The river cruise industry is hot – red hot – and 2013 is poised to be one of the best years on the books for nearly every major line. Public awareness has taken off in recent years, and more and more travellers are looking to book their own journey down one of the world’s most scenic waterways.
Of course, the destination most of us think of when we picture river cruising is Europe. And understandably so. Europe offers a stunning array of ports, rivers and ships, each more breathtaking than the last it seems. But despite the popularity of the “Old World,” there are a few other standout destinations that look like 2013 may just be the year they break into the public consciousness in a big way.
What do we have our eye on for 2013? Let’s have a look:
Although it’s usually tucked away near the back of the brochures, Portugal’s Douro River Valley is one of the most scenic destinations you can visit. The epicenter of port wine production (based in Porto, Portugal), Portugal is such a hot destination that Uniworld Boutique Cruises is bringing a new ship, the Queen Isabel, on-line in 2013. But all is not lost for Douro Spirit, which will transfer to Viking River Cruises to become its Viking Douro as the line pioneers its first foray into Portugal. Also worth watching: AmaWaterways inaugurates both the brand new AmaVida and its own itineraries along Portugal’s Douro River in the spring of 2013.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruises is taking something of a calculated gamble on Italy’s Po River next year. Tidal fluctuations have kept many river cruisers at bay in the past, but a stunning itinerary that features a cruise through the Venice Lagoon aboard River Countess sounds too good to pass up. Our bet: Other cruisers will think so too and make this one of the hottest destinations.
If river cruising is hot, Asia is positively on fire. Much like the explosion in popularity that deep-ocean cruising has seen in the region recently, river cruises that explore the wonders of Asia’s most fabled waterways have hit their stride, with cruise lines bringing new ships on-line along the Mekong and the Yangtze. And these are no ordinary vessels; luxury-mavens would do well to seek out voyages that sail here, as the ships that ply these waters are some of the most lavish and amenity-laden afloat. Look for the new Century Legend and Century Paragon, operated dually by Avalon Waterways and Uniworld Boutique River Cruises to shake things up even further in 2013.
With the re-emergence in June of the classic American Queen steamboat under the watchful eye of the newly formed American Queen Steamboat Company and the introduction of American Cruise Lines’ brand-new Queen of the Mississippi just last week, expect the turf wars on the Mississippi to heat up in a way that hasn’t been seen since the late 1990’s. A few years ago, a cruise along the Mississippi was nearly impossible. Now, it could well be the next “big thing” in river cruising.
Yes, 2013 is shaping up to be an exciting year, but don’t forget, there’s still time to river cruise in 2012.