One of the first signs of spring for travel and cruise lovers like me… isn’t the first tulip or robin. It’s the return of river cruising in Europe.
This year especially celebrates a fresh new season, after two pandemic years when many people weren’t traveling to Europe and can’t wait now to return to their favorite European memories and make new ones.
Just before the start of the season, I had the chance to meet with one of the founders of the family-owned river cruise line, AmaWaterways.
Kristin Karst (pictured top, second from left) is the co-founder and executive vice president of the company, and her top-level, insider insights are invaluable to travelers thinking about Europe, especially this year.
By: Lynn Elmhirst, cruise expert and producer/ host of BestTrip TV
2022 River Cruise Trends That May Surprise You
Who’s New to River Cruise: Kristin says AmaWaterways is seeing a lot of guests who have ocean cruised but not river cruised. Although partly driven by a quest for new travel experiences, she says in the post-pandemic travel world she sees ocean cruise guests looking to river ships for the advantages of “smaller ship experiences.”
That might not surprise you – but this might. AmaWaterways is also seeing an influx of river cruise bookings coming from travelers who previously traveled independently or by coach tours. She cites the “less stressful” experience of river cruising where everything is taken care of for guests by river cruises as a draw for independent travelers, and “more personalized” experiences getting into the heart of a destination for guests who have previously traveled by busy roads on crowded streets.
Longer cruises: Many people haven’t traveled for a couple of years, and that means they are making up for lost time and are unwilling to delay bucket list trips, says Kristin. That’s why they’re seeing people opting to travel longer. And in terms of river cruises, that means back-to-back cruises on different rivers or river segments.
To meet that demand, the company a few months ago introduced ‘7-River Cruises’ that take the same group of guests together on weeks-long journeys from one river to another. It’s a river cruise innovation that feels a lot like extended ocean cruise Grand Voyages.
Two other big trends for river cruise travel the company is focusing on are also about bringing people together: food and wine experiences, and also solo travel.
Tips for River Cruise Travelers in 2022
Kristin advises travelers with cruise credits burning a hole in their pockets to use them now to lock in travel. It doesn’t have to be this year, it could be for travel in 2023. But then you’ll know you have a spot booked.
Why? River cruising appetites are at an all time high. 2022 is already a very busy year for AmaWaterways, and 2023 is booking up fast. If you have a special itinerary, specific date or other specific river cruise wishes, you need to lock that in quickly with your travel advisor to avoid disappointment.
We discussed the return to travel and river cruising, and how every person has a different comfort level to accompany their personal choice to travel.
Some guests are still intimidated by new travel protocols, and Kristin made a couple of excellent points:
· One of the benefits of working with a travel advisor and a river cruise company is that travelers aren’t on their own before or during their trip trying to figure out how to navigate new processes they maybe aren’t familiar with yet.
· Plus, as people are choosing longer trips (see trends above), travelers who want to minimize the different protocols can opt for back-to-back cruises in a single country. There are river cruises on a number of rivers in France for example, and guests can easily go from one to another by the country’s high speed train system. And once you’re in France, you don’t have to worry about any new protocols.
Hottest River Cruise Trips in 2022
I asked Kristin which AmaWaterways river cruise itineraries are the hottest tickets this year. Here’s where travelers are looking at wait lists for 2022 – and where they should get booked now to make sure they get there in 2023.
Douro River, Portugal: AmaWaterways has two ships on the Douro river in Portugal, it’s in such high demand. Many seasoned river cruise travelers are looking for something ‘new’ and the sunny, wine destination is proving a big hit, especially with cruise extensions in Spain.
The Nile in Egypt: AmaWaterways is now sailing in Egypt, with a new, 72-guest ship, the AmaDahlia. The 7-night cruise along the Nile through Egypt’s ancient history is enhanced by 4 nights in Cairo so guests get to experience this fascinating destination, the last remaining ancient World Wonder of the Great Pyramids and Sphinx, and modern Egyptian hospitality.
Christmas Market Cruises: Europe’s Christmas markets perfectly capture the spirit of the season every year, but Kristin says AmaWaterways is especially seeing multi-generation family groups booking river cruises this year to make up for time not spent together over the past two years.
Floriade, the Netherlands: Once every decade, the world’s biggest horticultural festival (dubbed the ‘World’s Fair of Flowers’) makes the Netherlands an even more ‘can’t miss’ destination – and it’s happening in 2022. A number of AmaWaterways itineraries include Floriade, which runs nearly the entire spring-to-fall river cruise season. This is one you can’t put off til 2023, so if Floriade is on your travel bucket list, Kristin recommends you don’t wait to talk to your travel advisor about availability.
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Images courtesy of AmaWaterways
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