River cruising-The fastest growing segment of cruise travel.

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AMSTERDAM — Just how big is the boom in river cruising? So big that the head of North America’s largest river line is openly talking about having 100 ships on the world’s rivers by the end of the decade.

“We shouldn’t disregard the possibility,” says Torstein Hagen, chairman of Viking River Cruises, which currently operates 35 vessels from Europe to Southeast Asia.

Speaking with cruise writers this week during inaugural festivities for his line’s newest ships, Hagen said he saw no end in sight to the soaring demand for river cruises that has characterized the past decade.

RELATED: Viking names 10 new ships PHOTO TOUR: Look inside a Viking ship

The number of North Americans taking a river cruise has grown at a 14% annual rate since 2001, more than twice as fast as the 6% annual growth in the number of North Americans taking ocean cruises, Hagen says.

“At some stage we will have to slow down, but we really don’t see any need for a slowdown yet,” he notes.

On Wednesday, Viking made cruising history with the naming of 10 new ships at once, and the company has 12 more vessels on order for 2014.

Still, despite boosting capacity by 40% this year, Viking barely has any space available to sell, Hagen says.

“If you go on our website and try to make a booking (for) Europe this year, you’ll find that, through the end of October, out of 50,000 cabins that we had for sale, we only have 600 left,” he says. “It’s jam-packed full.”

Hagen says the river cruise boom is being driven in part by the aging of the Baby Boom generation, which is beginning to retire and places a high value on traveling the world. The typical Viking customer is age 55 or older.

“It’s about people who have earned some money and haven’t had time to see these things on Earth,” he says.

RELATED: Sharon Stone to christen river ship PHOTO TOUR: A river cruise on the Mekong

River lines also are drawing customers away from ocean cruise lines that Hagen suggests have lost their way.

“We feel that many of the ocean cruise lines have totally forgotten about the destination,” Hagen said Wednesday at a reception following the naming ceremony for Viking’s new ships. “When I was young and ran (an ocean) cruise line, we said it was the destination that matters. Through river cruising we have brought the destination back into cruising.”

Hagen ran the upmarket Royal Viking Line in the 1980s.

In addition to river ships, Viking is developing ocean ships of its own that will begin debuting in 2015. The company has two vessels on order that will carry about 928 passengers a piece and could add four more ships in subsequent years, Hagen says.

As with Viking’s river ships, the focus of its ocean ships will be “much more on the destinations than all of the stuff that people can buy on board … or be sold on board,” Hagen says.

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Ships take a bad rap for Norovirus

Talking Points – Norovirus and Cruising

1. You’re much more likely to catch the “stomach flu” during normal daily activity than
you are on a cruise ship.
2. Cruising remains extremely safe and healthy vacation option with the well-being of
guests and crew being one of the cruise industry’s highest priorities.
3. Cruise passengers can take simple preventative measures to help decrease the risk of
becoming infected with norovirus.
Below you will find additional information, supporting material, and statistics supporting each
talking point.
1. You’re much more likely to catch the “stomach flu” during normal daily activity than
you are on a cruise ship.
Norovirus is a very common illness in the United States and is · sometimes also called
viral gastroenteritis, stomach flu, and/or food poisoning.
· Noroviruses can be found in hospitals, day care centers, nursing homes, dormitories
and schools, in addition to cruise ships.
o A suspected outbreak of norovirus occurred among less than 4% of the
passengers and crew aboard Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas in a sailing
that concluded March 8.
o The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) was also investigating 400 suspected
cases of norovirus onboard two cruise ships that were sailing in the Caribbean
during the holidays. The cases were reported onboard Cunard’s Queen Mary 2,
and Princess Cruises’ Emerald Princess. Another 300 cases were reported in
December 2012 onboard P&O Cruises’ Oliana that was sailing in the Baltic.
o Out of 660 outbreaks confirmed by CDC between 1994 and 2006, the largest
percentage of outbreaks (36%) occurred in long-term care facilities (e.g., nursing
homes), followed by 31% in “restaurants, parties, and events.” Only 20% were
from vacation settings (including cruise ships).
· Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, and possible stomach cramping. Those with the
virus may also experience a low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, nausea,
and tiredness.
· The CDC estimates that over 20 million Americans contract norovirus every year during
normal activity.
o In 2011, the CDC confirmed just 10 outbreaks of norovirus on cruise ships
operating out of U.S. ports, down significantly from over 30 outbreaks in 2006.
o Of the more than 19 million cruise passengers in 2011, the total number
confirmed by the CDC to have contracted norovirus was just 1,099 or less than
.006%. The total number of crew aboard cruise ships confirmed to have
norovirus by the CDC was 84.
2. Cruising remains extremely safe and healthy vacation option with the well-being of
guests and crew being one of the cruise industry’s highest priorities.
Unlike other segments of the travel and hospitality industry, cruise ships · carrying 13 or more
passengers which have a foreign itinerary with U.S. ports are required to participate in the
CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program. Cruise ship medical staff or other designated personnel are required to maintain a log of cases of gastrointestinal illnesses and report those to the CDC.
· According to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) each member cruise line hasan outbreak prevention and response plan to address gastrointestinal illnesses which
includes:
o Extensive cleaning and disinfecting of all staterooms and public areas on a daily
basis including counters, bathroom surfaces, door handles, railings and grab bars,
exercise equipment, video arcade equipment, vanities, TV remote controls and
more.
o Extensive onboard communications to encourage passengers to thoroughly wash
their hands frequently to help avoid unknowingly spreading the virus.
o The elimination of all self-serve buffets (passengers point to the food they would like
and staff will serve them).
o Extra crew may be brought on board to disinfect the ship with the CDCrecommended
disinfectants from top to bottom before additional passengers board
on turnaround days.
o All crew who have norovirus symptoms may be confined to their quarters or
transferred off the ship.
3. Cruise passengers can take simple preventative measures to help decrease the risk of
becoming infected with norovirus.
· Frequently wash hands with soap and warm water; it’s one of the best preventative
measures one can take.
· Take advantage of the hand-sanitizer stations located throughout the ship, particularly
those located at the entrances of dining areas.
· Drink lots of water and get plenty of rest. Resting helps rebuild your immune system.
Drinking water helps prevents dehydration.
· Be considerate of other people’s health. We urge our clients who may feel ill before their
cruise to contact us to learn what their alternative cruising options may be.
· Anyone seeking additional information on norovirus and proper hand-washing
techniques can visit the CDC website at http://www.cdc.gov or the Vessel Sanitation
Program’s website at http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/vsp.

