Last updated: 12:30 PM ET, Thu July 28 2016

What Other Ocean Cruise Companies Could Enter the River Market?

Cruise Line & Cruise Ship | Crystal Cruises | Jason Leppert | July 28, 2016

What Other Ocean Cruise Companies Could Enter the River Market?

 Photo courtesy of Crystal River Cruises 

Could ocean cruise companies be lining up to get into the river cruising market?

River cruising has seen such exponential growth over the last several years that Viking Cruises’ success has afforded it the opportunity to expand into the ocean segment. Recognizing the great river potential, Crystal Cruises is the first ocean line to make the trek in reverse.

Might others follow suit?

To put things in perspective, the ubiquitous Viking River Cruises brand has expanded to over 60 riverboats, more than 40 of which are its acclaimed Longships christened within the last four years. Now Viking Cruises has two Viking Ocean Cruises ships with at least another four on the way.

Crystal Cruises is similarly expanding in the other direction – or rather in all directions given its unprecedented growth in many markets – with its own Crystal River Cruises, which launched earlier this month with the redesigned Crystal Mozart. It next has six newly-built river-yachts on the way beginning in summer 2017.

 READ MORE: Crystal River Cruises Launches with Christening of Crystal Mozart 

Meanwhile, Adventures by Disney has teamed up with AmaWaterways to offer family-friendly river cruises in Europe. The program has proven to be so popular that the company has added additional charter dates. Just as the Disney Cruise Line emerged after a partnership between Disney and Premier Cruise Line, one must wonder if the river endeavor is the company testing the waters before launching its own vessels. Its early success certainly foreshadows the emergence of a Disney River Cruise Line, perhaps after Disney has finished building its upcoming pair of ocean ships in 2021 and 2023.

Other companies with the wherewithal to throw their hat in the ring are the big three: Carnival Corporation, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Limited and Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited. As U.S.-based companies, any of these might even choose to start up on American rather than European rivers. After all, Viking River Cruises has its own plans to soon start up on the Mississippi, so there’s definitely a market domestically.

Individually, Carnival Corp. recently introduced its 10th ocean brand with Fathom, so it’s not farfetched to think that it could start another on the river or expand an existing one in such service. It could potentially deploy its Seabourn Cruise Line to compete with Crystal’s luxury efforts or another entirely like Princess Cruises which is also internationally recognized.

 READ MORE: River Cruising Sets Sail for Millennials 

Like Disney, Royal Caribbean could easily send Celebrity Cruises on the narrower waterways as it too has chartered Amras Cruises voyages, although those packages are not currently continuing, maybe because that is its very plan. Celebrity is certainly in a position to do so as the line is also expanding its small ship Galapagos fleet currently.

With its loose relation to Crystal Cruises through the Genting Group, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Limited is less likely to enter the fray, at least not with its Regent Seven Seas Cruises luxury line. As an upscale brand comparable to Viking Ocean Cruises, Oceania Cruises might, however, decide to try, but all of this is merely speculative at this point.

If there is one independent wild card in the industry that might surprise by starting up in the river market, it's MSC Cruises. Just when it seems that it can’t build any more ships at a time, the privately owned company orders more, so it could very well happen that it builds riverboats in the future as well.

Either way, it stands for reason that Crystal Cruises will not be the last ocean cruise line to cast off down the river.


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