With the summer travel season fast approaching and many Americans looking for unique getaways closer to home, more travelers are turning to domestic river cruising.
Whether sailing on the Mighty Mississippi, the historic Ohio, or the scenic Columbia, AAA Travel advisors have experienced a significant increase in U.S. river cruise interest and bookings. The latest data from AAA Travel shows that 2022 domestic river cruise bookings have surpassed pre-pandemic levels, up 25% from 2019 year to date.
“U.S. river cruising offers travelers an intimate and personalized experience that still includes fine dining, shore excursions and entertainment,” said Bevi Powell, senior vice president, AAA East Central. “Sailing along scenic rivers also offers travelers the opportunity to enjoy snapshots of American history along the way.”
River cruising, which originally gained popularity for European destinations, is continuing to grow in the U.S. with cruise companies providing more options to those looking to set sail. American Queen Voyages, celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, started with namesake American Queen ushering in a renaissance in U.S. river cruising and has expanded to four paddlewheelers sailing not only the Mississippi River, but the Ohio, Cumberland, Tennessee, Illinois rivers and Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest. Additionally, European river cruise company Viking River Cruises announced they will soon sail on the Mississippi River for the first time.
Cruise Experience on a Personal Scale
U.S. river cruise travelers will find ships typically accommodate around 300 guests, much less than the 3,000 guests on many larger oceanic vessels. However, the smaller ship size does not take away from the all-inclusive cruise experience. Whether on an eight or sixteen-day voyage, river ships include all the amenities even the most experienced sailors come to expect like fine dining, live entertainment, and on-board activities.
Something for Everyone
A recent AAA Travel survey found that 58.3 million (23%) Americans are considering a cruise, whether river or oceanic, in the next two years. The all-inclusive experience, quality time with family and friends and shore excursions top the list as the most attractive aspects of a cruise vacation. Younger generations, like Gen Z, are most excited about spending time with family and friends (57%) and outdoor activities like the pool and other similar amenities (44%).
When it comes to U.S. river cruising, trips on the Mississippi River are the most popular with additional sailing options on the Ohio, Tennessee, Cumberland and Columbia rivers. Demand for all things travel – including cruising – is increasing, which means travelers should start planning their next trip. Domestic cruise lines begin taking reservations as early as two years ahead of sailing and sometimes offer better rates for booking early.
Let the Experts be Your Guide
Whether you are new to cruising or an avid sailor, an experienced and trusted travel advisor can help. Seasoned advisors have many resources at their fingertips to help plan and organize a trip that fits a traveler’s specific needs and budget. They have access to added benefits and offers that may not be available directly to consumers.
Travel advisors can also take the stress out of making travel arrangements, especially when traveling as a group or navigating any challenges related to itinerary changes due to weather delays, natural disasters, flight cancellations, lost luggage and much more.
The travel landscape is quickly changing as pandemic-related restrictions are lifted and more people look to get out and see the world again. A travel advisor is an invaluable resource serving as an advocate before, during and after a trip, including keeping travelers apprised of global events or conflicts that may interrupt travel plans. These individuals can explore available options for cruising plus provide counsel on:
– What to expect while onboard and while visiting ports or participating in offshore excursions
– Vaccine/testing requirements and safety protocols for individual cruise lines
– Cancellation policies
– Travel insurance options
– How positive COVID-19 cases are handled (for travelers and crew)
AAA found that Americans view cruising as safe as resort vacations and safer than exploring large cities. In fact, 43% of Americans who plan to cruise in the future are satisfied with the cruise industry’s overall response to the pandemic. Cruise lines have implemented several safety protocols onboard including vaccination and testing requirements for passengers and crew, enhanced medical facilities, upgraded ventilation systems, hand washing and hand sanitizer dispensers in high traffic areas, contactless room service, use of medical-grade cleaning supplies and virtual safety briefings.
The survey questions were administered as part of NORC’s biweekly AmeriSpeak® survey of 1,101 US adults, between December 16 to December 20, 2021. Funded and operated by NORC at the University of Chicago, AmeriSpeak is a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. household population. Randomly selected US households are sampled using area probability and address-based sampling, with a known, non-zero probability of selection from the NORC National Sample Frame. The panel provides sample coverage of approximately 97% of the U.S. household population. While most AmeriSpeak households participate in surveys by web, non-internet households can participate in AmeriSpeak surveys by telephone.
AAA East Central is a not-for-profit association with 72 local offices in Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia serving 2.7 million members. Past news releases are available at news.eastcentral.aaa.com. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.