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notamermaid

Will overtourism affect river cruising?

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The ITB (Internationale Tourismusbörse Berlin) is behind us and one of the topics that has left me contemplating is "overtourism". Even if you are new to the subject the idea is easy to grasp: there are places in the world that are so heavily visited by tourists that the negative side effects are straining the place and the people who live there. On the "negative bucket list" this year is - among others like Venice with 22 million visitors a year :eek: - also a popular river cruise destination: Amsterdam! Those are the places people should not go to this year to give them a rest.

 

Here is an introduction to the topic: http://www.dw.com/en/overtourism-where-will-it-take-us/a-42863355

 

And this is the situation in Amsterdam: http://www.dw.com/en/overtourism-swamps-amsterdam/a-41746155

 

Now, river cruising is still a niche product which becomes apparent in the fact that the ITB had no separate section for it but listed the articles and events under cruising on its website. Yet with small places like Rüdesheim on the Rhine having a relatively high number of tourists, overtourism is something that could affect us river cruisers more than we like.

 

I do not mean to be a spoilsport but living on a river and working in the industry has made me sensitive to the subject. Your thought and comments are very much welcome.

 

notamermaid

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An understandable problem or should I say challenge. There are many places I can think off that could be added to the list. We live very close to Bath and if possible keep well away during the touristy season. Even going in by train you end up standing. Mind you my husband complained when we climbed to LochNagar and there were other people there. From friends I understand that the area to Everest base camp can be horrendous. It will be interesting to hear how the different parts of the world cope with it. CA

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Is not 'rafting' an indication of overtourism?

 

 

With regard to cities like Venice, and Amsterdam, which are served by multiple transport links, I prefer to visit them either out of season, or if in season, for example in Venice, set out before the daily hordes arrive.

 

Surely the local authorities have the power to cap visitor numbers, and limit the size of ocean liners.

 

Just one ship with 4-5000 passengers can overwhelm a place.

 

The following article blames cheap flights for the problem:

 

https://www.responsibletravel.com/copy/the-real-cause-of-overtourism

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Versailles is a glorious place to visit but .... my last visit in April was shoulder to shoulder crowds. Sad.

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Is not 'rafting' an indication of overtourism?

I don't think rafting is a sign of overtourism per se. It could mean that there isn't enough docking space. However, when the small towns are shoulder to shoulder tourists, that IS overtourism, and some of the ports are definitely in that situation or getting close to it.

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I think rafting is a sign of over tourism. For me the quality of the 'experience' is important. If I'm docked where I can see the town/port with the distinguishing characteristics of the location, there is not over tourism. If my view is of other ships and tourists - the quality of the experience is diminished by over tourism. I can't imagine the negative impact of this on the local residents - excepting those who are making a lot of money out of the tourists.

 

Of course, there must be people who travel and look forward to seeing mobs of other tourists.

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I think rafting is a sign of over tourism. For me the quality of the 'experience' is important. If I'm docked where I can see the town/port with the distinguishing characteristics of the location, there is not over tourism. If my view is of other ships and tourists - the quality of the experience is diminished by over tourism. I can't imagine the negative impact of this on the local residents - excepting those who are making a lot of money out of the tourists.

 

Of course, there must be people who travel and look forward to seeing mobs of other tourists.

If there were more docks, it could avoid the rafting problem. If that could be done (I'm not saying that it can) without overburdening the town itself, then I don't think that it is overtourism.

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One needs to separate out the impact of increased number of river boats, from the impact of land based tourists. You have same areas that are quite busy without any tour boats being present. Those areas will continue to get busier even without more river boats.

 

I do think that the increasing number of river boats will degrade the experience. More rafting, more remote docks, more delays at locks, etc. With more boats doing similar schedules the greater chance of more tours having to be at the same attraction at the same time. In the case of problems such as high/low water levels work arounds will be even more complex due to more boats getting stopped at specific points on the rivers.

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While I agree with RDC1, if you look at my history of posts you will discover that I have always considered rafting a degradation of the travel experience. To me rafting is one of the symptoms of "overtourism".

