This is probably one of the most commonly asked questions about river cruising. Figuring out if a river cruise is right for you just takes a few minutes, once you have a handle on who will be your fellow passengers.
River cruise passengers tend to be well-traveled, enjoy history, art, culture and cuisine. Many river cruise enthusiasts are retired (55 yrs. +) and have disposable income. They may have experienced several ocean cruises and want to try something slower, less crowded and a bit more intellectual.
Almost all river cruise companies are trying with all their might to appeal to Millennials. After all, once the baby boomers get too old to travel (never!) another group has to fill their well-trodden shoes. Realistically, not every Millennial has $8,000+ to plunk down on a Europe river cruise (not including airfare) or $15,000+ for an African river cruise. So don’t expect to see a lot of 30-somethings on your river cruise, unless they’re part of a press trip.
There are a few exceptions. River cruises, especially in Europe, are becoming more popular for young honeymooners, family reunions and those who want to try their first cruise but not on a super-sized, ocean-going ship. Multigenerational cruises are also becoming more popular. Most river cruise lines have an age minimum (usually around 8 yrs old) and offer no special programs or services for children.
To this end, AmaWaterways has partnered with Adventures by Disney for family-themed river cruises for ages 7 and up. Avalon and Tauck also have family-themed river cruises. You just have to ask the cruise line if they offer family-themed cruises.
There are Europe river cruise companies like A-Rosa and CroisiEurope that are just beginning to market to North Americans and Millennials. They are priced a bit lower than, for example, AmaWaterways, Scenic and other high-end companies, but they provide an excellent cruise experience for Millennials and Baby Boomers.
Bottom line: Generally, you can expect the passengers on Europe and international river cruises to be older, retired, well-traveled and have a curiosity about the world around them. Younger passengers will most likely be honeymooners, curiousity-seekers or celebrating a milestone event. On river in the USA, passengers are almost always over 55 yrs. old.
Who might like a river cruise?
Those who have been there, done that a zillion times on cruise ships are prime candidates for a leisurely river cruise. History buffs, wine enthusiasts, retired educators, and those looking for a slower pace without the glitz, non-stop action and mega-crowds found on many ocean-going vessels. On a river cruise, you’re not cruising with 4,000 new-found “friends.” Maybe 200 max in Europe and up to 450 on certain Mississippi river ships.
Those who are more independent and in search of a slower-paced vacation can forego the ship’s excursions and wander through towns and cities on their own. Many river cruisers are totally into the immersive experience of local cultures and cuisine, architecture and art. They tend to go off on their own to explore new sights and enjoy lunches and even dinners ashore when possible.