European River Cruising Schedule Return to Service
In another sign of recovery for the cruise industry, European river cruising is scheduled to resume operations in July 2021. With international travel restricted, only a limited number of river cruises had operated in Germany during the summer of 2020 but were suspended when travel restrictions were increased with the second wave of the coronavirus and the normal winter hiatus.
With countries including Germany and Portugal lowering travel restrictions and the EU announcing it would permit international travel to resume, the major European cruise lines are planning to start operations on a limited basis in July. River and coastal cruising resumed in the United States starting in April aboard ships from both American Cruise Lines and American Queen Steamboat Company. American Cruise Lines also recently resumed river cruises on the Columbia and Snake rivers in Oregon. American Queen Steamboat plans to resume its Pacific Northwest river cruises in June. River cruises in other popular destinations, including Egypt, China, and Asia, however, remain suspended for international travelers.
In the past few years, river cruising had been one of the fastest-growing segments of the cruise industry and the lines were continuing to move forward with new ships. According to the European River Cruise Association, nearly 1.8 million passengers sailed on the European river cruise ships in 2019. This represented nearly 10 percent annual growth. While the river cruises operated mostly in Germany last summer, the market was curtailed due to the lack of overseas travelers. Before the pandemic, North American travelers made up a third of the passengers on European river cruises and companies such as Viking were developing dedicated European cruise programs for Chinese travelers.
“We are so excited to see the situation in Europe evolving in a positive direction and are very optimistic about the new tourist entry requirements that will be officially announced in the coming days,” said AmaWaterways’ Executive Vice President and Co-Founder Kristin Karst comment on the planned return to service this summer. “We are proud to announce a selection of sailings starting the first week of July in Portugal with other restart dates throughout July on select ships on all the European rivers including the Danube River.”
The first 2021 European river cruises that will be marketed internationally will be in Portugal sailing on the Douro River. Lines including AmaWaterways, Emerald, Scenic, and Viking all announced plans to resume sailing in June and July. Uniworld also announced that it will restart in Italy in late June. Currently, the lines also expect to expand their cruises into France, including trips on the Rhone and Seine reaching Paris and Bordeaux. Trips on the Rhine and Danube are expected to resume in July. Viking, for example, plans to sail from Amsterdam and Basel as well as France and Portugal. Currently, other parts of Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic, which are popular river cruise destinations, remain unavailable.
The river cruise lines are hopeful that the restrictions will continue to be eased and that they can continue to ramp up operations in the coming months.