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Thank you everyone for your thoughts. There are certainly places that have been popular for so long that the boom in river cruising so far has not had an impact yet. But when land tourism continues to grow in such places eventually the increase in river cruising could cause "overload"... and river cruisers would not really be to blame but be more the victim rather than the culprit. However, a place like Rüdesheim has seen an increase in mainly river cruise tourism in the last five years. I remember a dear lady saying to me a couple of years ago when she returned from the Christmas market there: "It was nice but so full and there were many English-speaking people". Local authorities could have limited the number of ships but instead they invited them by building a new landing stage, i.e. they met with customer (river cruise company) demand. A double-edged sword. This is the current list of river cruise ships scheduled to dock in Rüdesheim: http://www.fremdenverkehrsgesellschaft.de/pdf/schiffsanlegungen_zwei_monate.pdf As this list is updated regularly, for the record, I would like to mention Easter Sunday: 10 ships will dock. Please note that the Viking ships are not listed when they are at their own dock in Rüdesheim. As of today 40 sailings of the Rhine Getaway alone are listed on the website from March till May. They have a port stop in Rüdesheim and you would need to add them to the list I linked. In Rüdesheim rafting has been reduced by building another dock but this has attracted more river cruise ships and one can imagine, as popularity grows, rafting will increase again...

 

Amsterdam is facing the problem of land-tourism from day trippers, weekenders, cheap-flight users, etc. and increased river cruise traffic. While the city has been "classified" as suffering from overtourism the money generated from river cruising alone is impressive. Here are the statistics: https://www.cruisetradenews.com/river-cruising-boosts-amsterdams-economy/

 

 

But the Amsterdam authorities have drawn a line concerning land tourism. Will they soon also halt the increase of river cruise ships in the port or just stand by and watch while river cruise traffic grows unabated?

 

notamermaid

Edited by notamermaid
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Having done river cruises for the last 10+ years I definitely the face of this mode of travel has changed significantly. We really have enjoyed river cruises in the past but now with the saturation of ships it’s not like it was. We’ve found we’re docked further from the city centers which used to be the draw for us, loved being able to walk off the ship, now many ports require busing into the city centers. If not bused in, you’re rafted with several ships which I don’t mind so much if out on excursions but to be tied up the entire time and not able to enjoy the river views is problematic. We’ve been fortunate to do quite a few but maybe the time has come for us to do our own I dependent travel again. I also feel for the townspeople when hundreds of people crowd their towns and hamper day to day life. Yes, tourism is good, it brings in $ but there’s also a downside. Just my opinions.

 

 

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notamermaid,

 

With regard to Amsterdam, you omitted to mention the impact of cruise ships.

 

One 2000+ passenger ship can have as much impact as 12+ river boats.

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Hello English Voyager,

 

I put the cruise ships into "etc." in the line "land-tourism from day trippers, weekenders, cheap-flight users, etc." as the impact will be more similar to land trippers than to river cruising. But thank you for pointing it out. It is well worth comparing the figures of ocean cruise ships to river cruise ships as one river cruise ship is a "trickle" while one ocean cruise ship can be a "stream". Large cities do have the size to accommodate large numbers of people but where do cruisers and river cruisers go? I should think to the same areas of Amsterdam and the most famous places: Ann Frank House, Rijksmuseum, redlight dictrict, certain shops... All congregate in the same places and want to have hotel rooms in the same areas which can cause an unhealthy concentration of people, driving out the locals who need to sleep when the tourists can party. As one sign depicted in a photo in an article I read a few days ago, said: "we need a rest". It was not from Amsterdam, but the photo was taken somewhere in the Mediterranean, where Barcelona and Dubrovnik are among the ones suffering most.

