Move over baby boomers, river cruising has found a new wave of younger, more active travellers.
Eighty per cent of travel agents are saying river cruising is the perfect gateway to attract first time cruisers… and more than a third of those now daring to sail the slow way are Generation Y’s and Millennials.
According to an industry report by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) at the end of 2018, river cruising has become one of “the hottest trends in the marketplace” thanks to new products and features being offered by the leading cruise lines. The result is that the typical river cruising crowd is shifting from baby boomers to a much younger, more active, first-time cruising crowd.
Family cruisers, solo travellers and those on a budget are also being drawn to the world of river cruising, and the introduction of shorter itineraries is helping draw in the first-time cruisers.
CLIA’s State of the Industry reported that baby boomers still held the title of largest increase in overall cruise bookings, with 67 percent growth, but with that, Generation X travellers have also increased by 42 percent – and Generation Y and Millennials have discovered river cruising with a 36 percent increase.
According to the May 2019 Allianz Global Assistance report, the biggest reason for this shift in demographic for river cruising is because of the introduction of “micro-cations”. In other words, shorter cruises that are no longer than four nights, requiring less investment of time and money. It’s these shorter cruises that are the best way for people to sample the experience of river cruising. And the stats show that once they’ve tried it, they more often than not become loyal returning guests.
But it’s not just the shorter cruises that river offers, a number of leading river cruise lines are shaking things up with a handful of other features to attract the new wave cruisers. New technology on ships, like Apps and GPS devices are making it easier for passengers to be independent with their holidays. Customised trips are also allowing passengers to have a more personalised experience – with options that match their ideas, priorities and needs.
Flexible options like multiple shore excursions in each port, culturally focused tours, active or wellness themed itineraries and pre or post-cruise land stays are also drawing in the new crowds.
So, if you’re considering a river cruise, here’s a breakdown of what the major river cruise lines are currently offering:
New trends and shorter itineraries:
Crystal River Cruises says roughly 50 percent of their guests are new to Crystal. They are a luxury river line and attract a specific audience seeking a bespoke experience. They are offering 7 night itineraries, which are curated to allow exploration in destinations like Vienna, Amsterdam, Basel and more, in addition to the Danube, Rhine, Moselle and Main Rivers.
Avalon is a hugely popular river cruise line for Australian travellers and they say they have noticed their average age demographic drop, while also seeing a rise in health-focused travellers as well as solo travellers. Avalon has introduced the “Taster Cruise” which is specifically designed to entice those who are new to cruise. They are specifically crafted eight day itineraries or less.
Avalon is offering new four-, five- and six-day river cruise itineraries including “Taste of the Rhine,” “Taste of the Danube” and “Heart of Germany.”
The six-day “Heart of Germany” cruise is newly offered in 2020, Sailing the Main River and Main-Danube Canal between Frankfurt and Nuremberg, Germany.
Avalon have also launched “Active & Discovery” cruises for their health-conscious travellers – which has grown by 328 percent since it was introduced in 2017. They also have Adventure Hosts on board and an Avalon Fresh menu for guests.
With budget friendly options, Teeming’s exclusive navigation app, and personalised airfare bookings, their cruises are popular with first-time river cruisers. Their longer than average port times allow guests to explore Europe at their own pace.
Riviera is noticing an increase in solo travellers – not necessarily travelling alone, but who want individual cabins, as well as a rise in passengers seeking active and wellness themed cruises.
This year, Riviera will introduce daily onboard entertainment and an excursion in every port in order to cater for the more active, younger passengers. The line will also offer no single supplement cabins on every sailing as well as 12 solo traveller exclusive itineraries throughout the year.
American Queen Steamboat Company:
This American cruise line attracts passengers with special interest cruises and often groups or multigenerational families.
More themed voyages are being introduced in 2021 ranging from Jazzy Jaunts, Music of the 50’s & 60’s, Big Band, Golfing cruises, and more.
