One of the things that we try to do both on our website and through the medium of this blog is to occasionally alert readers to emerging trends so that they can be ahead of the curve when it comes to sampling new travel products or discovering new destinations around the world. This week’s blog is somewhat surprising in that it covers a subject that people assume is extremely popular! You would think that cruising is a mainstream travel product given that it never appears to be off our television screens or absent from our newspapers and magazines and yet in the UK — the second largest cruise market in the world after the US — market penetration still hovers around 5% despite the presence of so many cruise lines and the fact that many of them originate and terminate in Britain’s’ main cruise port, Southampton.
The fact of the matter is that mainstream cruising is still a minority travel activity although it is one of the fastest growing sectors within travel and within cruising itself, one of the fastest growing niches is river cruising. River cruising has much to recommend it. You depart and arrive in city centres so no messing around with long transfers. The ships are smaller and more intimate which is something that appeals to many people. Like all cruising, it is a very civilised way to travel in that you get to experience multiple destinations (and even countries) over the course of a typical one-week itinerary and yet you only unpack once and even that can be done for you by your own personal butler on some of the more up-market brands such as Uniworld.
On Uniworld, the cabins are luxuriously appointed with the bathrooms boasting L’Occitane and Hermes products. The in-suite minibar gets stocked with whatever preferences you have in soft drinks or alcoholic beverages and the butler service is at your beck and call from 07.00 a.m. until 11.00 p.m. each day. On-board vintages reflect the countryside that you are travelling through and the food is excellent with opportunities to indulge in cookery demos and wine-tasting sessions. The indoor swimming pool and sun lounge area at the rear of the SS Antoinette is surprisingly large for a ship of its size and guests are usually pleasantly surprised at how quiet the engines are. Two words of caution though:
- Where possible, book yourself into a suite on the upper deck because on the lower ones where the portholes are located near to the water level, the splashing of waves (yes, even on a river) against them can be quite irritating!
- Be careful about your selection of itinerary and enquire about the dominant nationality of guests as on some ships, they can be quite a pedestrian lot who retire to bed before 10.00 p.m. each evening so if you are someone who likes to prop up the bar at the end of the evening, then it might be prudent to travel with another couple and make your own entertainment on board!
All in all, river cruising is an extremely genteel way of exploring the world but do make sure that you choose your itinerary (and fellow guests) with some caution!