 

notamermaid

Edited by notamermaid

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Having done river cruises for the last 10+ years I definitely the face of this mode of travel has changed significantly. We really have enjoyed river cruises in the past but now with the saturation of ships it’s not like it was. We’ve found we’re docked further from the city centers which used to be the draw for us, loved being able to walk off the ship, now many ports require busing into the city centers. If not bused in, you’re rafted with several ships which I don’t mind so much if out on excursions but to be tied up the entire time and not able to enjoy the river views is problematic. We’ve been fortunate to do quite a few but maybe the time has come for us to do our own I dependent travel again. I also feel for the townspeople when hundreds of people crowd their towns and hamper day to day life. Yes, tourism is good, it brings in $ but there’s also a downside. Just my opinions.

 

Totally agree with this. We took our first river cruise on the Danube in 2009, and it was magical. Since it was a "first," it's always going to be a little more special than what follows. We've since taken 6 more river cruises and have loved all of them, but we returned to the Danube last year and experienced this type of "over-tourism." For example, on our first river cruise, we docked in Durnstein as the only ship, and walked off the ship and right into town. During this last cruise, there were so many ships that we actually docked on the other side of the river and were shuttled across to a parking lot on the edge of town, and then walked into town.

 

River cruises are still a wonderful experience for us, but they certainly have changed. And with new ships coming online every year, you have to wonder when the experience will seem downgraded to the point that other options look more attractive.

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A huge problem overall, especially in the smaller towns becomes traffic, tour buses everywhere! Six tour buses for every Viking Longship, plus 4-5 each for all the other lines.

 

Nothing like having 6-8 groups all trying to give a tour of a smaller church at the same time. Especially when one tour leade’s squeak box starts over riding another group’s guide!

 

Back to traffic, cruise lines that insist their cruisers can’t walk 500 meters. A bus will pick up tours, carry them 500 meters to get off again at another site! Traffic for people, or buses, actually trying to go somewhere grinds to a halt while a tour bus takes 10 minutes to off load on narrow streets! We can walk the 500-700 meters between sights faster than the buses and pick us up and deliver us there! Most of those tourists need to be doing far more walking not less! Get the buses off the streets! Many of the towns needs to do what Brugge or Rothenberg ad Tauber do, ban all busses in the City Centers!

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I wonder when the amount of rafting will start impacting the cruise lines ability to sell the higher end staterooms. When your balcony cabin ends up next to the balcony on another rafter ship a high percentage of the time you might as well save money and go aquarium class.

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I think that on this River Cruising thread, the real issue is the impact of ship numbers growth on the river cruise experience.

I have no control over how many people are bussed into a town, but I can speculate that a river cruiser will have a degraded experience if they are docked 30 minutes or more away from the center of town and have to be bussed in and out, rather than the previous "walk on, walk off" experience.

I have no desire to pay top dollar to spend time on a bus or watching container ships load.

The beauty of river cruising used to be the opportunity to dock in the center of town and explore at one's leisure.

That experience is apparently gone, and the current experience may no longer be worth the prices being charged.

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Cilcianrqts,

 

yes, I agree, river cruising can be controlled better than land tourism. The question is how much. Docking locations are the essential thing in this case, like the availability of parking spaces for cars it can be controlled. But who controls and how much? Docking locations belong to local authorities or are private. An easy one to point out on the Rhine is Koblenz where the harbour master controls the Moselle docking locations but on the Rhine Viking has its private one. River traffic and and landing stage strength permitting they could dock there three in a row. In fact, a trial period is happening on the Moselle for three-in-a-row. That is how busy they are. Lahnstein and Engers have been built as alternatives and they are both nice places but Koblenz will always draw the crowds.

 

Another thing I need to point out is that while there are now more ships competing for the prime spots in towns, some cities do not have river cruise ships at the the town centre and never will. They are not on the embankment! Strasbourg is a good example. It is on the Rhine but only with the administrative district not the city. That is not on the Rhine but on the Ill (Capital i, double l). In Nuremberg it is not possible to dock in town as the river Pegnitz is not navigable for river cruise ships. All ships use the Main Danube Canal. "A walk on, walk off" situation was never there at all the towns river cruisers can visit, it varied and still varies from place to place. Budapest still works as the embankment is huge and favourable for large docking locations.

