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River cruise lines expect return to full capacity by spring

River cruise lines are hopeful of “a normal season” in 2022 as most report plans to return to full capacity in Europe by the spring.
AmaWaterways’ sales are about 40% up on the same period in 2019, including used future cruise credits, and the line hopes to have 21 ships back in service for the start of the European season.

Managing director Jamie Loizou said: “This year we anticipate cruising throughout its entirety.” He said the line was prepared to “pivot and change” 2022 itineraries if restrictions were imposed due to a fresh Covid outbreak or a variant of concern, saying: “We roll with the punches.”

Uniworld will bring all its river ships back by the end of March, including the first full season for three Super Ships it launched in Portugal, Italy and Egypt last year.

UK managing director Chris Townson said he expects a “bumper year” in 2022. “Guests are keen to lay down longer-term plans now, to have something truly amazing in the diary,” he said.

A-Rosa hopes all its 13 vessels will be sailing by the spring, and reported a return of British customers to its European river cruises this year, with last year’s guests “mainly European”. UK managing director Lucia Rowe said: “As testing restrictions ease for UK travellers, we’re seeing more wanting to travel.”

Agents reported a rise in bookings of longer cruises, and customers spending more, as confidence returns.

Scott Anderson, cruise product and marketing director at Luxury Cruise and More, said: “We’re seeing luxury river cruise clients upgrading to higher-level cabins. Luxury ships have more space per guest and smaller numbers, which may be reassuring for clients.”

Alison Earnshaw, managing director of River Voyages parent World Travel Holdings, urged agents to reassure clients on lines’ safety protocols.

“Our river cruise demographic is over-65s who have stronger concerns about testing, health and safety,” she said. “Collectively, it’s important to educate customers. This will improve confidence and, in turn, short-term bookings in the summer.”

Andy Harmer, Clia UK and Ireland managing director, said: “Capacity levels are increasingly returning to normal and agents are doing a brilliant job of highlighting the benefits of taking a river cruise.”

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