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River cruise lines believe the post-pandemic travel scene will favour their contention that small ships close to shore is one of the safest forms of travel.

River cruise ships carry under 200 guests, and because they travel close to the river banks between countries and cities, help is never far away.

As we enter the start of 2022, it looks like passengers from Australia are certainly buying the argument.

Avalon Waterways’ Head of Marketing Australasia, Mr Chris Fundell, expects a strong kick off to New Year sailings.

“We’ve particularly seen a significant increase in 2022 bookings over the last six weeks, beginning with our first cruises in April through to the end of the year on our festive cruises,” he told Rivercruise Passenger.

He believes Australians will choose cruise companies like Avalon Waterways which have developed health and safety policies that provide assurance for travellers. These policies include electrostatic disinfecting systems and mandatory vaccinations for guests and crew, to the introduction of additional dining venues for more dining space per person.

He expects travellers to opt for cruises along the Rhine or the Danube River.

“After being stuck in Australia for so long, there will be a tendency for travellers to look at bucket-list and ‘once in a lifetime travel experiences’ to jump back into international travel with a bang. Australians will be looking to book longer journeys when they do make the trip overseas, perhaps tying in a river cruise with a coach tour and really relishing their time in a destination.”

Sustainability is another strong trend. “In 2022 travellers will look at booking their hard earned annual leave and holidays more thoughtfully, opting for operators and experiences that will positively impact the communities and environments that they visit.

“We’re really focusing on our own sustainability efforts at Avalon and in 2022 and 2023 a bio-fuel pilot program will commence, aiming to reduce total carbon emissions by 50%. We’ll also be investing even more with partner, The Ocean Cleanup, to help fulfil their mission of removing 90% of the world’s ocean plastic,” he concludes. 

Avalon is not alone in noticing the strong trend towards a higher spend and longer, more thoughtful holidays.

A recent survey of travel agents showed where the majority of travel cruisers are booking:

No 1 destination:  Europe

“The culture, history, and food are a huge draw for most clients and people are just tired of the pandemic and finally want to travel,” said one agent.  Some report the problem may be availability – with popular rivers booking out.

Prices are holding

The lack of cabins means prices are staying on par with 2019, and in some cases rising. And passengers are prepared to spend up big. Upgrades are common and tacking one journey onto another is also a feature of the new booking era.

Many of the lines like Emerald, Scenic,Viking and Avalon now offer land packages as well as the cruise.

Short sailings are converting new cruisers 

Uniworld and Avalon offer shorter cruises for those who want to try this kind of holiday – and it appears to be working, driving a younger crowd to see what the genre has to offer.’

Activities like kayaking and cycling, great new food offerings and themes like art, food and wine and culture are also pushing demand.

Avalon has writers on board in a series of talks called Storytellers.

One of the authors, Candace Bushnell, says: “One of the great pleasures of life is the setting, and what better backdrop to enjoy art, history, food and camaraderie than a river cruise on the Seine, a magical waterway that’s mesmerised and inspired since medieval times.

“This Avalon Active and Discovery Cruise will allow you to flow between the centuries without leaving the comforts of the present. Can’t wait to take this journey with you.”