(4 p.m. BST) -- TUI River Cruises has finally launched its first river ship after an 18 month delay due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Godmother Catherine Hawkins christened TUI Maya, the first of three sister ships, in Mainz, Germany, complete with pyrotechnics and a champagne smash on Thursday.
Specially-invited guests then embarked on an overnight sailing to Boppard to explore the delights of the Rhine. Passenger sailings will start on Monday (August 15).
Chris Hackney, Managing Director of Cruise TUI UK & I said: "We are delighted to finally launch TUI River Cruises and had a fitting celebration to get TUI River Cruises sailing in style.
"The team have worked tirelessly to get to this launch, and they’ve done a sensational job. The initial feedback we’ve had has been incredible and we’re now all really excited to welcome our first customers this weekend.
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“People have been impressed by the elegant design and contemporary feel and surprised by how spacious the ship is."
Catherine Hawkins, is a college exam officer from Barnsley, who was chosen by TUI from a list of 750 possible candidates.
"I feel so proud and honoured," she said. "What a privilege! I love to travel, explore new places and embrace new experiences so I feel a new door of exploration is about to open! I can’t wait to get started cruising those rivers!"
A second ship, TUI Skyla, will launch later this year. Both have been transformed with multi-million pound make overs to combine beautiful contemporary design with classic comfort. With two restaurants, two bars and deck areas designed to allow for relaxing, wellness and more strenuous activity.
The first sailing on the Moselle Valley itinerary visiting German hotspots, Frankfurt, and Koblenz as well as lesser-known destinations, Trier, Piesport and Oberwesel taking in picture-perfect landscapes bursting with history.
Setting sail from 31 October, customers can enjoy four new themed sailings on the Rhine. And there are 11 festive itineraries visiting Germany's renowned Christmas markets and big-name cities on offer over winter 2021 and winter 2022.