Jeri Clausing
Jeri Clausing

With many travelers expected to remain closer to home until later this year, those thinking about European and exotic river cruises for 2022 may want to plan ahead.

River cruises in normal times have fairly lengthy booking windows. And those have only increased as travelers, many of whom are trying to reschedule canceled 2019 sailings, continue to push back resumption of their international travel until vaccination programs and other advances against the pandemic take hold.

According to CruiseCompete Cruise Trends data from 2020, the average number of days between the date river cruises were booked and the date they sail was 390. That's over 100 days longer than in 2019 and 2018, which had booking windows of 255 days and 288 days, respectively.

Strong demand for 2022 prompted many operators to open bookings earlier than usual. And companies say sailings for the end of 2021 and into 2022 are starting to fill up.

"One interesting element of this time is that for many of our patrons, their dreams are deferred but not canceled," Tauck president Dan Mahar said.

At Avalon Waterways, managing director Pamela Hoffee says 2022 sales are up 60% compared with a year ago, which was still pre-pandemic.

That, she said, "leaves us feeling very optimistic about the near future of small-ship cruising.

"And while no cruise sailings are completely sold out at this point, Danube cruises featuring Oberammergau for 2022 are very close. To help give us, and our travelers, additional capacity for demand, we added new Rhine Oberammergau cruises for 2022. And, of course, both tulip time and Christmas sailings are filling quickly. They're always extremely popular  that hasn't changed."

Like Oberammergau cruises, Mahar said he expects to see 2022 sailings featuring Floriade to sell out this year. Floriade is an international exhibition and garden festival, held every 10 years in the Netherlands.

The Middle East and Egypt are also popular destinations for 2022, including Nile river cruise packages, operators say. Both Avalon and AmaWaterways plan to return to the Nile this year.

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