Admittedly, most river cruise companies tend to target older cruisers. Perhaps it's the availability to cruise for extended periods of time or the price tag of these adventures. For whatever reason, you don’t normally find many millennial cruisers on the popular river cruise lines.
Well, some of that is beginning to change.
For example, Uniworld launched U River Cruises last year with two ships targeting younger cruisers with unique experiences and custom itineraries. Also earlier this year, AmaWaterways launched AmaMagna with features such as additional bars, a Yoga Studio, several restaurants and more active excursions to lure younger cruisers.
We were excited and surprised when we were invited on a Viking River cruise earlier this year. (Being born at the cusp, we're technically classified as millennials by most definitions.) Our first river cruise experience was a short sampler cruise on the new Viking Einar. Now, we are used to cruising on the world’s largest ships, so we accepted the invitation but with some hesitation.
We're so glad we did. Our first river cruise had us hooked, and we can’t wait to get back aboard one of these ships. In fact, we're convinced that river cruising might be the next big travel trend for millennials. Here are five reasons why millennials will love river cruising.
The attention to detail and service can begin as early as your arrival at the airport. Using the pre-arranged travel, which we recommend, you're escorted in comfort to your ship. Checking in is simple and efficient. It feels more like a luxury hotel than a cruise ship with no long queues.
The staff members on board are friendly and ready to provide you with white glove level of service without all the stuffiness. From wait staff to room attendants, bar servers and the front desk, the service is subtle and precise. It's almost as if the staff can read your mind and know exactly what you're going to order or what question you need answered.
The biggest complaint we hear about cruising on megaships is that you don't get a chance to truly experience a port of call. That's not the case with river cruising. With itineraries that include a new stop essentially every day and longer stays in port, travelers can immerse themselves in the region of the world they're visiting. This immersion does not stop once back on board the ship.
Local musical acts and entertainers often offer evening entertainment or talks. The activities team also provides daily briefings that enable you to learn more about each stop. Even the ship’s library is custom tailored with selections featuring works related to the region. This is all meant to make you feel connected to your ports of call. There are no flashy shows or Bingo sessions on river cruises. Instead, the ship is the backdrop while the itinerary is the main attraction.
Once at your port of calls, you have the option to explore on your own or reserve one of the ship-sponsored shore excursions that's included in the price of your fare. With the proper research before the cruise, you could certainly put together your own daily activities. Many ships even offer amenities, such as bikes, that you can use for your self-guided adventures.
Or, if you're like us, then you'll want to take advantage of one of the many options on a shore excursion. Viking River Cruises offers free guided tours at each location. Many of these guides are locals with backgrounds in the region's history, culture and other insights.
There are also additional activities available for an upcharge, like a private organ concert in a cathedral, for example. Given that most millennials crave authenticity and local experiences, river cruising is one of the easiest ways to achieve this.
Can't lie, millennials are also known for wanting upscale experiences — and it's true in our case. With river cruising, you're able to indulge in culinary offerings that are a step above typical cruise fare. While the number of dining venues are more limited on a smaller ship, the menus feature locally sourced ingredients with chef specialties unique to the region. Many lines even pair meals with complimentary local wines and beers to enhance the experience.
On a river cruise, you can also enjoy those other little touches that would be an up-charge on most major cruise lines, like bottled water and premium lattes, coffees and teas. On Viking River cruises, you'll also want to snag some of the line’s signature cookies and scones that are available at the onboard café.
Dinner is also a social matter. With no assigned seating, you're able to mix and mingle with other cruisers. This is a great time to meet new friends and to hear about their adventures of the day.
Sophisticated yet casual
One concern we had about river cruising was the atmosphere on board the ship. Would we feel out of place?
We can happily report that the presence on board is warm and welcoming. It might be the understated luxury of the ship’s design. With a neutral color palette, hardwoods and earth tones to complement the high-end finishes, the décor throughout the ship is best described as simple elegance.
Contrast this look and feel with those of today’s modern mega-ships and you can see why millennials could well gravitate to river cruising. That said, fellow cruisers, regardless of age, were all cheerful and talkative. Attire is also comfortable yet stylish. Most people did dress business casual for dinner, making the experience sophisticated yet casual.
While river cruising might still tilt toward older travelers, more and more millennials are beginning to discover why river cruising is perhaps the best way to experience popular destinations.
River cruising is a comfortable and engaging way to experience the world, offering travel experiences that millennials crave without fear of being labeled a tourist. We believe it's only a matter of time before the crowds on river ships get younger and even more diverse.