• The fleet of river cruise vessels in Europe in 2018 amounted to 359 active vessels, including 10 new and 3 modernised vessels that were introduced into the market in 2018. For 2019, 20 new vessels are expected to join the fleet.

• Over the last 12 years the river cruise fleets in smaller river cruise regions which are not connected to the Rhine or the Danube, such as the Rhône-Saone, Seine and Douro, have expanded and sometimes more than doubled.

• River cruises have been experiencing a boom since 2013, mainly due to the large number of American tourists booking river cruise holidays. In 2018, there was an increase of 14.6%, compared to 2017, reaching a total of 1.64 million river cruise passengers.

• For the first time, the annual report also contains information on the fleet of small river cruise vessels (with 10 to 39 beds) navigating in Europe. This fleet is composed of 67 vessels, the majority of which are more than 50 years old. Main regions of operation are the Netherlands and France.

 

 

FLEET FOR RIVER CRUISES

 

  • The fleet for river cruises in the EU region is mainly concentrated on Central European waterways (Rhine/Main/Main-Danube Canal/Danube/Elbe-Oder). Indeed, in 2018, the number of active river cruise vessels on Central European waterways represented close to 75% of the total river cruise fleet in the EU. The greatest concentration of river cruise vessels can be observed on the Rhine/Main/Main-Danube Canal/Danube area, with 253 vessels, including 35 on the Netherlands-Rhine axis. Despite the fact that all other European rivers not connected to the Rhine or the Danube are smaller cruising regions, their river cruise fleet has been expanding in the last decade, as follows:
    • Rhône-Saône (22 vessels in 2018 compared to 10 in 2006),
    • Seine (20 vessels in 2018 compared to 5 in 2006) and,
    • Douro (20 vessels in 2018 compared to 6 in 2006).
  • The river cruise vessel fleet in Europe (The European River cruise fleet, as it is defined in this report, comprises the fleet in the EU and in Switzerland) has constantly increased since 2004, to reach 359 active vessels in 2018 with 52,078 beds.
  • In the season 2018, 10 new vessels were also introduced to the market, adding 1,501 beds. Three more existing vessels were modernised (including one which was converted into a cruise vessel from a cargo barge), increasing the capacity of the fleet by an additional 181 beds. As no ship was removed from the fleet in 2018, and taking into account the usual alterations to other ships, the net increase in 2018 was 13 vessels with about 1,462 beds (+ 2.9% compared to + 5.5% in 2017).
  • The Rhine and the Danube have been interconnected since the completion of the Main-Danube Canal in 1992, allowing easy and permanent transfer of vessels between the Rhine and Danube basins. Regarding transfer of vessels between isolated European rivers (for instance between the Rhine and the Seine), the number of transferred vessels has been quite small over the years but has recently increased. Indeed, some vessels, which often navigate for the first time on the Rhine or the Danube, can then be transported years later to other rivers such as the Rhône or the Seine. Recently, more ships than before were ordered directly for navigation on the Rhône or the Douro (especially in 2017).

 

NUMBER OF RIVER CRUISE VESSELS IN THE EU BY REGION OF OPERATION (2004 – 2018)

Source: Hader, A. (2018), The River Cruise Fleet

 

  • Until the 1990s, the fleet expanded at a slow pace. Indeed, cruise vessels from before the 1990s only make up 13.6% of today’s river cruise fleet. The age structure of the European fleet shows that the number of newbuildings then started to grow until reaching a peak between 2011 and 2015, a period during which 31% of the current fleet was built. This extreme expansion came to an end in 2016, mainly due to the terrorism threat in Europe.
  • Terrorism outside the EU region can also be a factor reducing fleet expansion. For instance, after the terrorist attacks of 2001 in the USA, companies with a high share of American customers (Grand Circle, Holland River and Viking River) invested less into new vessels for Rhine and Danube voyages, due to American customers being less attracted to cruises outside the USA.

 

NUMBER OF RIVER CRUISE VESSELS IN THE EU BY YEAR OF CONSTRUCTION

Source: Hader, A. (2018), The River Cruise Fleet

 

  • In 2019, the number of new ships is expected to rise to 20 (two times higher than in 2018). The increase in demand from American customers and a healthy demand in the German speaking market can mainly explain this rise.

 

NEW RIVER CRUISE VESSELS FOR THE EUROPEAN MARKET 2004-2019 *

Source: Hader, A. (2018), The River Cruise Fleet
*2019: forecast based on order books

 

  • Compared to the year 2017, when a strong regional diversification was observed for newbuildings, in 2018, only one new vessel was deployed on a river disconnected from the Rhine and Danube (on the Douro). Two converted vessels were ordered to operate directly in the Benelux region.
  • Prevision for the year 2019 shows that four new vessels should operate on the Douro out of the 20 expected newbuildings and corresponding to 14% of the expected new bed capacity.

