Sign Up for Our Monthly River Cruise Newsletter
There is great optimism that European river cruising will rebound sooner than later, but one remaining hurdle outside the segment must still be considered for it to return en masse: international flights.
Even if all river cruise travel could technically start back up tomorrow, Americans may be unable to immediately access those waterways without airlift. Whether flights will be open to international travelers will largely be dependent on each arrival country’s permission for them to visit, and there are many nations to be considered in that equation.
Think of the embarkation and disembarkation cities that are frequented on European river routes, from Amsterdam to Budapest and all those in between. There is no doubt that the Netherlands and Hungary, respectively, will eventually open again to visitors. But there’s no guarantee that all 10 countries along the Danube River, for instance, will simultaneously accept foreigners.
So, it will be important for advisors to keep an eye on the individual nations along any given itinerary to see which are first available to not only river cruising but also the international air travel that supports each route.
The same predicament is true for ocean cruises scheduled abroad, but seagoing cruise ships have the luxury of redeployment as an option. Should one country be off-limits, lines can send their fleets to whichever coasts they are allowed. Unfortunately, riverboats are comparatively landlocked and cannot sail far beyond their originally intended regions.
Unless several European Union countries along the rivers accept foreign visitors all at once, chances are that regional river cruising will be more reliant on domestic travelers — at least to start.
Of course, if travelers cannot make it to Europe, America has its own set of rivers to be explored — from the Mississippi River to the Columbia River and the Snake River. And American Cruise Lines and American Queen Steamboat Company will be ready to offer clients regional alternatives in the short term.
RELATED: What to Know About Mississippi River Cruising
Over time, the volume of air travel and river cruising will ramp up to facilitate European waterways, but it will likely happen in phases based on the gradual reopening of destinations. Just as states in our union are mostly easing up on lockdowns individually, European countries are welcoming back visitors in waves.
To a degree, neighboring countries will hopefully open in unison permitting the length of an itinerary to operate; however, some modifications should be expected, especially those scheduled to embark on longer routes with ports in more nations.
Luckily, there is still plenty to plan for all around the world. European river cruise lines such as Avalon Waterways are already unveiling 2021 itineraries should clients be interested in trips in the long term.