CruiseScenic Group, Uniworld and Viking report that demand for river cruises is steadily increasing, with passengers favouring longer itineraries.

Will river cruises make a splash in 2022?

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Uniworld is seeing a spike in bookings for the Amazon River in Peru and the Mekong river in running through Vietnam and Cambodia.
Uniworld is seeing a spike in bookings for the Amazon River in Peru and the Mekong river in running through Vietnam and Cambodia. Photo Credit: Uniworld

As river cruise lines look forward to a year with their full fleets back in the water, they are finding that, going into the third year of the pandemic, passengers' wanderlust has surged.

River brands seem unanimous in saying that guests are booking longer itineraries and more add-ons.

"We believe travellers are eager to return to international travel and are looking to extend their trips to maximise their time away," said Maggie Carbonell, vice president of marketing for Scenic Group, who said that Scenic is seeing a booking shift to 14 days from seven.

Ellen Bettridge, CEO of Uniworld, agreed, saying that the line is seeing "a spike in longer, back-to-back trip bookings and a rise in bucket-list trips." For Uniworld, those include sailings in the Peruvian Amazon and in Vietnam and Cambodia on the Mekong.

Richard Marnell, executive vice president of marketing at Viking, also cited interest in "farther abroad" sailings, such as Egypt and Southeast Asia, and longer itineraries, such as Viking's 15- and 23-day Europe sailings.

"These longer trips appeal to guests who are looking to maximise their time abroad and visit more regions in one seamless journey," he said.

Carbonell said the longer-cruise trend is also being driven by cruisers having spent almost two years working from home.

"With many Americans working remotely over the past two years, it's become easier to take a longer trip," she said.

River cruisers are so excited to travel again, Bettridge said, that when the line came up with a Mystery Cruise it sold out in less than 48 hours.

"We anticipate that all of these trends will continue as travellers are ready to make the most of their banked vacation days and really surprise and treat themselves," she said.

Other trends Uniworld is seeing include a rise in solo travellers and rail travel, with the line saying its cruise-and-rail combo itineraries are in "very high demand".

River cruisers not yet ready to travel internationally are exhibiting the same booking habits for domestic river sailings.

David Luxeder, director of marketing for American Cruise Lines, said the brand is experiencing higher demand for longer cruises as well as more add-on land excursions. In response, the company has added more pre- and post-cruise packages and extended its land adventures.

Bookings are also being driven by travellers who not only want to stay domestic and cruise "closer to home," Luxeder said, but who are taking advantage of the line's many drive-to embarkation ports.

Marnell also cited "strong interest" for Viking's first Mississippi River sailings, set to launch in July.

Source: Travel Weekly

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