 

NEW CRUISE CAPACITIES IN 2017, 2018 AND 2019 PER REGION OF OPERATION (NUMBER OF BEDS)***

Source: Hader, A. (2018), The River Cruise Fleet
*R/M/M/D = Rhine/Main/Main-Danube Canal/Danube. *In 2018, the new beds in the Danube and the Benelux (181 beds) are the result of conversion or modernisation of existing vessels. *Figures for 2019: forecast.

 

  • The average number of beds on new cruise vessels has been slightly decreasing since 2012 to reach 150 in 2018. However, based on order books, the average number of beds for the newbuildings in 2019 is expected to rise to 165 beds.
  • Indeed, eight large cruise vessels with high passenger capacity (superior or equal to 190 beds) are planned to be delivered in 2019. Those large vessels will represent 46% of the new bed capacity in 2019 and will all navigate either on the Danube or on the Rhine/Main/ Main-Danube Canal/Danube. The largest river cruise vessel ever built for Europe, the AMAMAGNA (for 196 passengers), will be part of the 2019 delivery.
  • The figure below shows the evolution of active river cruise vessels worldwide, which amounts to 875 vessels in total in 2018. Europe has the largest river cruise fleet today, followed by the Nile and other African rivers.
  • Today, the Nile fleet remains quite large, with close to 280 cruise vessels. However, while the EU fleet has grown faster than ever in recent years, the business in Egypt has been and is still suffering from an important political crisis. The situation of the Nile fleet seems to be slowly improving.
  • After a constant decrease in the Russian fleet since 2004, the cruise fleet in Russia gained one new boat in 2018, totaling 121 cruise vessels (compared to 120 in 2017). The fleet in Russia and Ukraine however remains quite old on average. In the wake of the political developments in Russia and the Ukraine, the number of foreign river cruise tourists has declined in these countries which represents of course no major incentive for a renewal of the fleet.
  • While the American cruise fleet only contributes to a low extent to the world river cruise fleet, it can be observed that the US fleet has consistently been rising since 2011. The fleet in Asia is also following a similar trend.

 

DISTRIBUTION OF RIVER CRUISE VESSELS PER REGION WORLDWIDE (NUMBER OF VESSELS)*

Source: Hader, A. (2018), The River Cruise Fleet
* No reliable data regarding Egyptian vessels still ready for use

 

  • Since 2005, 27 vessels have been withdrawn from the EU river cruise fleet. The largest number of withdrawals since 2005 can be observed in 2017. This can be explained by different factors: a technical correction for a ship not delivered as expected, two probable termination of services and four downgrades to river hotels or accommodation.

 

RIVER CRUISE VESSELS REGISTERED IN THE EU REGION(IN NUMBER OF VESSELS)

Source: Hader, A (2018)

 

 

RIVER CRUISE VESSELS REGISTERED IN THE RMD (Rhine/Main/Main-Danube Canal/Danube area) AREA (IN NUMBER OF VESSELS)

Source: Hader, A (2018)

 

  • There were 153 ships, or 43% of European river cruise vessels in the EU region, registered in Switzerland. In terms of number of registered vessels, Switzerland not only dominates the EU region, but also that of the Rhine-Main-Danube (R-M-D). Switzerland also holds a large share on the Rhône-Saône river, the Seine and the Elbe. This can be explained by the fact that many shipping companies have their headquarters in Basel and in other Swiss cities. Most of these river cruise vessels belong to tour operators based in the USA but which are managed in Switzerland.
  • In Germany, 58 river cruise vessels are registered, and comes in second position. The distribution among the rivers shows similarities with Switzerland. There are as many river cruise vessels registered in the Netherlands and in Malta, both placed in third position, with 43 vessels each. Vessels registered in the Netherlands sail mainly on Dutch rivers while those registered in Malta sail mainly on the Rhine-Main-Danube area and occasionally in France. Operators of vessels registered in Malta are shipowners from the USA, Australia, Malaysia, Slovakia and the Netherlands.
  • In France, 32 river cruise vessels are registered, coming in fourth position and sailing mainly on French waters. In Portugal, 14 river cruise vessels are registered, sailing mainly on the Douro. The popularity of the Douro has increased sharply recently. The majority of the fleet is operated by a Portuguese company.
  • Four vessels are registered in Bulgaria, which sail on the Danube. This fleet is currently being modernised in order to be allowed to navigate on the Rhine. Three vessels that navigate on the Göta Canal between Stockholm and Gothenburg are registered in Sweden. In Austria, only two Danube ships are registered. One river cruise vessel is registered in each of the following countries: Belgium, Luxembourg, Czech Republic, the UK, Poland and Ukraine. Many different countries of registration can also be found on the Elbe and on the waterways between the Elbe, the Oder and the Baltic Sea coasts. Since the fleet structure is very similar on the Seine and the Rhône, the countries of registration of vessels sailing on those rivers are also similar.

