If you build them, where will they all park? That is the dilemma facing river cruise lines in Europe, where nonstop shipbuilding is creating a bit of a logjam in the docks.
Anyone who has taken a river cruise through Europe has probably already experienced the phenomenon of rafting, whereby river cruise ships are forced to dock side by side, forcing passengers to walk through or sometimes up and over other river cruise ships to embark and disembark.
River cruise lines are well aware of the problem and are working with towns and cities along Europe’s inland waterways to improve the situation. Part of the challenge is that it’s up to the municipalities, with their individual motives and budgets, to decide whether and how they are going to enhance their river cruise ports.
So, river cruise companies are finding that communication and honing relationships with the towns along Europe’s banks is an increasingly important part of what they do.
“That’s on our list of things that we can do, certainly going forward,” said Patrick Clark, managing director of Avalon Waterways.
He said that Avalon is working to ensure that river cruise passengers have more opportunities to spend money ashore and is trying to find more ways to contribute to local economies, such as buying food and produce from the towns and villages the company’s river cruise ships stop in.
In turn, Avalon and all the other river cruise lines are hoping those towns and villages will see the benefits river cruising can bring to their economies and will in turn invest in bigger and better docking facilities.
Indeed, many of the riverside cities of Europe are already doing so, according to Helge Grammerstorf, president of IG River Cruise, an association of river cruise lines based in Basel, Switzerland.
Ultimately, how the docks in cities large and small handle the influx of river cruise ships tying up on their banks in the coming years will be critical to the successful development and evolution of the European river cruising experience.