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The rising of the river, by David Winterton, Emerald Waterways

David Winterton, brand manager at Emerald Waterways, explains why, following a “surge of modernity” and increased capacity, river cruising is attracting record numbers.


It’s no secret that the river cruise industry is rapidly expanding. There are currently around 280 vessels navigating the waterways of Europe, and a third of these were only introduced to the continent in the past decade. More than 20 ships launched in 2013, almost 30 in 2014 and at least 28 will take to the waters this year. The facts, as they say, speak for themselves.

Onboard innovations, suites with private balconies and exciting itineraries have widened the customer base, while an increase in audience awareness and capacity have contributed to the industry’s exponential growth. Even the way in which river cruising is run has undergone a surge of modernity, which ensures growing brands can really connect with their clientele.

Finally, there are the Baby Boomers – a burgeoning market of retirees who represent a substantial demographic of travellers in search of adventure and their beloved home comforts. Escaping the drizzle of the British Isles is now no longer satisfactory enough. Baby Boomers want a touch of luxury, a dash of culture, gourmet food and glasses filled with fine wine.

As the percentage of guests taking more than one cruise a year increases and the average price of a voyage falls, more and more people are looking to the rivers for a well-balanced escape that caters to all desires of discovery.

Beyond the horizon

European rivers accounted for 86 per cent of the market in 2014, with the Rhine and Danube remaining the most sought-after destinations, especially for first-time cruisers.

As itineraries are refined and cruise companies begin to offer unique experiences and exclusive highlights, guests have a choice between what they see and not just who they see it with.

What’s more, veteran cruisers who have traversed the essential gateway rivers of central Europe are now looking beyond the classics: from Portugal’s sun-kissed Douro to France’s plentiful waterways. Further still, in Southeast Asia, the exotic allure of the Mekong and Irrawaddy are drawing in passengers from all over the UK, and the total number of guests on non-European rivers is also on the up.

Life on board is sweet

Ships launched in the last five years are larger and more luxurious than their predecessors. But rather than overcrowd this new-found space, companies such as ours are utilising the increased area to give our guests a more comfortable experience.

Around two thirds of river cruisers have been on an ocean cruise, so they’re accustomed to spacious cabins with all the amenities you’d expect to find in a world-class hotel. Now we can rival that experience by offering almost every guest a private, all-weather balcony system, which offers endless views of the river, elegantly furnished suites and modern technologies in every cabin.

There’s also innovations built to bring the highlights of the ocean to the intimacy of the river, like Emerald Waterways’ revolutionary heated pool which transforms into a cinema at night – talk about making the most of the space!

Your money goes a long way

Aside from the convenience of docking in the heart of the action, the endless scenery and plentiful destinations, river cruising offers exceptional value for money. Many river cruise companies, like Emerald Waterways and Scenic, offer generous fully-inclusive and all-inclusive services, which include flights, internal transfers, onshore excursions, eclectic dining in a range of venues and drinks with lunch and dinner. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

With fewer than 200 passengers on board, the crew really get to know their guests. So if there’s anything else you need, chances are our staff have already thought of it…

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