From March, Crystal will be launching the newest fleet of luxury river ships in the river industry. New technology on board means they have panoramic balcony windows and the Vista Deck can collapse to allow for ease of access through Europe’s lock system during high water.
Every suite includes as bedside iPad directory and interactive TV featuring on demand movies and music, on board activities and more.
Avalon feature interactive kiosks on board to provide information on upcoming ports, daily included and optional excursions, daily dining menus, weather information, easy check-in and out and more. The AvalonGO App also comes packed with recommendations on sights to see and eateries to try as well as offline maps so guests can navigate when onshore.
In all ports, Teeming offers a complimentary city walking app. With this approach, you only pay for the activities and tours you choose to do.
Riviera’s ships offer facilities for guests to use during their holiday – from spa, gyms, sauna and plunge pool as well as bikes that are complimentary for shore excursions.
The average of Crystal river ships, from March will be under two years, including identical new builds Crystal Bach, Crystal Debussy, Crystal Mahler and Crystal Ravel, which launched in 2017 and 2018.
This April, Avalon View will be launching on European Waterways.
American Queen Steamboat Company:
The American Countess is due to be launched this year , designed to have more cabins than ever before.
Uniworld’s new Sao Gabriel will launch on Portugal’s Douro River in April, with an entire top deck of suites with enhanced butler service that allows for anytime dining flexibility. Across the continent, River Countess is being completely revitalized and will re-emerge in March as La Venezia. A 10-day northern Italy itinerary will begin with a two-day Milan stay, followed by eight-days of cruising through and around Venice, the Po River and to such outer Venetian isles as Burano, Mazzorbo and Torcello; an eight-day, cruise-only option is also offered.
Egypt is back on consumers’ radar and Uniworld’s new Sphinx will debut on the Nile River in September. Guests will spend 12 days exploring Egypt’s top sites on an itinerary that’s roundtrip from Cairo. Sphinx will have three dining venues, a swimming pool, massage room and 42 luxurious suites.
AmaWaterways with APT:
This year, the line will launch the 156-passenger AmaSiena on the Rhine, Main and Moselle. Look for connecting staterooms, dining choices including a Main Restaurant and an intimate Chef’s Table Restaurant, a sundeck walking track and a pool with swim-up bar. A professionally trained Wellness Host will be onboard to conduct classes.
In March 2021, AmaWaterways also will launch a sister vessel, AmaLucia, on Tulip Time cruises in the Netherlands and Belgium, before repositioning it to the Danube, Rhine, Moselle and Main rivers. Separately, AmaBella and AmaVerde will rejoin the AmaWaterways European fleet in 2021, sailing Dutch and Belgian Waterways and the Danube.
The upcoming launch of the new, 84-passenger Andorinha, slated to sail Portugal’s Douro River starting in March with three new itineraries. A soaring glass-ceilinged atrium will span both the Ruby and Diamond decks, filling the Andorinha’s lobby, reception area, main restaurant and lounge with natural light. Throughout the ship, select local cultural touches include gorgeous Portuguese tiles.
In a change of management, Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours will take on full management of its entire European river cruise fleet this year. That includes ships on the Rhine, Main, Danube, Saône, Rhône, Seine and Douro rivers. It’s all part of Scenic’s global focus to ensure consistency across the entire fleet.
This year it’s adding four new river vessels custom-built to navigate the Seine River in Paris. With design inspired by the line’s Viking Longships and built specifically to sail the Seine, these new 168-passenger vessels will operate the eight-day “Paris and the Heart of Normandy” cruise, all starting by 2021.
The new Viking Fjorgyn, Viking Kari, Viking Radgridand Viking Skaga will dock adjacent to the Eiffel Tower, perfect for exploring the city. The new Seine vessels are all slightly smaller than the Viking Longships but will have many of the same features, including the Aquavit Terrace, a wide stateroom variety and a Scandinavian design aesthetic.
Every Crystal itinerary features at least two overnight stays – some as many as four – allowing guests to explore destinations beyond the rivers. Food and wine festival theme cruises are going to offer cooking demonstrations on board and immersive shore experiences.
