Sea cruises hot? River cruises are steaming!
AMSTERDAM _ Sea and river cruises are tossing Amsterdam a welcome lifeline in lean times. In 2012, the Dutch capital recorded 144 visits by sea-going cruise ships and 1,382 by river cruise ships _ numbers expected to jump to 200 and 1,500, respectively, in 2013. Double digit growth and the outlook is sunny.
Global cruising has seen growth of 7% a year since 1980, says Christine Duffy, president of Cruise Lines International Association. In 2012, the Netherlands recorded 110.000 cruise passenger, up 12%. “River cruising is the fastest growing sector of the travel business,” says Duffy. “Over the past 5 years, river cruises have seen an impressive 10% increase in demand.” To meet demand, there is a building binge in river cruise vessels.
Los Angeles-based Viking River Cruises _ which runs scores of vessels on the rivers of Europe, Asia and Egypt _ christened 10 ‘Viking Longships’ in a single day in March, 2012: 4 in Amsterdam, 6 in Rostock, Germany. By 2014, it will have added 12 more. They will serve 6 European routes, half going to and from Amsterdam: “Tulips & Windmills” (10 days, Amsterdam-Antwerp-Amsterdam); the “Grand European Tour” (15 days, Amsterdam-Budapest); and the “Rhine Getaway” (8 days, Amsterdam-Basel).
Rivals (Avalon, Grand Circle and Uniworld) are following suit. The river cruising sector assures this will not duplicate the sort of nightmare scene of vast ocean-going cruise ships dwarfing tiny Caribbean or Mediterranean ports. How not? For one thing, says the industry, river cruisers hold on average 140 guests. If 5 dock in Amsterdam, that would be 600 passengers which is less intrusive than the 5 cruise ships that can tie up at Skagway, Alaska. They bring 15,000 visitors to a town which has a population of 1,000.
Still, Amsterdam Cruise Port sees a downside to the rapid growth in cruising. “It means that in the summer months we start to see the limits of available docking space, especially for the biggest river cruise ships, those of 135 meter,” the nonprofit industry group said in a recent news release.