River cruises are hot right now

March 6, 2014 |

Those planning vacation getaways might want to look into taking a river cruise. According to a state of the industry report in January 2014 by the Cruise Lines International Association, river cruises are gaining in popularity.

According to the group’s December 2013 survey of 500 CLIA agents, 61.3 percent of clients were interested in river cruising. CLIA CEO Christine Duffy said in a February 2013 Market Watch article that river cruises had a 10 percent annual increase in passengers, while the increase across the cruise industry was up only about 7 percent.

In fact, the rise in interest in river cruising is so steep that operators are having trouble keeping up with demand. In 2012, Viking added six new ships and 10 more in 2013. Avalon added two new ships in 2013 and a new route on the Yangtze River in China. Additionally, Tauck is adding two ships in 2014.

Though they each have their perks, river cruises and ocean cruises have many differences. You might prefer a river cruise if:

You value intimacy.

River cruises seldom have capacity for more than 200 passengers, and they might have as few as 120. Aside from allowing you to avoid the crowds and lines you might find on an ocean-traveling ship with 3,000 other passengers, river cruises with fewer than 200 folks aboard allow you the chance to socialize. In fact, they almost force socialization, as room service is rare and you share tables with others when you dine. You might even meet like-minded people with whom to explore!

You want a more cultured experience.

River cruises are often a bit more costly than ocean-going cruises, and they also don’t have room for the giant pools, water slides, rock-climbing walls and children’s play areas that appeal to families on ocean cruise ships. In fact, the boom in river cruising has been spurred on by older adults. It’s a quieter time – don’t expect casinos, either – but this is appealing to many people who are most interested in the sights, sounds and culture.

You want to spend more time on land.

On ocean cruise ships, you will often spend a few days at sea between ports, but many people enjoy this because the ocean cruise ship is like a floating party boat, with a myriad of exciting activities. But if you’re more interested in cultural attractions, architecture and the vibe of a foreign city, a river cruise is for you. The ships stop at a new port every day, so you’ll always have time to spend on land. Additionally, the scenery changes more frequently, and is often more exciting than spending days at sea!

You get seasick easily.

Thankfully, there are fewer waves on the rivers – if any – so people prone to seasickness will have smoother travels on a river cruise than an ocean-faring one!

You appreciate inclusive pricing.

Many river cruises are more inclusive than ocean ships. You pay more upfront, but oftentimes, shore excursions are included in pricing, which might be a guided tour of famous attractions or a walking tour of the town, though you’re welcome to venture out on your own. Also, the majority of river cruises offer free drinks and WiFi free of charge as well.

River cruises and on-land excursions are more likely to take you off the beaten path. Popular river cruises in Europe include the Rhine, which travels through the Netherlands, Germany, France and Switzerland; the Danube through Germany; and on France’s Seine River. China is popular for its Yangtze River cruises, and the Mississippi River in the U.S. is another popular spot for vacation getaways.