River cruising is obviously on the rise, but exactly how big is it becoming and how quickly? According to the Cruise Lines International Association, there were 18 new river cruise ships in 2016, which is an increase of more than 10 percent over previous years.
“River cruises allow passengers to see Europe the way Europeans do,” said John F. Krieger, president of CTC Travel. “River cruises include most shore excursions and many include beer and wine at lunch and dinner. It is much more intimate than an ocean cruise with only a maximum of 195 passengers so making new friends is very easy. The atmosphere is very relaxed and casual.”
Ronda Zeneri, a land and cruise specialist with Cruise Planners, said that she thinks river cruising was so hot in 2016 because there are so many baby boomers that are ready to see something new other than the same old Caribbean cruise.
“These clients are older and have more time to spend traveling,” she said. “They usually enjoy wine/beer tastings and great cuisine. They enjoy traveling with smaller groups and on private tours. River cruising is perfect for these types of travelers.”
The aging baby boomers seem to be looking for an easy way to explore different countries without the difficulties of traveling via buses or cars. “They prefer to have nice accommodations, great food and excellent service at an affordable price,” said Tammy Kirchner of Travel Haus. “Viking River Cruises, AMA Waterways are both delivering product to fit the needs of this aging community.”
River cruising is also becoming more popular with families. “I would say that AMA River Cruising for families is hot right now because of their partnership with Disney,” said Lisa Fitzgerald, C.T.I.E. of Fitzgerald Travel Agency.
Janine Ortell of Travel Flair said that river cruising has better port opportunities than luxury liners, making it a more popular option for cruisers. “The ability to visit ports of call that traditionally large, mainstream cruise ships can’t get into,” said Ortell.
Eileen Entin of Diamond Cruise & Travel said that her company’s last river cruise left from Vienna, down the Danube to the Rhine, and ended in Amsterdam.
“As you're sailing, you can see both coasts including the classic, European castles along the Rhine that dominate the landscape,” said Entin. “When the ship stops in port, it's typically in the heart of the city and often right in the main marketplace. The large cruise ships don't always port in the city. The port for Rome is Civitavecchia, which is a 1 1/2 hour bus ride from Rome. The port for Florence is Livorno, quite a drive from Florence. We're planning another river cruise for ourselves and frequently recommend river cruises to our agency clients.”
Entin said that many people who love cruising wanted to try new destinations and experiences after sailing to the Caribbean and other traditional destinations. “There is a friendship among passengers that you don't always get on the large cruise ships,” said Entin.
Sales have been growing at Muscatine Travel for 2017 European river cruises. “What makes this a fantastic deal is that they are also including airfare, so that expense is not on top of the cruise price,” said Andrea Kreitner.
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