,” the 182-passenger Emerald Sky and Emerald Star, bring such innovative features as a swimming pool that converts into a movie theater at night. Fashion icon Twiggy will serve as godmother.

The Emerald ships will cruise the Danube and Rhine; with two more ships debuting next year.

AmaWaterways will christen the 164-passenger AmaSonata in July, with Brenda Kyllo, of the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA), as godmother. The ship, with features including a heated swimming pool and fleet of bikes, actually starts cruising in April.