If everything you know about river cruising comes from Mark Twain (or Davey Crockett), you haven’t been paying attention. (You also haven’t been watching Downton Abbey, which is sponsored by Viking River Cruises.) Right now might be a good time to start taking note.
Here’s why: River cruises are booming, especially for Boomers. Booming to the point where your upcoming river cruise is inevitable. Resistance is futile. Start saving now.
A Viking spokesperson claims that river cruising is the fastest growing segment of the travel industry and that Viking’s river operation has had annual double-digit growth since 2001. Yes, that’s a dozen years, through a pretty nasty economic downturn. Because river cruises are targeted toward Boomers, and more Boomers are retiring, the cruise line expects that growth trend to continue.
(And boy, are they getting ready for more customers. Independent reports claim Viking is building ten additional river boats, and the other cruise lines are also adding to their fleets.)
The appeal for older travelers seems obvious: you’re not likely to get seasick; you’re not going to be drifting out at sea for days with non-functioning sanitation or rampant e. coli; there is stuff to look at other than the great flat line of the horizon or the same lovely but—admit it—monotonous clouds.
On a river, there’s a lot to see: depending on where you choose to cruise, there could be castles, temples, charming farms and villages. And much of it is off the beaten path. For example, Viking is planning a cruise up Burma’s Irrawaddy River next year.
There are other ways to see that river., Thirty years ago, you could take a ferry that would run you down the Irrawaddy from Mandalay to Pagan. There were meals available. You could even have a cabin. And the scenery was unforgettable.
But it was probably the kind of adventure that belongs to someone under 30. Ditto for rafting down the Mississippi or sculling the Rhine. These days, a small and well appointed cruise ship has its attractions.
Photo: Viking Longship Bragi, via Viking River Cruises.