The Insider: Andy Harmer on river cruises - Cruise International

The Insider: Andy Harmer on river cruises

By Cruise International | 22 Jul 2019

Andy Harmer, senior vice-president membership and director CLIA UK & Ireland, discusses why the demand for river cruises is on the up.


River cruising continues to grow in appeal among Brits as more of us begin to recognise the opportunity it offers to explore new and exciting destinations. In fact, recently released figures from CLIA show that the number of river cruises taken by British and Irish passengers in 2018 rose by 10.4 per cent. This adds up to a grand total of 232,300 river cruises.

The steady increase in passenger numbers can be attributed to the incredible experiences a river cruise can offer. One third of all river ships have been built within the past 10 years, with more than 10 having entered the market in 2018 and eight more set to launch this year. This means most river cruise ships are contemporary, luxurious and have plenty of facilities to offer, such as spas, pools and varied dining options. 

Such a fleet attracts the modern-day traveller, who seeks to explore the world in comfort and style. River cruises also offer fantastic itineraries, taking guests right into the heart of a destination and offering the chance to explore places where ocean ships simply cannot go. 

Take North America and Africa, for example. The Mississippi and its tributaries and the Nile respectively experienced the most growth in 2018. This is understandable when you consider that river cruises in these two regions offer experiences that no other holiday option can rival; guests can sail past historic monuments in iconic destinations from the comfort of a modern and well-equipped ship while only having to unpack once.

Of course, European rivers remain the most popular for British passengers, and with so many waterways to choose from, the continent is a fantastic place to start for those considering a river cruise for the first time. Central Europe’s Danube overtook Western Europe’s Rhine last year to become the most popular. But together, these rivers and their tributaries accounted for 58 per cent of all UK passenger numbers. Southern Europe’s Douro came in as
the third most popular river.

Much has changed in the river cruise world over recent years, but continued growth and innovation have been constants. As cruise lines push the boundaries of what is available both on board and ashore, creating entirely new experiences, there truly has never been a better time to take a river cruise. 

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