River cruising is one of the hottest facets of the travel industry right now, and certainly remains the fastest-growing segment of the cruise industry.
Yet whenever I talk to people about river cruising, there’s this stereotype that emerges: that river cruising is the primary domain of older, wealthy retirees. That perception is not so unwarranted, since just a decade ago the average river cruise was priced well out of range of most working professionals. But ten years to the river cruise industry is the equivalent of a century’s worth of innovation and progress.
As 2012 draws to a close, there are more river cruise ships — and river cruisers — on the waterways of Europe than at any other point in history. Lines are undergoing the same rapid expansion and competitive building boom that dominated the mainstream cruise industry in the early 1990s. And that’s all great news for travellers.
With each new ship that comes on-line, river cruise lines are adding capacity. Additional capacity means the ability to carry more passengers, and that helps to keep fares low. In many cases, river cruising is downright affordable compared to a land vacation or bus tour around Europe, particularly when you throw in the fact that nearly every river cruise line offers some form of free wines, beers, sodas, and bottled waters, not to mention inclusive shore excursions and complimentary internet.
And that makes river cruising very attractive indeed — particularly to working professionals looking to make the most of their vacation time.
Despite sailing with numerous cruise lines on itineraries around the world, I approached my first river cruise hesitantly. At 29, I didn’t consider myself to be the ideal demographic, and now, at 30, I still don’t. What I did discover was that I didn’t just enjoy river cruising; I loved it.
There’s a lot for younger travellers and cruisers to like about river cruising. They’re some of the most active vacations you can take, with numerous walking tours, hiking excursions, and many cruise lines even dole out bicycles for use ashore free of charge. Even if your line doesn’t offer bikes, rentals are common in major European cities like Amsterdam or Vienna.
The 2013 brochures I’ve received from many river cruise lines seem to indicate they think so too, with models or actual passenger photographs showcasing younger couples in their 30s and 40s. Sure, they may all be staged (no one laughs that much with their eyes open), but the overall message is clear: This is cool. You’ll like this.
Indeed you will.
So if you’ve always been on the fence about river cruising, give it a go. Like me, you just might be surprised at how much you enjoy your time on the waterways of the world.