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Australia’s river cruisers are expected to set new records this year, with Avalon Waterways predicting the country will hit 70,000 passengers for 2015 – 30 per cent up on the year before.

Avalon Waterways Managing Director Australasia Stewart Williams made the prediction, adding the line is seeing a change in the mindset of Avalon passengers.

“They are living longer, happier, healthier and are more financially independent, and with that come a curiosity and a yearning to do what they want to do, rather than only what’s popular on an all-inclusive river cruise,” he told Cruise Passenger.

Avalon is expanding operations in Europe for 2016. It will begin cruising to Belgium with two new itineraries sailing on the Meuse River.

The eight-day Essential Holland and Belgium cruise begins in Amsterdam and calls at Ghent, Antwerp and Brussels.

The nine-day Enchanting Belgium cruise also begins in Amsterdam and follows the same route, with additional stops at the historic battlefields of Ypres and the city of Namur in French speaking Wallonia.

Both journeys operate in the opposite direction. Avalon will also add two new luxurious Suite Ships next year, with the Avalon Passion and Avalon Imagery II bringing the fleet to 16 vessels.

The Suite Ships have 30 per cent more cabin space than the average ships cruising in the region with huge floor to ceiling windows that open to turn the whole cabin into an open-air balcony.

The Avalon Waterways 2016 brochure is now available and, to mark the launch of the new program, early bird discounts of up to 15 per cent are available on river cruises booked by June 30.