The latest figures from the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) revealed that the Danube was the most popular river for cruise passengers in 2018. 

River Danube in Budapest

Source: ING

The Danube was the most popular river for cruises in 2018. 

Together, the Rhine and Danube rivers, and their tributaries, accounted for almost 60 per cent of passenger numbers, up from 2017, according to the findings from CLIA. 

A total of 232,300 river cruises were taken by British and Irish holidaymakers last year, an increase of 10.4 per cent from the previous year. 

In Southern Europe, the Douro experienced the highest growth with an increase of almost 15 per cent in passenger numbers.

Overall the annual review concluded a “healthy growth” in river cruises with CLIA’s UK & Ireland director, Andy Harmer, commenting: “The river cruise market is certainly proving popular in the travel sector with passenger numbers continuing to grow year on year. This can be put down to the incredible experiences a river cruise has to offer, as guests can sail through the heart of a destination - as well as the plethora of fantastic itineraries and the high standard of the ships.”

Upper Rhine Valley

Source: Pixabay

The Rhine (pictured) and Danube rivers, and their tributaries, accounted for almost 60 per cent of passenger numbers, up from 2017. 

Other findings from the review

  • Outside of Europe, Asia was the most popular river cruise destination with the Mekong holding the top spot. North America - a relatively new destination to the river cruise market - and Africa, with the resurgence of cruises on the Nile, experienced the highest increase in bookings last year, up 50 per cent and 18 per cent respectively.
  • The Nile performed particularly well with an increase of just over 21 per cent from 4,700 to 5,700 passengers.
  • The average length of a river cruise in Europe increased slightly to eight nights and non-Europe cruises had an average length of 6.7 nights. 

Wendy Wu Tours

Mekong is the most popular river for cruises outside of Europe with more cruise lines accommodating passengers such as Wendy Wu which will launch Victoria Mekong (pictured) at the end of the year. 

Andy Harmer added: “A third of all river ships have been built within the past 10 years, with 18 new vessels set to launch from now to 2020, meaning that guests can sail on ships that are contemporary, luxurious and have plenty to offer. This attracts the modern-day traveller, who seeks to explore the world in comfort and style.

“River cruise lines are also focussing on shore excursion choices with activities that either keep guests active with biking, hiking or canoeing or that offer enriching experiences, where guests can learn a new skill or improve an existing one.

“As such, the interest in river cruises continues to grow and CLIA anticipate this popularity continuing to increase in years to come.”

The full CLIA 2018 Cruise Review can be found at

CLIA is the world’s largest cruise industry trade association.