Avalon offer the chance to combine their river cruises with extended land excursions through their Monograms, Cosmos and Globus brands. The onboard program Avalon Choice is also designed to give guests greater options with dining venues and times as well as activities and tours. Optional excursions are available with the Adventure Host to offer suggestions.
New land options for that itinerary will include two nights pre-cruise in Paris and four nights post-cruise in northern France (three in St. Malo with a visit to Mont St. Michel and one in Paris).
Riviera has increased their shore excursion offerings for 2020 in every port of call.
New in 2022 will be “Treasures of Southeast Europe” featuring maiden ports Video, Bulgaria and Giurgiu, Romania and the “Joyous Danube” holiday round trip from Vienna, highlighting the Christmas Market themed cruising trends.
Avalon has expanded their itineraries available on the lower Danube for guests wishing to see a new part of Europe.
Teeming River Cruises continues to research and add new ports to various cruises that we offer. Adding new itineraries such as Africa, Italy and Portugal allow us to expand into a larger river cruise market.
American Queen Steamboat Company:
With the introduction of a secondary, small-cruise ship line to the fleet, Victory Cruise Lines, AQSC is going to be offering itineraries through Victory’s Great Lakes and more USA journeys.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection is extending its reach farther across the globe. Two new itineraries will open in the Peruvian Amazon, a totally new region of sailing for the luxury river line. Guests will set sail on the 16-suite Aria Amazon, starting in late September 2020.
The new 12-day “Rhine, Moselle and Blissful Baden-Baden” itinerary will begin in Germany’s spa town of Baden-Baden and, at Frankfurt, guests will visit the famed Caracalla Spa or Sea Salt Grotto.
There’s a greater focus on France for 2021, in response to burgeoning consumer demand for more French itineraries. In 2021, AmaKristina will reposition to the Rhône River, joining AmaCello, which will also sail a new Rhône / Saône itinerary, “Essence of Burgundy & Provence” between Chalon-sur-Saône and Arles.
For 2021, AmaDante will join AmaLyra on the Seine River and operate a new “Impressions of the Seine & Paris” itinerary from Paris to Le Havre or in reverse.
While in Paris on a pre- or post-cruise stay (from mid-July onward), a new sightseeing option for cruisers is a tour of Hôtel de la Marine, an 18th-century palace on the Place de la Concorde.
Tauck’s new 12-day itinerary features a seven-night Douro cruise on Andorinha with two-night hotel stays in Lisbon and Madrid. Other options are an eight-day “cruise-only” itinerary and an eight-day Tauck Bridges family cruise.
An expansion of cruise and land-based tours to Egypt and Jordan join the 2020-2021 season, with new Oman and Israel escorted tours as well. A new 12-day “Wonders of the Nile” itinerary includes a cruise on Sanctuary Sun Boat III. This itinerary is roundtrip from Cairo and begins in Giza with a luxury hotel stay and three days of tours (the Great Pyramids and other top spots).
Another new option is a 19-day “Egypt and Jordan Experience,” which includes sightseeing in both countries and a six-night Nile River Cruise on Sanctuary Sun Boat III. Scenic guests are immersed in the historical sites of both countries during tours and while on a six-night Nile river cruise.
Scenic continues to develop strong enrichment offerings. For example, National Geographic photographers will sail on the April 13 sailing of Scenic Jade and the April 15 sailing of Scenic Pearl; both operate roundtrip from Amsterdam. In addition, Scenic recently expanded its partnership with National Geographic Expeditions to include new itineraries — Rhône River, Rhine Christmas Cruise, Russian river cruise and more.
The new 82-passenger Viking Osiris, debuting on the Nile River begins in September — doubling the size of Viking’s “owned capacity” in Egypt.
Just a year ago, Viking launched the completely revitalized Viking Ra, its first owned-and-operated Nile vessel. During the 12-day, “Pharaohs & Pyramids” cruise tour, guests can experience Egypt in seven destinations.