River Cruising Continues Strong Growth Among Americans

On AmaWaterways bike tour from Regensburg, Germany to the Valhalla Monument about 8 miles away.
AmaWaterways bike tour, Regensburg, Germany to the Valhalla Monument about 15 miles round-trip. I was the “old folk” at the back.

New study from AAA leans towards broader appeal.

Once upon a time, I was a travel manager for AAA. It was a fabulous job. When new travel surveys were released, I’d compare my thoughts on trends to the professional survey. Today’s study released by AAA East Central, continues to stoke my passion for river cruising and inquisitiveness for the results.

This recent AAA survey reveals river cruising continues strong growth among Americans and even more so among millennials (huh?). That’s correct. Millennials, the hard-working, ever-searching experiential travelers perceive river cruises as the newest way to travel through the heart of several countries with the least amount of project planning. Though this specific generation (18-34 at the moment) is less likely to have already taken their first river cruise, Millennials showed the most interest in the key benefits of a river cruise vs. Gen Xers and Baby Boomers.

Why Millennials think they’d like a river cruise

Among the river cruise benefits Millennials found most appealing are docking in a city center, being able to walk right into town, the idea of cultural immersion and being able to visit unique inland towns and cities that they couldn’t visit with a cruise ship.

The survey found that 54% of adults in the U.S. believed the all-inclusive experience focused on the journey, not just the destination, as the top benefit of river cruising. Again, I’m not sure that I totally understand that statement. It’s my experience that on a river cruise, the journey is the destination. Conversely,  the destination is also the journey. I’m guessing that of this 54% surveyed, the majority had not taken a river cruise.

Maybe Baby Boomers (like me) already know or have an idea that these river cruise perks are a given. That could explain why Millennials ranked higher on the survey, because they were unaware. Nearly four out of ten people surveyed (across the board) said they’d consider a river cruise in the future. In addition, 14 percent of Americans had experienced a river cruise somewhere in the world.

It’s not just for us Baby Boomers anymore

Keep in mind that the median age of river cruisers still hovers around 65 years of age. However, family-focused river cruises like Disney’s charter of AmaWaterways, multi-generational-specific cruises with Tauck and Uniworld, introduce the joy of river cruising to an entirely new audience.

However one chooses to interpret this AAA survey, the results are clear. River cruising is gaining in popularity with Europe as the #1 destination of choice. It seems like once a month a new exotic river cruise itinerary is announced somewhere around the world.

Yes, it is a costly vacation. As a result, a river cruise can be a one-time bucket list experience. Whether you cruise the magnificent Chobe River through Botswana, navigate upstream on the Lower Danube River in Eastern Europe or follow in the shadow of Mark Twain on the Mississippi, once you’ve experienced a river cruise, it’s way too easy to fall in love with every aspect and benefit of a river cruise.

Survey disclosure
AAA contracted with a national research company to perform a telephone survey of 1,012 adults living in the continental United States. Survey results are an accurate representation of the total continental U.S. population with a margin of error of +/- 3.9 percent at a 95 percent confidence level. The survey was conducted June 23-26, 2016.

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