River cruising is an amazing way to travel, no question. As more boomers adopt this easy and accessible travel style, the industry is bending over backward to appeal to a more diverse market.
Keep It Moving
A decade ago, operators tried to accommodate variable interest in physical activity by splitting city tours into two groups for fast or slow walkers. Today, as customers trend a little bit younger and a lot more active, options are changing. Avalon has created an active tour for 2017, and Vantage Travel has bicycles on board for cruisers to take ashore for both guided and independent exploration.
AmaWaterways and Uniworld are taking the cycling trend even further with formal partnerships with Backroads and Butterfield & Robinson, respectively. In both cases, the land operators are chartering dates from the cruise lines to take advantage of shipboard amenities without sacrificing activity.
Bring the Family!
The second major shift is the addition of family-oriented programming. With multigenerational travel on the rise, river cruising has to satisfy the needs of parents and grandparents alike. AmaWaterways again put a stake in the ground with its Adventures by Disney partnership and redesigned ships. In the past, a date or two might be set aside to “allow” children during typical school vacation periods. But operators, like Disney, have well developed youth-oriented activities, excursions, and guides to engage children and ensure happy families.
Whether life-long travelers have already seen a lot of Europe, or they’re just waiting until they’re a little older and looking for a slower pace, today’s river cruisers want exotic destinations without the rigors of daily travel.
River cruises are the most comfortable and comprehensive ways to see places like Myanmar, Cambodia, and life along India’s Ganges. The destinations are not without their challenges (between the local climate and infrastructure), but running most of the tour from a river boat gives operators much more control over the traveler experience. That ensures a better trip for them, and you.
The great news is that by expanding their offerings—by destination and design—river cruise lines will continue to attract boomers and beyond.
Christel Shea (www.tourmatters.com)
May 6, 2016