The river cruise industry is trying to change it's image from old slow boat your grandparents used to take to a more experiential, immersive experience for a younger generation.
"Customers want more authentic experiences these days," says Ellen Bettridge.
Not just the 24-hour buffet. (Thank goodness for that.)
We sat down with Bettridge to get a better sense of how they are evolving. Uniworld has been in the river cruise industry since 1976 and Bettridge has spent her entire career in travel so she gets how the industry has changed.
"We are all time-starved...when you go on vacation it better be good," says Bettridge.
So everyone is scrambling. Competitors like Viking River Cruises, Carnival (CCL) - Get Report , Royal Caribbean (RCL) - Get Report and Norwegian Cruise Line (NCLH) - Get Report are all struggling to attract new, younger customers.
But the river cruise industry is hold its own:
- Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) reports that the river cruise industry has 217 ships in 2018, a 7.4% growth from 2017 and 18% growth from 2016.
- CLIA also reports that 8% of millennials chose "river cruises" as their favorite vacation type, and the percent of millennials who "definitely will" book a cruise (river or ocean) for their next trip increased from 63% to 70% in 2018.
- Seatrade Europe reported more than 1.36M passengers experienced European river cruises in 2016, up 2.7% from the previous year, with 39% of guests from the U.S. and Canada.
- The 2018 Luxe Report from Virtuoso ranks river cruising third among the top five travel trends for the year ahead.
But Uniworld is consciously focusing on getting millenials on the rivers with U by Uniworld, cruises that have everything from mixology classes to a silent disco, to paint and wine on the deck.
So listen in as Bettridge talks about the industry is changing and where the hot places to take a river cruise are right now.