 

DEMAND FOR RIVER CRUISES

 

  • Despite low waters, the river cruise industry experienced a boom in 2018. The number of river cruise passengers on European rivers increased by 14.6% to reach 1.64 million. US-Americans and Canadians were again the most important source market with a share of 37.7%, followed by Germans (28.1%) and British and Irish (12.8%).

 

NUMBER OF PASSENGERS ON EUROPEAN CRUISE VESSELS BY NATIONALITY (IN 1000)

Source: IG River Cruise / German Travel Association (DRV) / SeaConsult

 

  • The strong growth in 2018 reflects the increase of capacities in recent years. In 2018 alone, the net increase of capacities was 13 vessels and about 1,462 beds. Low waters did not threaten the activity too greatly, since a lot of regions of operation were not severely impacted by low waters. This was the case in particular for French regions, which experienced strong demand growth in 2018.
  • Another explanation is a swift shift in the age structure of travelers. 2018 brought a wave of younger people wishing to experience river cruise vessels. The share of German travelers in the age group 41-55 rose from 11.8% to 18.3% in 2018. The share of persons aged 26-40 was more than four times higher in 2018, with a share of 8.3% in 2018 compared to only 2% in 2017 (Source: IG River Cruise / DRV / SeaConsult (2019), Der Fluss-Kreuzfahrtmarkt 2018).
  • Another new trend is the strongly increasing preference of German river cruise passengers for high-price-segments: the premium segment increased its market share from 39.4% in 2017 to 45.6% last year, while the luxury and ultra-luxury segments (taken together) rose from a share of 6.3% in 2017 to 14.3% in 2018. Due to the overall demand increase, and the rising importance of premium and luxury segments, the revenues from ticket sales reached a record high in 2018. Revenues from tickets purchased by German tourists increased by 18% compared to 2017.
  • With regard to nationalities, the group of travelers with the highest demand growth in 2018 were ‘other nationalities’, which comprise tourists from Asia, Russia, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. Their numbers in total increased by 41%. The second strongest growth was observed for British and Irish tourists (+31%). The numbers for the two largest nationalities (US-Americans/ Canadians and Germans) increased at about the same rate (14.3% and 14.7% respectively).
  • Data on the number of cruise vessels passing locks along Rhine, Danube, Moselle and other rivers show an increase for the Danube of 6% in 2018. On the Moselle, the figures at the lock of Koblenz reflect an increase of vessels by 12%. On the Saar, cruise vessel traffic more than doubled.

 

YEARLY NUMBER OF CRUISE SHIP TRANSITS ON EUROPEAN RIVERS*

Source: Generaldirektion Wasserstraßen und Schifffahrt
*Sum of upstream and downstream traffic of cabin vessels at the following locks: Jochenstein (Danube), Iffezheim (Rhine), Koblenz (Moselle), Kelheim (Main-Danube Canal), Kostheim (Main), Kanzem (Saar).

 

  • The curve for the Mosel is based on cabin vessels passing the lock of Koblenz, where the Mosel joins the Rhine. The figures for 2018 reveal a real boom of cruise traffic on the Mosel. In 2018, the number of cabin vessels passing the Koblenz lock was 1,542, and 12% higher than in 2017. According to the Mosel Commission, other locks along the Mosel also registered strongly rising cruise vessel numbers in 2018: the locks of Zeltingen and Fankel, located along the romantic Mosel valley between Koblenz and Trier, saw 971 and 1,062 cruise vessels passing in 2018 (+19% and +25%) (Source: Mosel Commission (2019), Verkehrszahlen Mosel 2018, March 2019).
  • The curve for the Danube shows the number of cabin vessels passing the German-Austrian border, which is 32 km downstream from Passau. This city is an important point of departure and arrival for Danube cruises going to Vienna or Budapest, or even further downstream. The number of cabin vessels passing the German-Austrian border increased by 6% in 2018 and reached 3,406 transits.
  • Cruise traffic from Passau downstream consists of short trips of 5, 7 or 8 days on the routes Passau-Vienna-Bratislava-Budapest-Passau and Vienna-Bratislava-Budapest, as well as trips to and from the Rhine and Main ports. The number of these short cruises can furthermore be observed on the basis of the lock of Gabčíkovo at the Slovakian-Hungarian border. According to the Danube Commission, the number of cabin vessel transits at Gabčíkovo was 3,945 in 2018, carrying 548,800 passengers.
  • Passau is also a point of departure for longer trips, to the Danube delta with a duration of 14, 15 or 16 days. The number of passengers and ship transits for these trips can be observed by looking at the figures of the lock of Mohacs in southern Hungary. There were 754 cabin vessel transits in 2018, which corresponds to 106.6% of the 2017 figure. The number of passengers for these longer Danube trips was 103,560 in 2018 (+6.6% compared to 2017) (Source: Danube Commission (2019, Marktbeobachtung der Donauschifffahrt – Bilanz 2018, April 2019).

