River cruising still riding high

Image result for river cruise ships

After the challenges the river cruise industry faced in 2016, it was hard to tell whether the once-booming travel style had lost its momentum entirely or was merely suffering a temporary setback.

Towards the end of last year, however, it appeared river cruising was on the rebound, with the lines reporting a robust return of Europe bookings – a trend that appears to have continued into early 2017.

But one indicator that river cruising really never lost its groove is an annual Travel Leaders Group survey ranking European river cruises as the top international luxury “destination” outside North America being booked by affluent travelers for 2017.

Indeed, river cruises beat out Italy, Mediterranean cruises, Australia, France, England, Baltic cruises, Ireland and Bora Bora for the top spot. River cruises also ranked No. 1 for lead luxury travel destination in this same survey last year. So despite a “challenging” 2016, river cruising doesn’t appear to have slipped in comparison to other vacation options.

Not only that, but according to the 1,689 U.S.-based travel agents who responded to the Travel Leaders Group survey, their upscale river cruise business wasn’t hit all that hard in 2016. Some 36% of Travel Leaders agents reported an increase in luxury river cruise bookings in 2016 compared to 2015, and 46% said their luxe river business was on par with 2015.

So, for those wondering if the river cruise boom is still on, there is some evidence suggesting that it never really was off.

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AmaWaterways introduces enhanced hiking, biking excursions

AmaWaterways is beefing up its biking and hiking tour options for its 2016 Europe river cruises, in response to customer demand.

“Over the past two seasons, we have seen steadily increasing demand from our passengers for more active excursions,” Kristin Karst, executive vice president and co-owner of AmaWaterways, said in a release. “While we have always maintained a commitment to healthy and active travel, we decided to start the New Year by kicking it up a notch.”

The company introduced an array of new tours that will debut in the upcoming season. AmaWaterways has been carrying a fleet of bicycles onboard its vessels for passengers to use for several years now, but for 2016 it is introducing several new escorted bike tours. They include:

  • A tour of the historic waterfront town of Willemstad, the Netherlands;
  • Cycling along the Sava River and through Kalemegdan Park in Belgrade, Serbia;
  • A ride through the Belgian town of Antwerp;
  • Tours of the Wachau Valley along the Danube;
  • A ride through the historic town of Bamberg, Germany;
  • A tour along the Inn River in Passau, Germany

Additionally, in 2016, there will be new hiking tours in 12 port cities. They include:

  • A hike to the castle ruins in Durnstein, Austria, which includes two wine tasting options;
  • A hike up Fourviere Hill in Lyon, France;
  • A Passau Castle hike in Passau, Germany;
  • A hike up Mount Pipet in Vienna, Austria;
  • A hike to Chateau Gaillard in Les Andelys, France;
  • A hike to the Dom Luis Bridge, Old Harbor Quarter and the cathedral in Porto, Portugal

The new guided biking and hiking tours are included in the cruise fare in addition to AmaWaterways’ standard excursions that are often offered at a variety of paces, including gentle, regular and active.

Last year, AmaWaterways developed a partnership with tour operator Backroads to create a series of river cruises that include Backroads-led biking, walking and hiking excursions, which will have their first departures this year. More information about the Backroads Danube river cruise departures can be found on the Backroads website.