Michelle Baran
Michelle Baran

InsightFrom the early onset of the river cruise boom, river cruise lines were convinced there were opportunities to expand their demographic beyond retirees. And while the baby boomer bunch, with their covetable time and money, certainly still represent the biggest chunk of business, river cruising continues to gain traction with younger travelers and families.

For 2015, Tauck increased its Tauck Bridges family river cruise offerings by about 20%, offering an entirely new Bridges program on the Rhine, sailing from Amsterdam to Basel.

“Those sold out a long time ago,” said Katherine Bonner, vice president of river and small-ship cruising for Tauck, about the growing demand for family departures. “Families have discovered that river cruising is a great way to bring the kids to Europe, and you can introduce them to several different cultures and countries.”MichelleBaran

Tauck’s suggested minimum age for children on its family departures is 8 years of age, and the enforced minimum age is 5. But Bonner said the “sweet spot” is really ages 10 to 14.

And other operators are making their river cruises more kid-friendly too. Aqua Expeditions’ newly launched Aqua Mekong in Southeast Asia is full of family-friendly amenities such as adjoining staterooms and a game room with foosball.

Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection too has a long-standing family program, a tradition that continues into 2015 with three itineraries and five departures centered around the holiday and summer vacation times.

Beyond families, a growing emphasis on more active itineraries and amenities such as bikes on board has also indicated a mounting interest from younger travelers in the river cruise product.

AmaWaterways noted that bicycle tourism has continued to gain in popularity among more adventurous travelers, and consequently the river cruise line will be incorporating two to three guided bike tours per week on its itineraries.

This younger river cruising set wants more options, as well. And river cruise lines are responding in kind.

“Not surprisingly, given what we talked about with the change in who is traveling, [passengers are] looking for more choice, especially of excursions,” said Tauck’s Bonner. “So we’re trying to offer that more active option, the biking options, the hiking options, as well as in certain ports, offering them something different. That has been one of our real focuses.”

Avalon Waterways said it too is putting a continued emphasis on giving travelers more options.

“We have added more choice to the experience, from dining to excursions,” said Avalon Managing Director Patrick Clark. For instance, over the last few years, Avalon has invested in upgrading its dining and wine experience.

It would appear that the stereotype about river cruises being a product predominantly for the elderly has rapidly lost its luster.


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