River Cruising: Why Right Now May Be The Very Best Time To Book

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In spite of worldwide concerns about traveler security and safety, river cruising is hot.   Proof can be found in the fact that new ships continue to be rolled out at a robust pace.  Like their ocean-going counterparts, river cruise ships provide a safe and comfortable way to travel that represents great value.  Cruise travelers like that and do not hesitate to continue their plans to see places around the world where ocean ships just can’t go. Still, it’s a comparatively complicated process to book a river cruise, one that may be well worth the time investigating right now, for three big reasons.

River Cruisers Have The Advantage

Cruise CompeteNot all that long ago, river cruise lines were building ships at record pace, simply trying to keep up with demand.  Ships sailed full with no discounts for anyone because there was no need.  River cruise lines could charge just about any amount they wanted and still they came.  Catering to the 55+ year old age group, the life clock was ticking and now was the time to see the world while they were still healthy enough to do so.

Then hit the 2013 Paris attacks and all of the sudden the tables were turned, putting cruise travelers in the drivers seat.  It’s rather simple really: unexpected terrorist attacks hurt travel in a number of ways. As a result, I’ve seen airport security increased to include armed guards with machine guns, closer scrutiny of passengers before boarding aircraft and far more serious screening of passengers before boarding.  That worked, making flying safer than ever.

Finally, Lower Airfare To Europe

Booked far in advance, cruise travelers enjoyed the best deals on river cruises, a fact that continues today.  Still, good deal on the cruise or not, we had to get there first which required buying a plane ticket on flights that airlines knew would fill up, demanding and getting a premium fare.  Acts of terror affected those flights too, causing empty seats and fare wars as airlines competed for our business. While we’ve never been safer in the air, that fact has still not caught up with the common belief that safety is in question and low fares continue…at least for now.

That’s a reality that won’t continue forever and as bookings increase, so will pricing at some point. It’s a rather complicated process that airlines go through to determine where and when their planes fly and not one that happens overnight.  Long term planning is required to have aircraft positioned to handle demand.  They don’t simply move planes around to where there are demand is today. Rather, routes are scheduled far in advance based on what they think they will need six months or a year from now, creating a short window of opportunity for travelers to cash in on savings.

Destinations Vie For Our Attention

We have a whole lot of choices on places to visit in our great big wonderful world and those who promote those destinations know it.  They want us to pick their popular city over others for pre- and post-cruise hotel stays, what is often an integral part of a river cruise package, driving hotel prices down to fill vacant rooms.  At a given destination, individual attractions too want us to visit, have personnel in place to handle a crowd and desperately need travelers to keep those people employed and their iconic landmark-linked property operating smoothly.

Simply put: if the visitors are not coming, those who work there will eventually not be needed and full employment ceases.  That’s when local governments jump in to help, creating an artificially wonderful situation for travelers who find once-crowded attractions nearly empty but fully staffed.  We saw that first-hand when traveling with luxury tour operator Abercrombie & Kent in Egypt and Jordan just last summer.  The massive infrastructure that one single travel company had in place to take good care of their guests is not something that can be turned off and on like a light switch.  It takes time and a substantial investment of manpower.

Acts of terror in various places around the world naturally urge caution, prompting would-be river cruise travelers to put plans on hold, and rightfully so. Why leave the safety and security we enjoy in North America to put ourselves in harm’s way? While the typical first-time river cruise may include an itinerary on the safe Rhine or Danube rivers, we have to get there first, passing through airports and public spaces where who knows what might happen.  Still, travelers continue to come, although at a bit slower pace than in the past.  Call it fear or an abundance of caution, reduced traveler interest has created a situation where river cruise lines have more inventory in stock than there is demand, making right now the very best time to book that river cruise.


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