With more than 30 ship launches, 2014 is proving to be a big year for river cruising.

Cruise lines continue to expand their fleets and interest is strong, according to surveys from CruiseCritic.co.uk.

More than 60 per cent of those polled said they would love to try a river cruise, and 47 per cent were most enticed by the chance to try a new experience and explore the inland itineraries offered.

“With more itineraries and more cabins available, river cruise lines are working hard to appeal to a broad audience – this is a great time for anyone interested in a river cruise,” said Adam Coulter, UK editor of Cruise Critic.

“Passengers are spoilt for choice in terms of the itineraries on offer, the variety of excursions, and the quality of the ships.”

With over half of this year’s new ships already launched, Cruise Critic’s editors share the top river trends to date:

• More al fresco dining: a number of lines are incorporating al fresco dining into new ship designs. Uniworld’s SS Antoinette offers the industry’s first ‘pop up’ restaurant in L’Orangerie; Viking River’s Aquavit Terrace features indoor/outdoor dining at all meals; and on Emerald Waterways, the Emerald Sky offers an outdoor grill.

• Immersive shore excursions: typically, river lines include most shore excursions in the fare but are now adding more optional offerings – usually at an added cost. Cruisers can go truffle hunting on a Uniworld Rhone River cruise, visit a cognac house and blend a personal bottle on a Viking River Bordeaux sailing, or take a hands-on cooking class in a local restaurant with AmaWaterways.

• New Bordeaux itineraries: France’s river cruise itineraries have typically been along the Rhone and Seine, but lines are now expanding their options into Bordeaux: both Uniworld and Viking River are offering cruises in the region, and Scenic and Avalon will offer Bordeaux sailings in 2015.

• Spacious cabins: river ships are generally much smaller than most ocean-going vessels, but river lines are paying special attention to make cabins as spacious as possible. Avalon’s Suite Ships offer cabins that are about 15 per cent larger than the standard, with angled walls and floor-length windows. Tauck has eliminated its ‘aquarium class’ to build multi-level rooms and Luftner’s Amadeus fleet is planning to reduce capacity to increase cabin size on its new vessel, due out in 2015.

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