PHOTO: River Cruises are still big, but experienced cruises may be looking further than the Danube, seen above. (Photo courtesy of Thinkstock)
A few weeks ago, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) released their 2017 State of the Cruise Industry Outlook, which showed that there will be an increase in cruise travel to continue throughout 2017, with an estimated 25.3 million passengers expected to sail in 2017, a strong surge from 15.8 million just 10 years prior (back in 2007).
When it comes to river cruising, one of the most popular forms of cruising lately, CLIA cruise line members currently deploy 184 river cruise ships with 13 new river cruise ships on order for 2017, an increase of about 7 percent.
“One trend we are seeing is an increase in exotic river cruising,” said Greg Geronemus, the co-CEO of smarTours. “River cruising is becoming an increasingly developed and mature market, so travelers are now looking for more exotic river cruise sailings/itineraries. With the river cruise boom over the last decade, there are a lot of travelers who have already done the Blue Danube and the Rhine, and now they're looking to push the envelope a bit. This is translating into more and more interest in cruises in Russia, despite the challenging headlines, and less mainstream parts of the Danube River like the Southern Danube. Another popular and different river cruise is the China & Yangtze River Cruise.”
According to the Adventure Travel Trade Association, adventure travel is growing at a record pace and CLIA is reporting that cruise expeditions are seeing the impact.
Andrea Kreitner of Muscatine Travel said that she has been selling a lot of European River cruises for 2017. “What makes this a fantastic deal is that they are also including airfare, so that expense is not on top of the cruise price,” said Kreitner.
CLIA is forecasting that travel agents, such as Kreitner, will continue to be the matchmakers between travelers and cruise lines in 2017.
Cruise travelers are also embracing specialty dining and will continue to consider cruise dining experiences based upon celebrity chefs. This year, several cruise lines feature restaurants and dishes created by famous chefs including Guy Fieri, Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa and Geoffrey Zakarian.
When it comes to luxury cruising, Cyril Lemaire, a representative of the Tenerife Bureau of Tourism, said that the demand for luxury small ship cruising will continue to rise. “New destinations that were previously not known to Americans will start to surface, and consolidation in the small ship cruise line industry will start to pick up,” said Lemaire.
Fortunately for agents, the study showed exactly that -- that there is supposed to be a higher amount of cruise bookings and agents should see an increase in sales from the previous year. According to Samarah Meil of Amarillo Travel, cruisers are booking their vacations earlier too.
“In 2015 and in 2016 we started seeing people book up to 18 months in advance,” said Meil. “People are willing to splurge if they have time to pay the trip out. I find we are seeing a lot more multi-generational families go together, which is great!”