It's a common question, but one that has a rapidly changing set of answers — particularly where river cruising is concerned.
In the past, you could typically predict which sailings would sell out well in advance: Theme cruises or time-sensitive itineraries, like the spring Tulip Time river cruises that depart from Amsterdam, are historically some of the first to go. And as river cruising gains in popularity, the need to book sooner rather than later has only become more important.
This is true not just of in-demand itineraries, but also of the new river cruise ships coming on-line, many of which are already beginning to fill for 2013. River cruises operating between Budapest and Nuremberg are one of the prime staples of river cruising. The itinerary is offered (in one form or another) by nearly every river cruise line. Departure dates through the month of May are almost entirely sold out for some cruise companies, and it’s only the beginning of the year.
Tulip Time cruises are among the most iconic (and picturesque!) river cruises you can take. Many are already sold out for this year. Perhaps more significantly, a fair number of fall and winter sailings are sold out. For example, the December 7, 2013 departure on Viking Aegir’s Romantic Danube Christmas Markets is sold out in most categories — nearly a year in advance. You’d be hard-pressed to find a deep-ocean cruise that is selling as well nearly a year out, unless it was a single, one-off sailing.
Part of the reason for this is the growing awareness of river cruising, which has exploded in popularity in the last few years. As more people experience and become hooked on river cruising, they’re looking to plan their next forays along the rivers of the world. New ships and sailings are some of the first to go.
The advice we routinely give to prospective river cruisers: Book as early as possible. Playing the "waiting game" in the hopes of a price drop will likely leave you "up the river without a boat," particularly if you plan to sail during peak periods like the summer.
This year promises to be one of the hottest years in the history of the river cruise industry, and sailings are already selling like hotcakes." Read more of Ralph Grizzle's cruising reports at www.avidcruiser.com
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