Whether it’s innovative new ships, immersive excursions or comprehensive on-board programmes, river cruises are changing beyond all recognition.
We’ve rounded up the latest trends which are proving the most popular among passengers, the top itineraries and tips on how to get clients booking.
River lines are introducing a raft of options for those clients who like to make sure they keep fit while they’re afloat. Many ships carry bicycles and offer guided cycle excursions – one of the most popular being the scenic 20-mile stretch along the Danube between Melk and Durnstein.
Avalon Waterways pioneered energetic cruises with its Active Discovery itineraries on the Danube; since extended to the Rhine and, new for 2019, the Rhone. Kayaking, hiking and jogging tours are among the activities on their French river cruises, and ‘adventure hosts’ also organise bespoke individual shore tours that pick up the pace. This year, AmaWaterways rolled out a fleet-wide wellness programme, offering up to six daily exercise classes.
Sell it: Avalon’s eight-night Active Discovery on the Danube cruise departs 22 October 2019, from £2,083pp, avaloncruises.co.uk
Bring the family
In recent years, river cruising has opened up to the multigenerational market with family-friendly sailings. And as vessels are small, families get to spend much more time together than they might on a large ocean ship where children go to clubs. Tauck led the field in family river cruises with its Tauck Bridges Danube itinerary, which is now available on the Rhine, Rhone and Seine and includes fun excursions such as treasure hunts and cookery classes. CroisiEurope has Family Club sailings in Portugal, Spain and Italy, while A-Rosa is the only line to offer free cruises for children under 15 on all departures on every itinerary.
Sell it: Tauck’s seven-night Castles on the Rhine: Family Riverboat Adventure departs 5 July 2020, from £3,370pp. tauck.co.uk
For the foodies
Mealtimes and restaurants on river vessels are often restricted by the size of the galley. Many lines, though, have become more creative on the culinary front by employing extra staff and offering smaller speciality dining venues. Novel dining is featured on Uniworld’s Super Ships, where passengers eat each course in a different location – appetisers in the galley, for instance, and dessert on the sun deck. Amadeus River Cruises, Emerald Waterways and Scenic are other lines that also boast alternative fine-dining restaurants.
Sell it: A seven-night Uniworld Paris and Normandy round-trip sailing departs 22 September 2019, from £4,299pp, uniworld.com
Whether clients are interested in tee time or tiptoeing through the tulips, they can pick from a wealth of themed cruises for the chance to try something new, brush up on existing skills or indulge in a favourite pastime. Golf, gardening, music, history, art and wine appreciation, to name just a few, are part of the growing trend for themed itineraries. CroisiEurope is well placed to provide gastronomic cruises on sailings through world-famous wine- growing regions, and Avalon and Tauck are among those lines
that are offering cruises based around music.
Sell it: Viking has a nine-night Oberammergau, The Passion Play cruise taking in the famous play in Bavaria that’s staged once every decade, departing 30 July 2020, from £3,395pp, vikingrivercruises.co.uk
More and more river vessels now have spas. A-Rosa has the largest on the waterways, with an extensive menu of facials and massages along with saunas and relaxation areas. Champagne spa packages for couples are available, with private use of the sauna. Meanwhile, Scenic is the only line with on-board salt lounges – on its French-based ships Scenic Diamond and Scenic Sapphire, while Uniworld’s luxurious Serenity River Spas are tranquil retreats and passengers staying in suites can have treatments in their room.
Sell it: The nine-night Picturesque Alsace and the Rhine cruise on A-Rosa Aqua departs 29 September 2019, from £1,611pp. shearings.com
The intimate size of river ships means it’s easy for solo cruisers to make friends, and more and more lines now have cabins for single occupancy without excessive supplements. Riviera Travel has long embraced the market, with no single supplements on many sailings. In addition, Tauck waives single supplements on lower deck cabins on all its ships, and 12 refurbished cabins on the River Cruise Line’s charming Lady Anne are exclusively available for single passengers, with reduced or zero supplements.
Sell it: Riviera Travel’s seven- night Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence River Cruise for solo travellers departs 4 November 2019, from £1,699pp, rivieratravel.co.uk
Lines such as Uniworld, Scenic and Tauck cater for luxe-loving passengers with a high level of inclusions and upmarket perks such as butler service. Luxury ocean line Crystal took things to a new level when it first entered the river cruise market in 2016 with the largest vessel sailing on the Danube, Crystal Mozart. Catering for the most discerning tastes, it now has five all-inclusive ships that feature 24-hour butler service in every suite, 24-hour room service, plus Michelin-inspired dining in a choice of venues. Crystal Mozart also has its own speedboat available for exclusive private shore excursions and champagne sundowner trips.
Sell it: Crystal’s 10-night Vienna round-trip cruise on the Danube departs 20 September 2019, from £4,039pp, crystalcruises.co.uk
Recent years have seen a huge surge in Brits heading for exotic destinations. Itineraries on Russia’s Volga and China’s Yangtze, taking in fascinating cities such as Moscow, St Petersburg, Shanghai and Beijing and awe- inspiring sights including Red Square and the Great Wall, have paved the way for off-the-beaten- track itineraries on the Mekong, Myanmar’s Ayeyarwaddy and the Amazon. Latest statistics show that India’s Ganges and Brahmaputra are on the rise, and a river cruise is the most relaxing and comfortable way to explore these culture-rich destinations.
Sell it: Prices for a 14-night The Upper Ganges River Pandaw cruise, departing 12 October 2019, start from £4,000pp, fredrivercruises.co.uk
A younger audience
U by Uniworld took the plunge with a brand-new type of river cruise aimed at millennials and the young at heart. Two ships run by parent company Uniworld were painted jet black, renamed The A and The B and refitted with cool interiors including a silent disco, plus cabins for groups of friends. Ships stay overnight in cities renowned for their clubbing scene, such as Amsterdam and Budapest. From 2020, The B will move from the Seine and join its sister ship in central Europe. What’s more, Amadeus River Cruises has cruises for millennials on the Danube, Rhine and Rhone.
Sell it: U by Uniworld’s seven- night Dashing Through the Danube Christmas market cruise departs 13 and 20 December 2019, from £1,784pp, ubyuniworld.com/uk