New experiences, new levels of innovation, and a new generation of travellers are driving an evolution in river cruising, setting the scene for an exciting season ahead.

As the northern hemisphere summer gets underway, we can expect to see a flurry of activity as cruise lines introduce new ships, new itineraries, and new excursions for their guests.

What was once seen as a novel alternative to coach touring has now become a sophisticated form of travel in its own right – and naturally, Australians have been among the leading adopters.

With an enormous variety of rivers and destinations to explore, river cruise lines have found Australian travellers to be among their most passionate guests. Many are putting a big focus on catering to Australian tastes, and at the same time attracting a younger and more active guest.

The allure of exploring countries by river is strong in itself, but in recent years river cruise lines have been enhancing this further by developing extraordinary experiences on shore.

Many are working to create a stronger connection with a destination’s culture, history, food, wine, and way of life. Others are creating more adventurous activities for guests who want to get their pulse racing, introducing opportunities to explore by bike or kayak in scenic locations along the rivers.

Either way, the choices now available on a river cruise are exceptional. Guests can do as much or as little as they like, indulging their own particular interests through guided excursions and activities, or simply by exploring a destination on their own at a quiet pace.

With the rise in popularity of river cruising has come greater investment in new ships, setting new standards in design and style. This year will see a succession of new ship launches, including newcomers on the Rhine and Danube in Europe, on the Douro in Portugal, on the Nile in Egypt and on the Magdalena in Colombia.

A key attraction of river cruising is the ease, especially when traversing multiple countries and regions. A river cruise allows you to unpack once, then draw back the curtains each day to find yourself in new landscapes, towns or cities.

The river scenery is magnificent, the ships are superb, and the ability to sail into the heart of historic villages and towns makes for an incredible journey.  With such a huge choice now available, this year is certainly an exciting time to embark on a river cruise.

By Cruise Lines International Association Australasia Managing Director Joel Katz