Experienced cruisers who have more time to spare may consider the Asia market. // © 2014 Thinkstock
Outside Europe, river cruising divides along the lines of the very familiar and the very mysterious.
The cruise experience is different on rivers outside of Europe, and so are the cruisers. In Asia and on the Amazon, for example, travel agents find that clients who haven’t cruised previously may embrace the idea of cruising in regions that would be daunting to explore on land.
Cruising the U.S.
In the U.S., there is ease and the comfort of being on home ground, with river cruises on the Mississippi, the Ohio and other great inland rivers, plus rivers in the Pacific Northwest and Florida. Agents also report that a mild case of guilt prompts clients to cruise in the U.S. if they have spent much more time abroad than exploring their own country. What’s more, older cruisers and those in more fragile health see the proximity to familiar medical help as a plus on a U.S. river cruise.
Agents describe the Mississippi from Minnesota to New Orleans as an emerging market, tending to attract the oldest demographic of cruisers, along with Civil War buffs.
“A year ago, we didn’t include it in our portfolio, but it is growing,” said Rick Kaplan, president of Premier River Cruises in Los Angeles.
While most agents regard the river cruise product in the Pacific Northwest as excellent, they feel that lack of advertising has rendered the region almost invisible to consumers and thus a difficult sell. Several agents noted that the visibility factor in the region is likely to change significantly if Viking River Cruises enters the market.
Cruising Asia and South America
Interest in cruising the rivers of Asia and South America is high among experienced cruisers who have ample time. They also offer travel agents the opportunity to sell land extensions. Kaplan advises clients headed to the Mekong Delta to consider a land extension.
“If they are going to fly that far, they should allocate 14 to 16 days minimum and add a longer exploration to their seven-day cruise,” Kaplan said. “We also encourage them to invest time and money in a two-day land stay before the cruise to adjust so they can enjoy the cruise fully.”
AmaWaterways is telling travelers considering a cruise on the Irrawaddy River that now is the time to see traditional culture in the rapidly changing society of Myanmar, and Uniworld has announced its plans to take guests inland to experience the colorful cultural rituals of people who live along the Ganges.
Susan Reder, managing partner of Frosch Classic Cruise & Travel in Woodland Hills, Calif., also sees river cruising in Asia and South America trending with her clients. She entices them via videos to consider a river cruise in these regions. She also is excited about Uniworld‘s new river cruises in India and pleased to see that they are teaming up with the best hotels.
“Often, the river lines don’t match up the cruise with sufficient quality hotels,” Reder commented.
Travel agents noted that river cruises in the Americas, Asia and South America may be the perfect product to bring new clients to cruising as well as a great fit for clients who have cruised Europe’s rivers and are looking for new destinations.