 

RIVER CRUISE VESSELS WITH 10 TO 39 BEDS IN EUROPE

 

Introduction

  • The river cruise fleet with 10 to 39 beds is older than the river cruise fleet with 40 beds or more. Most small river cruise vessels are former cargo vessels that have been converted into cruise vessels since the 1980s (Freycinet type).
  • The analysis of the fleet showed that there are 67 small river cruise vessels navigating on European rivers. There are also several vessels with less than 10 beds operating on European rivers and canals. Those vessels were not taken into account in this analysis.
  • Despite the rather old age of small river cruise vessels in Europe, this fleet can be modern, even luxurious, and blends well with the historic canals and city views. This fleet is also well suited for a picturesque and gourmet tour.

 

AGE STRUCTURE OF SMALL RIVER CRUISE VESSELS IN EUROPE (BY YEAR OF CONSTRUCTION AND REGIONS OF OPERATION)

Source: A. Hader, January 2019

 

  • In the oldest group (vessels built before the 1900s), three ships were built in 1897 and three others at an unknown date. Six vessels were built between 1906 and 1913. The age class with the highest number of small cruise vessels contains vessels built in the 1920s and 1930s. There are 26 small river cruise vessels that belong to this age class and they have mostly been converted from former cargo vessels.
  • Since that time, the newbuilding activity for such small vessels continued to decrease until the end of the years 2000: 11 vessels built between 1941 and 1960, seven between 1961 and 1980, and four between 1981 and 2000. Between 2001 and 2019, seven new vessels were built. Out of these, five were ordered by CroisiEurope between 2014 and 2016. The number of newbuildings is very low compared to the more than 250 new larger river cruise vessels built during the same period.

 

CAPACITIES OF SMALL RIVER CRUISE VESSELS IN EUROPE (IN NUMBER OF BEDS AND REGIONS OF OPERATION)

Source: A. Hader, January 2019

 

  • Approximately half (34) of the 67 small river cruise vessels have a capacity of between 20 and 29 beds, with 25 having a capacity of between 10 and 19 beds. Only a few vessels (8) have a capacity between 30 and 39 beds. Among the 25 small river cruise vessels of the smallest group, the common capacity is 12 beds.

 

CRUISING AREAS OF SMALL RIVER CRUISE VESSELS (IN NUMBER OF VESSELS)

Source: A. Hader, January 2019

  • The distribution of the vessels per cruising areas reveals that there are two regional niches for small river cruises.
  • The larger one is the Dutch network of rivers and canals, with 35 small river cruise vessels cruising in this area. Many of those can offer round trips in the Netherlands but also across the Belgian, French and German borders. This region is popular as many cyclists use the small river cruise vessels as a hotel when changing locations.
  • The second popular cruising areas are the French canals, with 19 small river cruise vessels in operation, mainly in Bourgogne and Provence. On French canals, there are no small river cruise vessels with more than 30 beds. CroisiEurope has however built a new series of five vessels with 22 beds in recent years. Another French peculiarity are the very small river cruise vessels, which often have only four to eight beds, but are not included in this analysis.
  • The rest of small river cruise vessels, 13 in total, are distributed among six other countries. In Germany, there are only three such vessels. The German river cruise vessel fleet is dominated by larger vessels. In the United Kingdom, only four small river cruise vessels navigate in Scotland and on the Thames. It is worth noting that many vessels with less than 10 beds also navigate on narrow canals in the United Kingdom but were not taken into account in this analysis. In Italy, three ships navigate on the Venice lagoon or the Po River, one of them being registered in the Netherlands. On the Shannon river in Ireland, most river cruise vessels also have less than 10 beds. Only one vessel built after the year 2000 fits within the chosen criteria for this analysis and belongs to the smaller group category.