I get more questions and inquiries about river cruising than any other segment of travel. My friends, family and clients are increasingly intrigued about floating down a river, admiring the scenery from their cabin or the top deck, and finding new and charming towns to explore each day.
They are not the only ones. River cruising has exploded in popularity and the cruise lines have responded by adding new ships with new features every year.
2015 RIVER CRUISE TRENDS: NEW SHIPS
Leading the way is Viking cruises with 12 new ships this year; 10 of the popular longships and 2 that carry only 98 passengers on the Elbe.
Though Viking is the best known because of their beautiful ad campaigns, I much prefer other companies that have less dense passenger loads, leading to better service. All of the ships plying the rivers are limited in size, leading to most having small cabins. In order to compete with ocean cruising, many have added balconies. Unfortunately this takes away from the already limited cabin size.
AVALON WATERWAYS RIVER CRUISE SHIPS
Several years ago, Avalon turned the industry on its side by slanting one wall and placing the bed on it to face the window. In addition, the outside wall is entirely made of sliding glass. By opening the sliding doors, you have made your cabin an open air balcony. Brilliant! To date this is still the best use of space I have seen. These panorama ships feature cabins that are 200 square feet. 2015 will bring two more of these panorama ships that will ply the rivers of France.
TAUCK 2015 RIVER CRUISE SHIPS
If you still require more space, Tauck has several new ships out this year that have 14 suites with 300 square feet each. Though all of the lines have a few suites, they go quickly and none of the others have as many as Tauck.
AMAWATERWAYS RIVER CRUISE SHIPS
Another innovation comes from AMA Waterways. Their 2 new ships have connecting cabins for families and groups travelling together. AMA’s new ships also have heated pools with swim-up bars.
UNIWORLD BOUTIQUE SHIPS
Uniworld has always been a favorite of mine. Their beautiful and unique décor is like staying in a boutique hotel. But a challenge with their older ships has been small cabin size. Their newest ships, called “super-ships” have larger cabins, a heated pool and Viennese Café.
Uniworld’s SS Antoinette
SCENIC LUXURY RIVER CRUISES
Scenic is one of the newest entrants into this market. Their ships have beautiful contemporary staterooms. Their 2 new “space ships” are all-inclusive with complimentary beer, wine and spirits, butler service, transfers and gratuities.
2015 RIVER CRUISE TRENDS: NEW DESTINATIONS
The most popular rivers continue to be the Rhine, the Danube, and the Seine. However, previous cruisers are always looking for new adventures. Most of the cruise lines have cruises on the Douro in Portugal. Uniworld and Viking both do cruises through Russia; AMA has suspended these cruises due to the tension in the Ukraine. Cruising on the Mekong for Viet Nam and Cambodia is getting more popular. Myanmar (formerly Burma) is one of the newest destinations.
Avalon’s Myanmar Panorama Suite
Uniworld leads the way in developing new areas. They are currently the only company that cruises the Po River in Italy. They recently announced that they will debut “India’s Golden Triangle and the Sacred Ganges” in January of 2016.
2015 RIVER CRUISE TRENDS
River cruises have mostly appealed to the older demographic. But that is changing. Familiesare now starting to travel the river. Tauck extended its popular Bridges tours for families to river cruising. Uniworld also has several itineraries and dates specifically for families.
At the other end of the spectrum, many singles love all kinds of cruising. It has been expensive, as single supplements lead to almost double the price. Most of the river cruise lines are now waiving single supplements for specific dates, making it more economical to travel as a single.
2015 RIVER CRUISES TREND: THEME CRUISES
Theme river cruises are getting more popular. Avalon has always led the way here with the most themed sailings. Wine, wellness, Jewish heritage, and art are typical themes being adopted by many of the river cruise lines. AMA recently announced a beer river cruise and Avalon has a sailing with Patricia Schulty, author of 1000 Places to See Before You Die.
As river cruising continues to gain in popularity, more destinations, enhanced ships, and appeal to all generations will also grow.