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Travel Agent Central: Europe's River Cruise lines

As 2017 begins, river cruise lines are gearing up for the spring sailing season, with many new culinary and wine options throughout the summer, fall and beyond. Here are some of the top new savory experiences afloat on European rivers.

Fresh and Healthy: For all European sailings, Avalon Waterways will launch its “Avalon Fresh” program this year in partnership with two of Europe’s rising culinary stars — the Wrenkh brothers. Beyond all of Avalon’s regular menu and wine choices, the river line will add new healthy, locally sourced food options, including vegetarian and gluten-free dishes. Guests can indulge in Leo and Karl Wrenkh’s creations for continental breakfasts, buffets, four-course dinners, al fresco lunches at Sky Bistro and, as petite portions, in the Panorama Bistro.

Private Wine Tastings: Barge cruises give clients a slower and a more intimate river experience, often on smaller waterways that are off the beaten path. Abercrombie & Kent has introduced a new 14-day “Paris, Champagne & Alsace: Villages & Vineyards by Barge” itinerary. Guests will peruse idyllic scenery as they float along the Marne River from Paris through the Champagne region onboard the six-cabin canal barge Panache. Highlights include private wine tastings at wineries from Champagne to Alsace and dining ashore in Michelin-starred restaurant. Added bonus? Cruisers can craft their own perfume at the Fragonard Museum.

Sip & Sail: With details still being developed at press time, AmaWaterways will introduce a new “Sip & Sail” program across its European fleet for 2018. Guests will receive drinks within the hour before dinner at no extra charge.

We took a sneak peek at the proposed Sip and Sail menu and noticed that it will likely include white, red, rose and sparkling house wines; classics like gin fizz, Margarita, whiskey — both sour and cosmopolitan; a classic martini, lemon drop martini and Manhattan; Bitburger draught beer; sodas, mineral water, tonic water and juices; other select mixed drinks; and shots of rum, American whiskey, Scotch, vodka and gin.

Cooking Classes: In southern France, Scenic will debut “Scenic Culinaire,” a private cooking emporium with tailored classes, new cooking stations, real-time cameras, viewing screens and a cheese and wine center on three of its rebuilt Space-Ships. Also planned are new shore-side foodie excursions, including lunch at the Michelin three-star Maison Pic in Valence; a Chateau Phelan Segur wine tasting and food pairing event in the Medoc region; and a visit to Baltard Market in Arcachon on the Atlantic coast.

New Active Excursions: Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection will introduce new active excursions for its 2017 “Paris & Impressions of the Seine” itinerary. Among them? Guests can row a boat on the Grand Canal of the gardens of Le Notre at Versailles or bike through riverside Vernon to the Chateau de Bizy.

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