(11:10 a.m. GMT) -- Multigenerational groups, active passengers and those who have never sailed on waterways are among the river cruise passengers of the future, according to Cruise Line International Association (CLIA).
Flexible dining times, more restaurant options, larger ships and different categories of cabins -- including dedicated family rooms -- are some of the growing trends that will be seen on new river ships, delegates heard at the CLIA U.K. & Ireland River Cruise Conference 2019 that was held in Amsterdam at the weekend.
The theme of the convention was "Next Generation", and experts predicted how ships and itineraries would further increase the ever-growing number of river cruise passengers. In 2018 a total of 232,300 passengers from the U.K. and Ireland went on a river cruise -- an increase of 10 percent on the previous year -- and CLIA is hoping the final numbers for 2019 will reach the milestone figure of 250,000.
Next year 16 new ships will be launched in Europe and on worldwide rivers. In 2021 A-Rosa River Cruises will debut the first of its all-new "E-Motion" river vessels aimed specifically at families, with cabins sleeping up to five and a separate children's pool next to a large swimming pool on the sun deck. It will also be the first river ship on the Rhine with four decks -- the majority of other ships have three.
Walter Littlejohn, Vice President & Managing Director of Crystal River Cruises, cited the A-Rosa ship as a blueprint for some of the changes that will be seen in the evolving world of river cruising.
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"Ten years ago the river cruise industry was still in its infancy and it is changing in the same way that ocean cruises have changed, from the times when cabins were much smaller and there were fixed dining times.
"River cruise lines don't all want to offer the same experience and as the industry continues to mature there will be greater segmentation which will see more cruises for multigenerational groups, ships with more restaurant options, open time dining and room service, luxury vessels, themed cruises and active shore excursions going beyond churches and cathedrals and offering passengers the opportunity to see cities in different ways, such as on bicycles."
He added that the next generation of river cruisers would include ocean passengers that might have previously shunned river ships thinking they lacked onboard facilities and flexibility, such as having to eat at set times, along with people that had never cruised before and could now enjoy the type of amenities afloat that they would find in top hotels.
Stuart Perl, chair of CLIA U.K. & Ireland's river cruise working group, said the latest river cruises offered something for everyone and this trend would continue.
"A river cruise can be as active as you want it to be and we need to dispel the myth that it is a sedentary experience only for the older generation," he said. "River cruises offer choices and this will continue to increase with new ships, more docking spots and more itineraries."