PENNINGTON, N.J., May 14, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- With over 30 new ships launching this year, 2014 is proving to be one of the biggest years to date for the river cruise market. Cruise lines continue to expand their fleets, and interest in river cruising is strong according to recent surveys* from Cruise Critic®, the world's largest cruise website. Over 60 percent of those polled report that they would love to try a river cruise, and a majority say that they're most enticed by the chance to try a new experience and explore the inland itineraries offered.
"The river cruise market has seen steady growth over the past few years, but 2014 is surely one of the most exciting years yet," says Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor-in-chief of Cruise Critic. "Along with a significant growth in inventory, ship designs and amenities are evolving to reflect the more diverse group of passengers that lines are targeting – including experienced travelers who enjoy more active and immersive experiences."
With over half of this year's new ships already launched, Cruise Critic's editors share the top river trends that have emerged to date:
- Cafe Culture Comes Aboard – Increased Alfresco Dining Options: A number of lines are incorporating alfresco dining into new ship designs. Uniworld's S.S. Antoinette offers the industry's first "pop up" restaurant in L'Orangerie; Viking River's Aquavit Terrace features indoor/outdoor dining at all meals; and on Emerald Waterways, the new Emerald Sky offers an outdoor grill.
- Live Like the Locals - More Immersive Shore Excursions: Typically, river lines include most shore excursions in the cost of the fare, but lines are now adding more unique, optional offerings – usually at an added cost. Cruisers can go truffle hunting on a Uniworld Rhone River cruise, visit a cognac house and blend a personal bottle on a Viking River Bordeaux sailing, or take a hands-on cooking class in a local restaurant with AmaWaterways.
- Spotlight on Bordeaux - New Itineraries in France: France's river cruise itineraries have typically been along the Rhone and Seine, but lines are now expanding their itinerary options into Bordeaux – both Uniworld and Viking River are offering cruises in the region, and Scenic and Avalon will also offer Bordeaux sailings in 2015.
- Dwelling Comfort - Spacious Cabins: River ships as a whole are generally much smaller than most ocean-going vessels, but river lines are paying special attention to make cabins as spacious as possible. Avalon's "Suite Ships" offer cabins that are about 15 percent larger than standard river cabins, with angled walls and floor-length windows; Tauck has eliminated its "aquarium class" to build multi-level rooms; and Luftner's Amadeus is planning to reduce capacity to increase cabin size on its new vessel, due out in 2015.