Cruise operators bet big on European river cruises

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Cruise operators bet big on European river cruises

The cruise industry is betting big on river cruises, with at least 18 new vessels due to set sail this year - double the number of new ocean-going vesselsi.

According to industry reports, 2016 will be the second consecutive year in which river cruise operators grew their collective fleet by more than 10 percentii.

Beautiful Budapest, a popular Danube River destination.

Operators see river cruising as a growing market, compared to the more established ocean cruising marketiii, and seasoned cruisers say the two are "entirely different experiences".

While ocean cruise liners tend to be seen as destinations in themselves, river cruise vessels are far smaller, with itineraries that focus more on land-based activities and sceneryiv.

Every stateroom on a river cruise ship comes with a window or balcony , and communal areas often feature floor-to-ceiling glass windows so passengers can enjoy the viewvi,vii.

In addition to food and beverages being included in river cruise prices, passengers can typically also expect on-shore activities such as guided city tours, concerts, wine tasting, and a growing range of unique excursions.

For example, Australian cruise ship operator APT takes passengers on private day trips on the "Majestic Imperator", an historic, Habsburg-era train that travels between Austria and Germanyviii,ix.

Destinations along Europe's rivers

Europe is by far the most popular river cruising region, attracting almost nine in ten of the sector's Australian passengers in 2014x.

Cruises typically range from 7 to 24 nights in lengthxi, and travel past mountains, wineries, abbeys, castles and cities steeped in history along the Rhine, Rhône, Seine, Maas, Moselle, Douro and Danubexii.

The Danube, the longest river in the EU region, flows eastwards through 10 countries, from the Black Forest in Germany through Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, and Ukraine before emptying into the Black Sea.

Itineraries along the Danube often include stops in the romantic cities of Vienna and Budapest. Danube cruises run year-round and some operators also offer Christmas market cruises that give passengers their fill of gingerbread, mulled wine, and Christmas cheer during the months of November and Decemberxiii.

Seine river cruises tend to focus on Paris and traverse much of northern France, with some cruises combining with a high-speed train to take you to Londonxiv, while the Rhone carries cruise passengers through the heart of France's wine country and beautiful Provence before ending at the Mediterraneanxv.

Itineraries often include guided walks in pretty mediaeval villages and picture-perfect views of fairytale castles.

The Rhine, meanwhile, begins in the Swiss Alps and traverses Switzerland, Germany, France and the Netherlands before emptying into the North Sea. It's an incredibly popular route: there are some 300 riverboat departures monthly along the Rhine in the summerxvi.

Itineraries along the Rhine often include guided walks in pretty mediaeval villages, wine tours and picture-perfect views of fairytale castles, although experts warn that the Rhine is a busy main artery through Europe and also has more industrial sections like the area around Basel, for examplexiv.

i CLIA 2016, State of the Cruise Industry Outlook, viewed 22 February 2016,

ii Wallace L 2015, 'High water mark for river cruising',, 27 March 2015, viewed 22 February 2016,

iii Mirror 2014, 'Ocean cruising vs river cruising: The top five benefits of each', 13 March 2014, viewed 22 February 2016,

iv Ward D 2014, 'Why take a river cruise?', 7 July 2014, viewed 22 February 2016,

v River Cruise Advisor, 'Staterooms: River Cruise Ships vs Cruise Ships', viewed 28 February 2016,

vi Viking River Cruises, The Viking Longships viewed 28 February 2016,

vii Avalon Waterways, 2016, Contemporary Design: Passion for the details, viewed 28 February 2016,

viii Jepson T 2016, 'Reinventing the cruise holiday',, 19 February 2016, viewed 22 February 2016,

ix Crisp B 2014, 'On board the Majestic Imperator – the fast track to travelling like royalty',, 28 July 2014, viewed 28 February 2016,

x CLIA 2015, Cruise industry market report: Australia 2014, viewed 22 February 2016,

xi Clean cruising, 2015, Europe – River cruises, viewed 22 February 2016,

xii Tauck, European river cruises, viewed 22 February 2016,

xiii Asp K, 'Danube River Cruise Basics',, viewed 28 February 2016,

xiv Avalon Waterways, Seine river cruises, viewed 28 February 2016,

xv Harding M, 'Rhone River Cruise Basics',, viewed 28 February 2016,

xvi Harding M, Rhine River Cruise Basics,, viewed 28 February 2016,