When someone says “cruising,” you probably think of big ocean liners. But according to trade group Cruise Line International Association, river cruising is the fastest growing segment in the cruise industry.
In the past 10 years, the number of passengers taking river cruises has grown by 15 percent, compared to 5.4 percent growth in ocean cruising. The industry has experienced 10 percent annual growth for five years running.
There are a lot of reasons that river cruise trips are gaining so much attention compared to ocean cruising: smaller ships that accommodate hundreds (instead of thousands) get easier access to narrow waterways; you can watch the scenery pass by as you sail past grand cities, villages and vineyards; rates often include food, alcohol and sightseeing shore excursions. If you’re looking for Broadway-style entertainment and a roster of onboard activities, river cruising isn’t for you, but most cruise lines offer wine dinners, cooking lessons, educational lectures, and other immersive experiences.
The industry is paying attention to demand and building more and more ships. By the end of 2013, 167 new ships will have been built since 2000.
When Viking River Cruises was first founded in 1997, it had four river vessels in Russia. Today, the company has to 35 vessels cruising the rivers of Europe, Russia, Ukraine, China, Southeast Asia and Egypt. Viking River Cruises broke the Guinness World Record by christening 10 ships on one day. Next year, they’re planning to introduce another 14 vessels.
Uniworld was the first company to develop river cruises geared towards the North American market, which was four decades ago. In 2010, Uniworld had 42 ships. In 2014, they will have 87.
Scenic River Cruises, a five-star luxury line that sails in Europe, is branching off next spring with the new Emerald Waterways. This marks the first time in six years that a new river cruise company will sail in Europe. Emerald Waterways will include all meals and shore excursions, transfers and even tipping. Book a 2014 trip by October 31, 2013 and you’ll get airfare savings of up to $500 per person.
Watch Peter’s report on CBS Saturday Morning and click on page two for more details on river cruise trips around the world.