Cruise notes: Europe will get its first sternwheeler in 2015

Rendering of the MS Elbe Princesse, which will cruise year-round from Berlin to Prague for CroisiEurope beginning in the spring of 2016.
Rendering of the MS Elbe Princesse, which will cruise year-round from Berlin to Prague for CroisiEurope beginning in the spring of 2016. CroisiEurope

Stern-wheelers are coming to Europe’s rivers.

CroisiEurope is building two new river cruise ships that will be propelled by paddle wheels. Both will be able to operate in shallower water, giving them access to such rivers as France’s Loire, which has been visited by barges but not by modern river ships.

Coming next year will be the cruise line’s Loire Princesse, a 295-foot long, three-deck ship accommodating 96 passengers. Propelled by two stern paddle wheels, the ship will begin six- to eight-day cruises on the Loire in April 2015.

The other stern-wheeler, the Elbe Princesse, will enter service in April 2016. It will be able to operate year-round from Berlin to Prague on the Elbe and Moldau rivers, even at their lowest water levels. The 321-foot-long, two-deck ship will accommodate 80 passengers.

▪ The Cavern Club and Tobacco Road at sea: The Liverpool club known as one of the earliest rock ’n roll venues will be re-created on the Norwegian Epic starting next October.

Meanwhile, one of Miami’s most legendary bars will also go to sea. Tobacco Road has closed, but will be incorporated into Norwegian Cruise Line’s new Norwegian Escape, which will enter service in November of next year in Miami.

The Cavern Club, early home to the Beatles and now a contemporary music venue, will be re-created on Norwegian Epic, where it will feature music by the Beatles as well as other international musicians. The Cavern Club will debut on the October 11, 2015 sailing of the Norwegian Epic, which will be based in Europe year-round starting in the spring.

Tobacco Road, whose gritty history dates back several decades, will get new life as one of the bars on the Norwegian Escape. The onboard bar will incorporate some elements of the original, among them the bar’s iconic neon sign, memorabilia and photographs. It will also serve special cocktails created by the Miami bar’s resident bartender, Leo Holtzman.

The 4,200-passenger Norwegian Escape, now under construction in Germany, will sail weekly out of Miami starting Nov. 14, 2015, calling at ports in the eastern Caribbean and Bahamas.

▪ Back on the Nile: One of Europe’s biggest river cruise lines, Uniworld, is resuming cruises on the Nile in Egypt. Beginning in October 2015, the line’s all-suite River Tosca will cruise out of Cairo. The line had suspended operations in Egypt in 2013 due to unrest in that country.

▪ Still cruising at 90: Still powered by her original engines, a historic, 90-year-old ship will make Baja cruises beginning in January.

AdventureSmith Explorations will send the Westward, a renowned motor yacht that pioneered Pacific Northwest adventure cruises, to Baja for a series of 10-night cruises. The eight-passenger ship, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, once numbered among its clientele Bing Crosby, Walt Disney and John Wayne.

▪ Remote ports: Oceania Cruises has added 12 ports of call to its wide-ranging 2015-16 cruise schedule, most of them little-known. They are Boracay Island, Philippines; Eden, Australia; Cooktown, Australia; Norfolk Island, Australia; Newcastle, Australia; Gisborne, New Zealand; Raroia, French Polynesia; Sanya, China; Shimizu, Japan; Jeju, South Korea; Luderitz, Namibia; and Jamestown, St. Helena.

▪ Lego on board: In a new partnership with the Lego Group, MSC Cruises now offers a Lego Experience aboard all of its ships, including the MSC Divina, which is based seasonally in Miami. The attraction includes Lego competitions for adults and children. In addition, MSC’s new ships will have Lego playrooms built in, with games and challenges for children in three age groups.


Most of Florida’s complement of winter-based ships have arrived from cruising other seas. One ship that will make a first-time cruise out of Port Everglades is the Ocean Princess, Princess Cruises’ smallest ship. It will arrive in December after a transatlantic cruise, make one Caribbean cruise, then sail for the South Pacific.

Costa Cruises has added a second ship to its winter Caribbean program; the Costa Mediterranea will arrive at PortMiami next week.

Elsewhere in Florida, the Carnival Pride has just started its winter schedule out of Tampa after a $75 million renovation, and Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas has just moved to Port Canaveral for a winter series of Caribbean cruises.

CroisiEurope will mark the 100th anniversary of World War I with commemorative cruises next summer that will feature access to battlefields, memorials and related museums.