Cruise lines and their liquor policies

The door inches open to more relaxed BYOB rules

As an industry, the major cruise lines have been, historically, fairly unaccommodating when it comes to guests enjoying their own personal bottles of alcohol. X-ray scanners and security personnel work overtime during the initial boarding process and at ports of call to ensure that “contraband” booze doesn’t find its way into your cabin.

Grey Goose is your chosen tipple? A bartender will happily pour you a shot—and charge it to your cabin. Enjoy Chimay Belgian ale at home? Buy it onboard (if you can find it). Only sodas, water and non-alcoholic beverages have tended to escape scrutiny at X-ray machines during the boarding process for most cruise lines.

But rules on wine have long been a grey area: Some lines post no restrictions as to what guests may bring onboard, others haven’t allowed wine at all—most have had a policy somewhere in between, permitting a small quantity. (Don’t even get us started about inconsistent enforcement from one embarkation port to the next.)

Industry leader Royal Caribbean International recently decanted a new policy for wine-lovers, allowing cruisers to bring up to two bottles of wine per cabin onboard at embarkation. Previously, the line had a strict “no alcohol” policy for carry-ons. Now, if you’re celebrating a special occasion while onboard a Royal Caribbean ship, there’s no reason not to dust off something special from the cellar at home.

Of course, there are restrictions: Bottles must be 750ml or smaller, and if you choose to drink your wine at one of Royal Caribbean’s restaurants, bars or other common areas, be prepared to fork over a $25 corkage fee per bottle.

As cruise aficionados know, Royal Caribbean isn’t exactly a trendsetter with the new rules. The line is actually catching up to most of the industry, adjusting its policy to be more in line with its major competitors.

By contrast, most of the luxury cruise lines continue to have fairly liberal BYOB policies. Of course, most of them already include wines with meals in their cruise fare.

But it did get us to thinking: When it comes to alcoholic beverages, how do the carry-aboard policies of the major cruise lines compare today?

Carnival Cruise Lines
What you can bring onboard at embarkation: One bottle of wine per person (age 21 and up).
Corkage fee: $10 in the main dining room; $14 in steakhouses.
What you can’t bring onboard: Spirits, beer.

Celebrity Cruises
What you can bring onboard at embarkation: Two bottles of wine per cabin.
Corkage fee: $25
What you can’t bring onboard: Spirits, beer.

Cunard Line
What you can bring onboard at embarkation: There are no restrictions on alcohol brought onboard, but the number of wine or champagne bottles will be “at the port authorities discretion.”
Corkage fee: $20
What you can’t bring onboard: Nothing specified.

Disney Cruise Line
What you can bring onboard at embarkation: Alcohol is permitted but must be hand-carried in carry-on luggage. Carry-on alcohol may not be consumed in public areas but can be opened at Palo and Remy restaurants (with corkage fee).
Corkage fee: $20
What you can’t bring onboard: Nothing specified.

Holland America Line
What you can bring onboard at embarkation: Wine may be brought onboard but cannot be consumed in any public venues, except for bars and restaurants (with corkage fee).
Corkage fee: $18
What you can’t bring onboard: Spirits (no policy specified for beer).

Norwegian Cruise Line
What you can bring onboard at embarkation: Wine—no limitation specified.
Corkage fee: $15, regardless of whether opened by a crewmember or passenger or not at all.
What you can’t bring onboard: Spirits (no policy specified for beer).

Princess Cruises
What you can bring onboard at embarkation: One bottle of wine per adult.
Corkage fee: $15
What you can’t bring onboard: Spirits, beer.

Royal Caribbean International
What you can bring onboard at embarkation: Two bottles of wine per cabin
Corkage fee: $25
What you can’t bring onboard: Spirits, beer.