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AmaMagna (Photo: Colleen McDaniel/Cruise Critic)

Solo Travelers, Active Passengers and Longer Sailing Season Are Among Latest River Cruise Trends

AmaMagna (Photo: Colleen McDaniel/Cruise Critic)
Jeannine Williamson

Last updated
Mar 12, 2024

Read time
4 min read

(9:19 a.m. EST) -- An increase in solo travelers, year-round sailings and longer itineraries are among the key trends in river cruising. More passengers, irrespective of their age, are also taking part in active excursions.

These were among the topics discussed at the CLIA U.K. & Ireland Riverview Conference 2024 held in Amsterdam. The 12th event was the largest in the history of the convention and attracted a record number of 540 members of the cruise industry and travel trade and 11 ships that were open for delegates to visit.

Jon Burrows, Chief Operation Officer at AmaWaterways, said river cruising was constantly evolving to offer passengers a wider choice of options.

"At one time there was a very cookie-cutter approach to river cruises," he said. "There would be a city tour in the morning followed by a free afternoon. Now there are bikes, hikes and other activities and excursions are also graded at a normal, slower or fast walking pace. People want to get out and about in nature and there is demand for activities such as longer hikes."

AmaWaterways is among the lines that places a big emphasis on providing facilities for guests that want to maintain their fitness levels while they are away, and its double-width ship AmaMagna is the first river vessel to have a full-size pickleball court.

The 2024 CLIA UK & Ireland Riverview Conference took place in Amsterdam (Photo: Jeannine Williamson)

Lucia Rowe, Managing Director U.K. and Ireland at A-ROSA Cruises -- which organized a running-themed cruise -- echoed his views and said many passengers, irrespective of their age, were fit and active and no longer wanted a sedentary experience which was being catered for with the rise in active shore tours.

Commenting on the variety of shore tours and experiences of offer, Phil Hullah, Chief Executive of Riviera Travel, which is the largest provider of river cruises in the U.K., added: "People have misconceptions that river cruising is boring and we need to do a better job at dispelling those myths as that couldn't be further from the truth."

Hullah also said there was a strong demand from solo travelers. As a result, Riviera is offering an increased number of dedicated solo sailings in its new program -- 47 cruises across 11 itineraries -- with no single supplements on any cabin category.

Uniworld Boutique River Cruises' CEO Ellen Bettridge said: "The number of solos is increasing and 61 percent of our solo travelers are female. As a result, we always have solo offers on our website."

VIVA TWO moored in Dusseldorf (Photo: Adam Coulter/Cruise Critic)

Delegates also heard that lines were adding longer itineraries and extending sailing seasons to meet passenger demand and reflect the fact that travelers go on European city breaks throughout the year.

VIVA Cruises pioneered year-round European sailings and is the only line to operate from January through March. This year, AmaWaterways started sailing in February -- a month earlier than previous years -- and other lines with a newly extended sailing season include A-Rosa.

Companies also reported offering longer river cruises, including overnight stays in major cities such as Vienna and Budapest, and a wider choice of pre- and post-cruise extensions.

Hullah added: "More people want to go away for longer than seven days and passengers are also staying before or after their cruise. There has been a definite evolution in river cruising and passengers' mindsets, desires and needs have changed. People want to know they have freedom of choice."

Sustainability was also discussed and Burrows said this would increasingly play a role in the design of new ships. He said solar panels had been installed on the sun deck on AmaMagna which produced enough energy to charge 20 electric cars per hour and was used to run the entire infotainment system on the ship.

A Pivotal Year for River Cruising

Uniworld's Sao Gabriel on the Douro River (Photo/Chris Gray Faust)

Jamie Loizou, U.K. Managing Director of AmaWaterways, predicted 2024 was going to be a "pivotal" year for river cruising and said there had been a revival of the sector following the Covid pandemic.

"River cruising has seen a surge in demand and although until fairly recently the demand from the U.K. had taken longer to bounce back than other cruise sectors, we have now seen that resurgence," he said. "There are going to be 15 new rivers ships launching in 2024, including three on the Douro."

CLIA U.K. & Ireland is a member of CLIA, the world's largest cruise industry organization.

Publish date March 12, 2024
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