evergreen euroIntent on pioneering new programs in the premium river cruise segment, Evergreen Tours is fast tracking expansion of its acclaimed European ‘Star-Ship’ fleet in 2017 with vessels for Southern France and Portugal.

Evergreen Tours will complement its 14-night Amsterdam to Budapest and sevennight Amsterdam to Basel cruises on sister brand Emerald Waterways ‘Star Ships’ – also part of the Scenic Group – with new week-long sailings on the Saone & Rhone Rivers of France and Portugal’s Douro River.

General Manager Angus Crichton explained the strategy to travelBulletin as to why Evergreen is “taking the risk” with two new ships in two new markets. It is to appeal to repeat travellers and fill a void for time sensitive travellers.

“Usually growth is one ship a year or one region for a company. We decided in typical Scenic Group fashion, let’s go big. Let’s go big and do it properly rather than waiting for one region to happen, and then sit back and wait for the next.”

Enter the 70 suite & stateroom Emerald Liberté which will launch in Lyon on 01 April 2017 and the 56 cabin Emerald Radiance, debuting in Porto on 08 April 2017.

Liberté and Radiance are ships six and seven of the Emerald Waterways fleet, both based on the four 182 suite & stateroom Emerald ‘Star Ships’ (which will expand to five when Emerald Belle enters service in coming months). The proportionally smaller vessels offer the same facilities but are made smaller to in order to negotiate their respective waterways.

Liberté and Radiance’s core itineraries are seven nights in length and depart on Saturdays. Crichton says guests will be able to seamlessly combine Rhine and Rhone, Rhone and Douro and Rhine and Douro cruise options to create 15 night, dual-river itineraries.

Europe product Andrew Kelleher says after assessing the market, it was apparent there was no easy way for customers to cruise Southern France and the Douro inside 15 days. Now Evergreen has tailored the product to enable passengers to make same-day flight connections between Lyon and Porto. Kelleher admitted that other companies offer the similar combinations, however they do not operate on a like-for-like product or with the level of frequency Evergreen is going to offer. “We’re providing a much broader range of dates for guests,” he said.

Emerald Liberté will operate between Lyon and Arles with stops at Chalon-sur-Saone (to access Beaune), Macon, Tournon and Avignon. Guests on the France cruises will visit villages, museums, sample wines, eat cheese, visit the Papal Palace in Avignon, sweat a little on an Emerald Active bike ride and enjoy a fancy ‘You’re Invited’ meal with a highly recognised chef.

The 112-passenger Emerald Radiance will operate roundtrip from Porto on the Douro – a region likened by Kelleher as a “narrower & steeper Rhine Gorge”. There will be excursions each day in to Regua, Pocinho, Pinhao and a highlight, a full day trip to Salamanca from the port of Vega de Terron.

In Portugal, the 90-metre Radiance also features a new suite category at the rear of the vessel where the pool/cinema of other Star Ships are located. Crichton explains that due to Portugal’s restriction to day-time cruise only, there’s no engine noise by night, enabling the development of two 330sqft Horizon Deck Balcony Suites at the ship’s stern. The new stateroom offers two outside views – a first in the Emerald ‘Star Ship’ fleet – a single pane glass at the rear and drop down balconies on the side.

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