 

The Seine stands out a little with the docks in Paris as the ships have docked in town and still do, but the authorities have limited the river traffic not with the aid of docking station limitations but the size of ships. Viking was in the unfortunate situation of switching to 135m ships but the authorities after negotiations did not allow them into the town centre (there had been the prospect of doing so). The rule of maximum 125m ships stayed in place and Uniworld reacted accordingly with a ship of such a length. The longer ships are now in LePecq which necessitates bussing or public transport to get to the city. Those companies that have not made the move to bigger ships like CroisiEurope are better off on the Seine, at Paris and at Honfleur.

 

The situation is quite varied and as long as people know that and are not mislead by preconceptions of what river cruising is like or "cheated" by advertising photos the experience can be still be very good. Especially if they go with some of the newer itineraries that take in previously "underexplored" towns and smaller ships.

 

I fear a little for the Moselle becoming a bit crowded as, again, the standard ports are explored more and more as people are discovering the river - Crystal has jumped on the band waggon and has added the river this year for example with the same ports as anybody else - with its meandering beauty and vineyards. It will be up to the authorities to halt a potentially negative process, seeing that land trippers go to the same places as the river cruise ship passengers... By the way, on the Moselle you can walk into town, apart from Trier where the dock is in an industrial area or your ship docks even further out in a small town that has a large dock.

 

notamermaid

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In Germany, do private companies wanting to build private river docks within cities require city/government permits? It seems that this could be a way to manage ship/tourist crowding.

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I traveled on my first river cruise from Vienna to Amsterdam in 2001 with GCT. At the time Viking, Uniworld, and GCT were the only lines (that I know of) that catered to Americans. Each only had a few ship. There were more barges on the rivers than passenger ships. There was no rafting and we always dock in the center of town. My trip last July was terrible. We docked in industrial areas more than not and the rafting in Vienna was ridiculous. Vikings expansion is mostly to blame for this but AMA keeps adding ships also. I decided that the Danube is no longer in my future. The Rhine, Rhone, and Seine are better options for me.

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I traveled on my first river cruise from Vienna to Amsterdam in 2001 with GCT. At the time Viking, Uniworld, and GCT were the only lines (that I know of) that catered to Americans. Each only had a few ship. There were more barges on the rivers than passenger ships. There was no rafting and we always dock in the center of town. My trip last July was terrible. We docked in industrial areas more than not and the rafting in Vienna was ridiculous. Vikings expansion is mostly to blame for this but AMA keeps adding ships also. I decided that the Danube is no longer in my future. The Rhine, Rhone, and Seine are better options for me.

 

If you're going to go in July expect it to be terrible. Isn't that peak tourist season? We traveled off season in October on the Danube and it was fantastic without too many crowds.

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We are doing Bucharest to Budapest in late August to early September. Fortunately, finish the Danube for us. I’d never consider the other portions any longer!

 

The crowds have definitely diminished the enjoyment of European cruises ! I don’t like paying for a view of another ship three feet out my balcony, especially a French one!

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Lol! I meant a “ French Balcony “ as Uniworld has on its ships, as opposed to a walk out balcony,not a French ship!

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I traveled on my first river cruise from Vienna to Amsterdam in 2001 with GCT. At the time Viking, Uniworld, and GCT were the only lines (that I know of) that catered to Americans. Each only had a few ship. There were more barges on the rivers than passenger ships. There was no rafting and we always dock in the center of town. My trip last July was terrible. We docked in industrial areas more than not and the rafting in Vienna was ridiculous. Vikings expansion is mostly to blame for this but AMA keeps adding ships also. I decided that the Danube is no longer in my future. The Rhine, Rhone, and Seine are better options for me.

 

In terms of crowds, July and August are probably the worst months to make a river cruise.

 

In May 2014 I cruised from Bucharest to Amsterdam, and only experienced rafting once and then it was only one boat.

 

This year I have booked a Rhine/Moselle cruise in September so hopefully the worst excesses of crowds will have finished.

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