At the recent Seatrade Europe meet in Hamburg, the European cruise and river trade industry threw the spotlight on a booming potential market for cruising, thereby inviting new job opportunities for cruise ship chefs and other employees on board.
Since the beginning of civilisation, habitation proliferated on banks of rivers, so towns and villages with history are almost always connected with river cruises, offering a look into quaint settings and interior areas most often off the tourist map.
River cruising is finding more and more takers, particularly among the younger population who prefer more intimate settings and more shore-based activities. Cruise Line International Association stated that there are currently 184 river cruise ships, with 13 new ships hitting the waters this year and 18 more on the way. For 2018, 26 more ships have been ordered.
Strong river cruise zones are Europe and Asia, taking great advantage of the maze of waterways available. Some of the most popular river cruises take guests down the Rhine and Danube in Europe, the Amazon in South America and the Mekong and Yangtze in Asia.
The market is certainly different from ocean cruising. For one, the ship size restricts river cruises from offering the full variety of amenities, facilities and entertainment available on board a typical ocean cruise. Companies are, however, looking at experiences and specific demographics to allow for more specialised services.
Uniworld’s U river cruise is aiming at travellers in the age group of 21 to 45 that will cost less and offer activities that interest this demographic – night trips to local trendy restaurants and pubs, as well as craft cocktails, DJs and silent discos on board.
Others have trips for families who enjoy activities – some targeting those with children and others those with teenagers and 20-somethings. These include biking routes, walking tours, zip-lining, visits to farms or medieval castles. On board, they offer activities to learn how to cook local dishes such as German pretzels and fun activities like talent shows. Uniworld even has special family river cruises with extra staff to look after young children, trips to toy factories, scavenger hunts using GPS and short walking tours.
For travellers who enjoy adventure, discovery and nature, Coral Expeditions is opening up the lesser known regions of Papua New Guinea through its week-long cruises down the River Sepik where guests can marvel at villages and visit tribes who have had little contact with the outside world.
The Seatrade Europe conference is positive about the huge growth potential in river cruising. Already, it is looking at larger vessels to offer more cabin space for passengers and crew and eco-friendly river propulsion systems. Mystic Invest is already looking forward to putting its subsidiary Duoro Azul’s vessel on the water in 2019 when it will become the world’s first fully electric river vessel.
Much is still left to be done, particularly security and protection against unauthorised access, but from an employment perspective, river cruising opens up a whole new world of opportunity. For river cruise ship jobs, knowledge of local customs, traditions, cuisines and tourist hot spots will be necessary.
As demand for eclectic experiences and more tailored trips increase, both clients and staff have promising opportunities to look forward to in river cruising.
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