River cruising across Europe is rising – but many passengers are searching for fresh destinations.
Meeting the demands of repeat customers, lines are upping their capacity on rivers like the Douro in Portugal, which saw a huge 85% increase in numbers in 2017.
Russia, too has seen strong growth at 70 per cent. And some Asian countries are seeing 27 per cent growth, particularly India. Egypt’s Nile, too, is proving popular.
The figures are from the UK’s Cruise Lines International Association. Australasia’s branch of the cruise line’s representative body doesn’t issue figures, but it is believed Australians would mirror the changes seen around the world.
CLIA Australasia Managing Director Joel Katz: “River cruising is one of the success stories of the cruise industry and its popularity among travellers continues to climb.
“While we don’t have specific data on Australian cruisers, we know the major river cruise lines are experiencing healthy growth from this market and our region has become one of their most important sources of passengers. We would expect that growth from Australia is continuing at a healthy pace, as it is in other markets.
“One of the most significant trends we’re hearing from river cruise operators is the increasing popularity of itineraries beyond traditional favourites on the Rhine and Danube.
“River cruising has a very high repeat rate, so as travellers return for another cruise, they often look to try new waterways in destinations like France, Portugal and Russia. Outside Europe, Asia is also showing strong growth.”
The 2018 season of dry river beds and cancellations has also contributed to the growth in new destinations.
“Asia as a region will continue to see growth in river cruising and there was “much excitement around India,” says Andy Harmer, director of CLIA UK and Ireland. More passengers are headed for the Ganges and Brahmaputra.
Passengers are also spending longer on river cruises.
New river ships are driving growth in passenger numbers with 10 new ships launched last year and another eight new vessels this year – seven from Viking River Cruises.