The Danube proved to be the travel destination favourite and overtook the Rhine. Cruises on these two rivers and their tributaries accounted for 58% of passenger numbers, compared to 53% in 2017.
In Southern Europe, the report found that Douro experienced the highest growth with an increase of almost 15% in passenger numbers.
Outside of Europe, Asia stood as the most popular river cruise destination with the Mekong holding the top spot. North America and Africa, with the resurgence of cruises on the Nile, experienced the highest increase in bookings last year, up 50% and 18% respectively.
The Nile experienced an increase of just over 21% from 4,700 to 5,700 passengers.
The average river cruise duration in Europe increased slightly to eight nights and non-European cruises had an average length of 6.7 nights, an increase of 3.1% from 2017.
Andy Harmer, CLIA UK & Ireland director, said: ‘The river cruise market is certainly proving popular in the travel sector with passenger numbers continuing to grow year on year.’
‘One-third of all river ships have been built within the past 10 years, with 18 new vessels set to launch from now to 2020,’ he remarked.
Trend towards sustainability
CLIA highlighted sustainable trends on some of its members vessels covering green propulsion, single use plastics and e-documentation.
A-ROSA has ordered a new ship due for delivery in Spring 2021, with emission free battery propulsion technology and ‘DACS’ air-bubble technology to reduce fuel consumption.
Diesel electric propulsion
Uniworld aims to be completely single use plastic free by 2022. An eDocs initiative has also been set up with One Tree Planted for every of its guests who chooses electronic paperwork and has gone paperless onboard, using digital platforms to communicate daily activity programmes, menus and information with guests. Crew’s uniforms are made from recycled materials.
Reducing waste water
CroisiEurope has installed water savers on all its ships, resulting in a 35% saving in drinking water and a 35% reduction in waste. It has also used paint with non-polluting components on the undersides of all its ships. To reduce power wastage, it has set up systems that are compatible with on-land AC power.
The line has also partnered with UNESCO to promote sustainable development projects for African river ports.
APT Introduced a new app and changed its print policy to reduce the amount of paper used, a move which has saved 83K pages/562kg CO2. The line also switched all company cars to low emission vehicles with a view to switching to electric cars in the future.
Crystal River Cruises has now eliminated all plastic straws across its entire fleet and has implemented energy efficiency and water conservation protocols and dedicated recycling programmes.
Additionally, it has used a drinking water filtration system for six years in all its dining venues to reduce the use of plastic bottles.
In Southeast Asia, Scenic has focused on reducing single use products on board their Space-Ships, Scenic Aura and Scenic Spirit. These initiatives have seen plastic straws replaced with a bamboo variety. Glass bottles are being used in all its rooms on all decks. e-fillable shore excursion bottles are also being used that can be cleaned and refilled by crew with several onboard refillable water stations available.
The cruise line has also moved away from single use toiletries and switched to refillable containers.
Avalon has taken measures to eliminate plastic straws and drink stirrers and will remove all SUP bottles by the end of the year. The line will introduce filtered water taps for all guests – first two ships from July 2019.
16 bikes on its European ships will now be available and the line will trial e-bikes this summer.