When you mention river cruise most people instantly think of the Seine, the Rhine; or perhaps the Danube. All of which are fantastic European river cruise destinations.
But, in the last 10 years the face of river cruising has really changed. In fact the face of cruising in general has had to evolve and improve.
No longer is it the preserve of the rich and the retired. State rooms are not the only choice on board; although they are still the height of luxury.
The change in style and the rapid increase in demand is a combination of factors:
- Reduced costs to cruise thanks to an array of cabin choices.
- Increased number of cruise lines driving costs down through competition and technology.
- Travelers having more knowledge of what is available; particularly via the internet.
- Culinary standards dramatically improved.
- Facilities on board are far superior; there really is something for everyone.
Photo Courtesy of American Queen Steamboat Company
Of course that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for the authentic paddleboat cruise; in fact, everyone should experience a steamboat on the Mississippi at least once in their life.
The river cruising market has really been opened up by the demand for cruising experiences. In the early 2000’s there were far more customers than ships available. The result was high prices and a need to book at least 18 months or 2 years in advance.
Demand encouraged the river cruise companies to build more boats and exploit the market that already existed. It worked; the growth in the North American river cruise industry has been an impressive 14% in just 11 years (from 2004 to 2015).
This has been possible as the baby boomer generation’s affluence and free time has improved; allowing them to target alternative vacations and destinations.
Let’s face it any type of cruise usually comes with a significant price tag. Then there are the extras. River cruise ships have started to create all inclusive packages that cover all your living costs on board.
This means that passengers can know the cost and budget for it before they even book the trip; making it more affordable and attractive to many people. This tactic is paying off as customer numbers on river cruises continue to increase.
One of the biggest draws and something that most river cruise operators are paying attention to is the active excursion.
As great as the boat is there is a wealth of opportunity along the way to explore the local countryside; but to do it in your own way. River cruise operators can team with local cycle operators or even keep bicycles on the boat.
People can then create their own adventure on a day trip away from the boat.
This creates the extra mystery and adventure that many river cruise travelers are seeking.
In the past the cruise industry was dominated by older people. Now you can take an 18 – 30 style river cruise or a family orientated one; as well as the traditional offerings.
This ensures the river cruise is appealing to all generations and people.
The innovation that drives the river cruise industry forward will allow it to keep growing, year on year.